In last month’s article I posed this question to you:
You visit your doctor who tells you that you have 5 to 10 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? 
This month’s question speaks directly to your mortality. All of your business and personal financial plans may have been written without considering your own mortality. Yes, your attorney may have drafted a will, living trust, buy-sell agreements, and other pertinent legal documents. Your money manager and you keep on shooting for the proverbial magic number (net worth) so someday you can eventually afford to retire. You avoid any additional discussions regarding life, disability, or long-term care insurance. And the list goes on.
However, answers to this question may shed a whole new light upon your long-range planning. What will you do in the time you have remaining to live? Will you change your life and how will you do it? This question should not change how you imagine your life if you were financially secure; it merely puts a timeline into the equation, and reminds you of your mortality. Does that mean your life’s purpose ceases at death? It depends on your true purpose in life and your desire for significance.
So what would make your life complete and richly yours in the context of making an impact on your business and in people’s lives?
Please understand each one of you has had different reactions and answers to these questions. These articles are not meant to be the embodiment of the answers to a life of significance. My role as a wealth manager and life planning coach is to ask you these challenging questions prior to collaborating with you on your correlated business and personal financial plan. In the context of impacting people’s lives, how do you perpetuate that life’s purpose as a finite being? You have transferred your core values to your employees, and collectively you and your team have conveyed that purpose to your clients. So in your immediate world, purpose has been identified and duplicated through your network of ambassadors.
The Eastern cultures early on have embraced living a life of service, living a life whereby you receive by giving. Your business can be a life of service; serving your customers to the best of your ability. Service can be enhanced by your consideration of how to serve the community and the world. Our English language has a name for that: philanthropy. Philanthropy is derived from the ancient Greek roots of philos and anthropos: love of mankind.
So as you continue to write your correlated business and personal financial plan, you can explore the reality of impacting people’s lives now and after your death. Giving of yourself to the people who are in your life is a great way of impacting the lives of others. In giving of yourself, you are also blessed. What we extend to others we strengthen within ourselves.
Volunteering and serving on boards and committees of non-profit organizations is one way to introduce significance into your daily journey. As you explore your inner passion for life, what organizations resonate with you? Since you have already spent the time to educate and inspire your staff on your own core values and business purpose, would it make sense to explore how your entire team can impact the non-profit world? Your example can be the stimulus for your employees to address their personal desire to “give back” and touch other’s lives also. Who knows, the momentum may begin to emerge and your company may consider concentrating its efforts toward one non-profit, maximizing the impact on that charitable group.
If you feel that time is an issue and volunteering would be challenging, you may want to consider making charitable gifts to your favorite nonprofit(s). You can make gifts during your lifetime (i.e. current gift) or you can discuss with your financial adviser and/or attorney the benefits of a planned gift (i.e. gift made to the nonprofit posthumously). Remember, what transforms the world is what you are becoming as an individual.
There are many methods to assist you in completing your charitable intent. Philanthropy and methods of making a gift will be part of my SBN Online Webinar on March 23, 2011, at 1 pm. I encourage all of you to participate in that session. Philanthropy is a learned behavior, and it is important to embrace your purpose when exploring charitable intent as a method of achieving significance.
However, before you get all caught up in the financial, tax and estate implications of these strategies, you need to address the why of philanthropy. Would charitable involvement make your life complete and richly yours? Will this strategy change your life and make a significant impact in other people’s lives? Is philanthropy the method by which you create a legacy and live a life of significance?
I look forward to your reactions and comments.
Robert A. Valente, CFP®, AEP®, CEO & Managing Member of RAV Financial Services LLC, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Lighting the Torch: The Kinder Method ™ of Life Planning by George Kinder and Susan Galvan.
Hurriedly you finished your business plan for 2011, and you attempted to include and compare this one-year projection into your three- and five-year plan. The year 2010 passed quickly. And again you find yourself in the reactive mode of just getting it done. You promised yourself in prior years not to continue this pattern of waiting until the last minute. Either you have become a creature of habit, or business plan writing is just another task to be done. Or are you questioning its relevance?
In your haste to complete your 2011 blueprint for success, you may not have considered two other factors impacting your business plan: How does this business plan correlate to your personal financial plan? And how does the business and financial plan fit into your overall reason of why you are in “this” business? What do you want to truly achieve?
These two concepts are not mutually exclusive. One drives the other, and is the underlying force in all that you do.
We all know intellectually that money is a tool and not an end unto itself. Our business is also a tool and an extension of who we are. When asked by others why we started this business we volunteered such reasons as desire for more freedom, create a legacy, get wealthy, etc. The pursuit of more money is a tangible goal that may leave many individuals unfulfilled. How much is enough? Does making more cause you to need even more? Money may be a partial descriptive for success, but what criteria do you use to measure significance?
These answers are the “tip of the iceberg.” Let’s look beneath the surface of the water and explore more in depth. So as you wrestle with pleasure and passion as two of the principles manifested by you in your business, let’s not forget purpose. Pleasure, passion, and purpose are three intentions that are present in our lives daily. Pleasure and passion are concepts more easily discussed, subject to change, and are more
temporal. Purpose is more enduring and meaningful with profound attitude and behavior implications. Purpose may be what contributes to your sense of significance.
So let’s tackle that illusive purpose. How do you identify that intangible that is your purpose in life, aligning that purpose in your life and creating significance in you? First you have to identify your purpose in all that you do.
On the surface, it starts with a correlated personal financial and business plan that will ultimately resonate with your inner values. Writing any plan without reviewing the conscious/spiritual (higher-self) “why” is an exercise in futility. I suggest putting the “horse before the cart.” So let’s begin at the beginning: What is your life’s purpose? The foundation of this combination plan begins by asking yourself three profound questions. These questions are taken from a book “Lighting the Torch: The Kinder Method of Life Planning” by George Kinder and Susan E. Galvan. I will share the two other questions in subsequent articles.
Question number 1:
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 your money? Would you change anything? Let yourself go. Don’t hold back your dreams. Describe a life that is complete, that is richly yours.
The answers to this first question will engender several reactions. One of the reactions I have received from friends and clients is: I want to make an impact on people’s lives.
How do you make an impact on people’s lives? Who are the specific people in your life you want to impact? Family, employees, clients, community, the world? What is your definition of impact? A simple response may be to live a personal and business life of gratitude. Some say that an attitude of gratitude brings opportunities. Many comment that gratitude is contagious, and gratitude is enhanced by the Law of Attraction and operating within the context of the Law of Abundance. Authors write that we should be grateful for every event that we experience, and each event that happens should not be judged as good or bad. It is what it is, and we need to be conscious of what comes into our life and ask, “What was I supposed to learn by that experience?”
Sometimes it is very hard to function as a non-judgmental human being in this competitive business environment, but if it is part of our purpose in life, we will manifest a non-judgmental attitude to everyone we meet, thereby impacting people’s lives daily.
So the segue now is in transferring this “impacting people’s lives” into your correlated personal financial and business plan. Intangible principles and values now need to be converted into services and physical events that complement that inherent life purpose and value.
So continue to ask yourself Question #1 for the rest of the month. Do a journal of your thoughts and answers. Do your current business and personal financial plans demonstrate your newly discovered core values?
I look forward to your comments.
Robert A. Valente, CFP, AEP, is the CEO and managing member of RAV Financial Services LLC. Reach him at email@example.com.