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George’s 3 Questions

As a financial planner, I’m trained to ask you about your goals.  Goals are a big deal in financial planning, as everything flows from there.

But when I just come out and ask new clients “what are your goals?,” sometimes I get the feeling that I’m getting a “surface” answer back, and that there’s more beneath the surface.

Luckily a financial planner named George Kinder came up with some helpful questions to ask clients.  They’re admittedly a little “out there”, but they definitely get you thinking, and hopefully connecting with your values and desires in a deeper way than the more clinical “what are your goals?”

So here are the questions, and I would highly suggest you try answering them for yourself, or with your spouse/partner.  I actually ask each of my new clients to work on these questions before we sit down to talk about their life and financial goals…


“I want you to imagine that you are financially secure, that you have enough money to take care of your needs, now and in the future. The question is, how would you live your life? What would you do with the money? Would you change anything? Let yourself go. Don’t hold back your dreams. Describe a life that is complete, that is richly yours.”

in this “financial independence” question, George is asking us to set aside the financial motivation for working.  Would we still work the same job?  Would we do a different job?  Would we spend our time differently?


“This time, you visit your doctor who tells you that you have five to ten years left to live. The good part is that you won’t ever feel sick. The bad news is that you will have no notice of the moment of your death. What will you do in the time you have remaining to live? Will you change your life, and how will you do it?”

Here George is challenging us to really identify what’s most important, what our most deeply held values are.  I believe he’s challenging us to get past whatever might be holding us back, or at least to identify it.


“This time, your doctor shocks you with the news that you have only one day left to live. Notice what feelings arise as you confront your very real mortality. Ask yourself: What dreams will be left unfulfilled? What do I wish I had finished or had been? What do I wish I had done? What did I miss?”

I think of this as the “fear & regret” question.  It made me pretty uncomfortable when I first heard it.  But that can be a good thing!  (I actually decided to become a financial advisor soon after confronting this question).


Whether you’re working with a financial advisor or not, articulating meaningful goals can be a life clarifying experience.

If you are working with a financial advisor, the more you share about your values & goals, the more likely it is that he or she will be able to help you live the life you want to live!

Here’s a quick test for you.  If all you can come up with is “I want to retire at 62” then you’re a great candidate to spend some time (or some more time) with George’s 3 questions.  I’m pretty sure you will be glad you did.