The 3 questions were developed by George Kinder, CFP. Mr. Kinder is the founder of the Kinder Institute of Life Planning and author of The Seven Stages of Money Maturity: Understanding the Spirit and Value of Money in Your Life. He developed these three questions as way to explore his client’s underlying values, hopes and dreams. Without this information, financial planning is simply numbers without purpose. So here are Kinder’s 3 questions (and watch out for #3, because it’s really the one question that gets to the root of your heart’s desires):
Question 1: Imagine 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?
We’ve probably all heard some variation of this question. If you won the lottery, what changes would you make in your life? Many of us would quit our jobs, but then what? How would you fill your days if money was not an issue? The point to this question is to unearth what is most important to you. Perhaps you would keep your job, if not scale back some. Maybe you’ve wanted to start your own business, or get deeply involved in a charitable organization. The key to making this question work, however, is to unleash your dreams and imagination. Don’t hold back because you think your dreams our unrealistic. I hope they are unrealistic, they are dreams after all.
Question 2: Imagine that your doctor says you have only five to 10 years to live. You won’t feel sick, but you’ll never know when death will come. What will you do? Will you change your life? How?
This question takes the first one a step further, and ads a touch of reality. In question 2, you’re not financially free to do whatever you want. Instead, it causes you to think more deliberately about your life and your future. It makes you see time as the scarce resource that it truly is. It forces you not to take your time on this earth for granted. So what would you do? Would you work more and spend more time at the office? Probably not. You’d probably hug your children and tell them how much you love them every day. You might write that book you’ve always wanted to write, or learn to dance or speak a foreign language. Who won American Idol would probably seem a tad less important.
Question 3: Now imagine that your doctor says you have only one day left to live. Ask yourself: What did I miss? What did I not get to be or do?
Question 3 to me is the most important. It’s about regrets, and most of us have some. What would you regret not doing, or not seeing, or not being? If you spend some time really thinking about this question, you’ll identify what is most important to who you are and who you want to be. For me, it’s writing a novel. That has always been one of my dreams, and the one thing I’d regret not doing if tomorrow were my last day.
Kinder’s three questions are a small part of a larger life planning program he developed called EVOKE. EVOKE stands for Exploration, Vision, Obstacles, Knowledge, and Execution. You can read more about his program in article he published in the Journal of Financial Planning called EVOKE: A Life Planning Methodology for the Coming Revolution in Client Relationships.