I help clients achieve their financial goals. Sounds simple, right? Well it can be, when they identify what they are. I mean, how can you reach a goal if that goal hasn’t been articulated? How will you know when you get there? And, what happens if your spouse’s goals conflict with your own?

Okay, I’ll just admit it: financial planning is my super-power. I can project your financial future on all sorts of metrics: net wealth, future income levels, vulnerability to inflation or investment return fluctuations, and tax liabilities. What I can’t do is choose what’s important to you.

Goals are based on values. For some people, large bank balances and social status are high priorities.  For others, optimizing their enjoyment of life is more important. While others aim for self-development and actualization over wealth. My greatest pleasure comes from encouraging clients to dream a little and to be brutally honest about what they want.

  • “Where do you want to live when you retire?”
  • “How will you fill your days?”
  • “Is leaving a large estate to your children important to you or would you rather spend your last dollar on the day that you take your last breath”? (Look out kiddos, this is an increasingly popular goal!)

Guess what?

  • It’s okay to want to optimize your own retirement rather than to leave a significant estate.
  • It’s also okay, to support your children’s ability to purchase homes in major urban centres.
  • And yes, it’s perfectly okay to choose a simple, quiet life that fulfills you.

I use a financial planning system called Visionworks that offers a value-based questionnaire to rank the relative importance of 20 different personal values. (Click here to download as a PDF, so you can use them to create your own list of top-5 values.) Obviously, different values lead to different financial goals. Within a relationship, I always encourage couples and families to select 3 or 4 common goals with similar rankings and focus the financial plan on those.

After all, why else are we working so hard to make, save and invest our money if not to lead more fulfilling lives? To borrow a great tip from the bestselling book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, “Begin with the end in mind.”

Monique Madan, lead financial life strategist at Upotential, has been working in the financial services industry for over 15 years and has acquired a unique and sought-after perspective on personal financial planning. She has been featured as a financial advisor in the Globe and Mail and provided her guidance to the Financial Planning Standards Council (FPSC®) in the development of their current code of ethics and to Moody’s Analytics as a subject matter expert.