Financial planning is about your future. The “money aspect” focuses on the question, “Will you have sufficient funds to secure and sustain the future you envision?” Financial life planning embraces the greater complexity of life and relationships, recognizing that finances are only part of a life-centered, holistic and integrated solution encompassing multiple issues.
Consider your “life transitions timelines.” On paper place a dot with your age, and then extend a line connecting another dot representing your age in 10 years. Extend a second line with another dot representing your age 10 years beyond that, 20 years from now. Do the same thing for loved ones, everyone who depends on you. That may include spouse, children, parents, grandparents, even key employees or partners in a closely held business where business continuity and succession is involved.
It’s a startling question. How old will you be in 10 short years? Ten short years beyond that? What challenges are you and those you care for likely to confront? Suddenly you see the future and how quickly time passes.
A life transition is a significant challenge — positive or negative, planned or unplanned. The most jarring are those that hit like a bolt out of the blue. Psychotherapist Richard Joelson notes, “Most life transitions begin with a string of losses — loss of a role, loss of a person, loss of a place, the loss of your sense of where you fit in the world.”
To that we’d add “a major financial loss” that compounds the difficulty of whatever else you are coping with. A “risk adjusted investment policy” combined with overall good money habits and “what if?” planning is crucial to managing the slings and arrows of life.
Life transitions planning to some extent relates to your age and the ages of those you care for. From your late teens into your early 30s you may be dealing with “adulting,” growing up, leaving home, adjusting to college or workplace, career decisions, marriage, a new baby. In your 30s and 40s, you may encounter parenting an infant, child, or adolescent; miscarriage or loss of a child; birth of a special needs child. Marital challenges may emerge — disagreement, divorce, separation, infidelity. In your 50s, you wake up and realize that in 20 short years you’ll be in your 70s, and you have major and expensive life events ahead of you. Career and business decisions, education of children, caring for aging parents or grandparents, planning for retirement, defining what “retirement” means for you and your life partner.
Somewhere north of 60, issues of aging are likely to appear. Late in life divorce, physical or mental decline of self or loved one, remarriage. Disagreements involving retirement, where to live, potential relocation, are nettlesome when spouses are not on the same page. Older folks may be bailing out adult children, raising or subsidizing grandchildren. Business owners, skilled professionals, and other workers with a lifetime of experience may have trouble seeing “what’s next” when it come to retirement planning and/or business succession issues. Older couples may fight over spending, travel, hobbies and passions not shared by the other. Grey divorce, the “Silver Splinter,” is on the rise.
Not a respecter of age are challenges like death of a spouse or other loved one, accident, serious injury or impairment, military deployments, job loss or career setback.
Notes Atlanta-based Dr. Drew Adelman, staff psychologist, Georgia Tech Counseling Center, other challenging life transitions include questioning life’s meaning and purpose, questioning faith and spirituality, questioning sexual or gender issues. Comprehensive financial life planning often requires a “team approach,” involving spiritual counselors, medical personnel, psychologists, legal counsel, human capital experts. Talk with your financial planner, but he or she should not stray into areas where they lack expertise or licensing.
You may go through more than one major life transition at the same time. In fact, one circumstance may lead to another. Money troubles make everything worse! Solid spiritual grounding is foundational to mental health and the handling of major challenges, especially those of the “jarring” or enduring, seemingly never-ending, variety. People of strong faith seem better at coping, crafting solutions, finding ultimate peace.
To successfully complete a life transition, you must leave something behind. Those who cling to “what was” never really transition. They remain trapped in draining confusion with diminution of financial, mental, and physical health. When faced with a challenge, seek advice. You want to identify the best alternatives to deal with the challenge, plus resources (financial capital and human capital) to power the best alternatives. Begin your quest with the end in mind, clearly defining expectations, what you wish to experience.
Change begets opportunity. Spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle counsels, “Some changes look negative on the surface, but you will soon realize that space is being created in your life for something new to emerge.” Attitude is more important than facts.
Lewis Walker, CFP®, is a financial life planning strategist at Capital Insight Group; 770-441-3553;firstname.lastname@example.org. Securities & advisory services offered through The Strategic Financial Alliance, Inc. (SFA). Lewis is a registered representative and investment adviser representative of SFA, otherwise unaffiliated with Capital Insight Group. He’s a Gallup Certified Clifton Strengths Coach and Certified Exit Planning Advisor.