Three Questions That Will Change Your Life

George Kinder – a Harvard-trained financial planner and a renowned Buddhist teacher – developed these three famous questions to truly understand a person’s life goals and values. Because this is what financial planning is all about: using money as a tool to live a meaningful life.

I invite you to ponder on these questions. To make it fun, I will share my own personal answers!

Question One: 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 the money? Would you change anything? Let yourself go. Don’t hold back your dreams. Describe a life that is complete, that is richly yours.

What a wonderful thing to imagine! When I ask my friends this question, many of them say they would quit their jobs. I wouldn’t, since I like what I do. But I would likely devote more time in finding and mentoring younger advisors, so our firm can continue to help many more middle-class folks long after I am gone.

I would increase my charitable contributions to 10% of my income. I have long admired clients who have a strong commitment to charitable giving, and it would be great to be able to do it at this level. I would increase my contributions to my church (Holy Trinity), UNHCR (to help Rohingya and Syrian refugees), Homeboy Industries (to help at-risk teenagers get jobs and transform their lives), and Sierra Club (to protect nature).

I would buy a new house for my mom and sisters. (Practically speaking, this may never actually get into my budget, but the question helps reveal what’s important to me.)

There are some things I wouldn’t change. I would remain involved in my community. I wouldn’t move. I like where I live — it’s metro accessible, close to a park, gym, & Trader Joe’s.

Question Two: This time, you visit your doctor who tells you that you have five to ten 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?

You’re probably like, “This is really morbid!” Well, I actually enjoy imagining this question for myself, as I sense the end of struggle. It’s consistent with my past behavior (I enjoyed writing my Last Will and Testament). In addition, it helps reveal what’s really important to me.

If I had five to ten years left to live, I would:

  • Devote more time deepening existing relationships;

  • Learn something fun (like tango);

  • Visit my sisters and mom at least 2x per year (they all live in 3 different continents);

  • Volunteer more often at Jubilee Jobs (they help marginalized people find employment);

  • Spend more time with nature;

  • Sail for one week in the ocean.

I would still like to be a financial planner. But I’ll need to put in less hours to free up time to do my bucket list.

Hmmm… I wonder if I can start doing some of these soon.

Question Three: This time, your doctor shocks you with the news that you have only one day left to live. Notice what feelings arise as you confront your very real mortality. Ask yourself: What dreams will be left unfulfilled? What do I wish I had finished or had been? What do I wish I had done? What did I miss?

I feel a sharp pang of regret. I wish I had more time to spend with my loved ones! I haven’t finished passing my knowledge to a cadre of younger advisors! I pause and come back to reality. I feel grateful for the time I have left.

This exercise has given me a lot to think about. How can I allocate my time and resources now towards the things that are really important to me?

I invite you to ponder on these questions. Share them with your loved ones. And decide how you are being called to change your life.

Post from Montgomery Community Media

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