George Kinder’s Three Questions for Financial Life Planning

By: Eric Leider, CFP Ⓡ, RLP Ⓡ, BFA ™️

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By: Eric Leider, CFP Ⓡ, RLP Ⓡ, BFA ™️

April 14, 2023

George Kinder’s Three Questions for Financial Life Planning need to be shared with the world!

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When it comes to traditional financial planning or personal finance, the most common goals that clients seek advice on relates to retirement planning. The question always ends up being, “will I be okay” or “do I have enough money to retire”?

While those questions are important, what kinds of goals is a financial planner to help with as it relates to those that are younger, accumulators, or truly value creating a great life today (and not just in retirement)?

You may take it a step further and consider other financial planning topics, such as education planning, tax planning, cash flow management, estate planning, insurance planning or risk management, etc. From all of those topics, you can certainly create many different goals.

However, how do we take it a step further, and go a little deeper?

George Kinder’s Three Questions

For the kind of financial planning that focuses on creating a life that is worth living today, allows you to pursue your passions, and truly gives space for a deep reflection, there is no other way than Financial Life Planning.

George Kinder is considered the “father” of Financial Life Planning, and he has developed three questions that allow you to really focus on what really matters and take action today.

The first question is:

Design Your Life.

“Imagine you are financially secure, that you have enough money to take care of your needs, now and in the future. How would you live your life? Would you change anything? Let yourself go. Don’t hold back on your dreams. Describe a life that is complete and richly yours.”

The second question is:

You Have Less Time.

“Now imagine that you visit your doctor, who tells you that you have only 5-10 years to live. You won’t ever feel sick, but you will have no notice of the moment of your death. What will you do in the time you have remaining? Will you change your life and how will you do it?” (Note that this question does not assume unlimited funds.)

The third question is:

Today’s The Day.

“Finally, imagine that your doctor shocks you with the news that you only have 24 hours to live. Notice what feelings arise as you confront your very real mortality. Ask yourself: What did you miss? Who did you not get to be? What did you not get to do?”

*** FREE QUESTIONNAIRE >>> George Kinder’s Three Questions For Financial Life Planning

To access a clean, usable PDF that outlines all three of George Kinder’s questions for Financial Life Planning, please click here >>> George Kinder’s Three Questions for Financial Life Planning – MVMT Life Planning.

*** FREE QUESTIONNAIRE >>> George Kinder’s Three Questions For Financial Life Planning


How Do We Act On George Kinder’s Three Questions?

Taken in their entirety, you can see that each question progressively gets a little deeper, a little harder to answer.

The first question asks you to create the vision of your dream life, where time and funds are unlimited. The second question becomes a little tougher, as now you do not have unlimited funds, but instead have a short-to-medium term timeline that is finite. Finally, the third question truly forces you to think about what matters, as you only have 24-hours to live.

When going through this exercise, the point is to think deeply about what comes to mind when going through each question individually.

Money Is Emotional & Feelings Matter

In addition to coming up with concrete answers, it is also important to make note of the emotions that come to mind. While question number one may insight happiness and excitement, you may find that question number three brings about tears, sadness, and regret. This may be tough for some, but in the end, it really allows you to have conversations around what really matters in life and ask, “what are we waiting for”?

The biggest question that these exercises help us answer is this…

“What is most important to you?”

Whether you are single or married (or in a relationship), this is a great place to start when thinking about aligning your values with your financial life goals. If you are married, have a partner, or are in a relationship, you can glean a lot into what makes each other tick when going through this exercise together.

Try answering the questions individually for yourselves and then see what it would look like when answering together. In some cases, you may find out something deep and important that your spouse (or partner) wants to achieve in their lifetime. The better understanding that each of you has of each other’s deeper, richer life goals, the better your marriage (or relationship) will be. In addition, you both will be more likely to achieve those goals.

George Kinder’s Three Questions Help Align Your Values With Your Actions

The real value of using this framework in financial planning is that you are able to align your life values with your financial life goals. Instead of just saving money for a time horizon that seems so distant in the future (retirement), you are able to create a vision, add emotional depth, and assign meaning behind whatever goal it is that you want to achieve.

While Financial Life Planning still covers the traditional financial planning topics such as retirement, investments, insurance, tax, estate, education, cash flow management, debt planning, etc., the difference is in the conversations that are had, the depth of understanding in a clients’ values and emotional relationship with money, and an intentional focus on creating the life that YOU want to live TODAY.

This way of planning may sound like something that combines traditional wealth management, life coaching, and psychology all in one.

This would not be far from the truth. When you think about your goals, it is hard to think about them without considering money or the financial side of things. Because of that, it makes sense that a Financial Life Planner would be most equipped to help lead you towards achieving your wildest dreams and goals.

Empathetic Listening & Being A Guide

The last and most important point here is that a Financial Life Planner is solely focused on listening to their clients.

By truly listening and hearing what is on the clients’ minds and allowing them to open up on such taboo topics as money, their feelings, and their deepest goals, puts the Financial Life Planner in a position to help their clients succeed.

In this regard, the planner is simply guiding their client and helping them navigate to exactly where they want to go.

We’ve written previously on Life Planning here, here, and here. Feel free to always go deeper!

Additional Reads & Resources

Kinder Institute of Life Planning
George Kinder: Financial Life Planning and His Three Questions (YouTube)
Why Life Planning Is Simply Financial Planning Done Right
Life Planning as a Fiduciary Responsibility
Life Planning vs. Life Coaching vs. Therapy
Financial Coaching & Life Planning Goals For Personal Trainers (Podcast)