Working on New Years Resolutions? Long-Time Financial Advisor Urges: Don't Forget to Answer the Really Big Questions

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Some people go into a hyperactive mode around the holidays. They get super busy with gift buying, decorating, entertaining, family gatherings, and traditions. If you are one of those, please save this page and re-read it when you have some quiet time to think. If the New Year is a more reflective time for you, the ideas here will give you a head start as you think about your resolutions or plan to attain your really big goals.

All too often, financial planning is equated with the easy stuff (easy, that is, for financial planners and CPAs, at least) of number crunching, spreadsheets, money and portfolio strategies. But more-insightful financial advisors and life-smart consumers understand that financial planning should really be centered on the much harder task of envisioning your future -- the rest of your life -- then coming up with the price tag, timetable and the way to pay for your dreams.

Financial professionals who take a more holistic approach, partnering with their clients to generate a clear vision and make real the life that wants to be lived, may call themselves Life Planners, Money Coaches or some other more-descriptive title than the generic "financial planner." Some have even trained at the Kinder Institute of Life Planning ( with industry giant George Kinder, CFP®, and his business partner Susan Galvan, MA, and received their Registered Life Planner™ credential.

At The H Group, Inc., in Salem, OR, Ron Kelemen, CFP®, and his team try to help their clients with the life planning process, particularly in the area of retirement planning, by using a list of 10 specific questions. But the following three questions are even better and more fundamental and also much harder to answer, says Kelemen, a long-time financial advisor with one of the Northwest's largest fee-only wealth management firms (

Here they are - the really big questions - courtesy of George Kinder (paraphrased from his 1999 book, Seven Stages of Money Maturity: Understanding the Spirit and Value of Money in Your Life,

Print out this page and take the time to reflect on your life and provide thoughtful answers.

  • Big Question #1

Assume that you've got all the money you need -- enough for the rest of your life. Maybe you're not as rich as Warren Buffet or Bill Gates, but you never have to worry about money for any reason.

What would you do with it? How would you live?

  • Big Question #2

You go to your doctor. He or she discovers you have a rare illness. You're going to feel perfectly fine for the rest of your life, but the illness will prove suddenly fatal within five and ten years.

Now that you know your life will be over in five or ten years, how would you live it? What would you do?

  • Big Question #3

This starts out the same as question #2, but with a subtle and very important twist. You learn that you have a serious illness and have only 24 hours to live. The questions are:

What did you miss? Who did you not get to be or do? What are your regrets?

Don't Miss the Forest for the Trees

"It is so easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day realities of earning an income and raising a family," Kelemen says, "but if you take the time to think about these big questions, your answers will likely show you that not all of your dreams are tangible things that take money. And what if the life you want -- really want -- requires less, not more money? What would you do differently? What would you start or stop doing now?"

Lee Eisenberg, best selling author of The Number: A Completely Different Way to Think About the Rest of Your Life (, echoes Kinder's and Kelemen's thoughts. Financial and life planning may not be so much about where you want to be or what you want to own, but rather who you want to be. As Eisenberg says in his book "…an unexamined life may or may not be worth living -- but it's almost always more costly than an examined one."

Good food for thought on New Year's day ... and beyond.

Ron Kelemen is and independent Certified Financial Planner™ certificant with the Salem OR office of The H Group, Inc. (, one of the largest independent fee-only registered investment advisory firms in the Northwest. Together with Mary Way, CPA, CFP® and Alex Sheppard, MBA (a candidate for CFP® certification), he jointly serves his clients with a unique team approach. Their fee-only practice focuses on wealth planning and management for professionals, business owners and retirees. Together they have developed The Planning Vision Process™ ( and several other unique processes.

In practice since 1981, Kelemen is a contributing author of three financial planning reference books and has written a quarterly financial planning newsletter - The Kelemen, Way and Sheppard Financial Perspective - since 1992. Medical Economics magazine listed Ron as "one of the 150 best financial advisors for doctors" in 2006. He is active in the community, mentoring youth and supporting several local charities. Kelemen is frequently quoted in the national press and professional journals.

Kelemen can be reached by telephone at (503) 371-3333.


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