George Kinder on the 3 Essential Life Planning Questions

three kinder questions
In early January, Apprise hosted its first client event – A Conversation with George Kinder. For this week’s blog, I am sharing a segment of that conversation - the Three Kinder Questions.

After launching Apprise, I learned about the three Kinder Questions. As I read more about them, I decided to incorporate them into my financial planning process. I enjoy this part of the process so much, that I am working toward becoming a Registered Life Planner. This will allow me to more formally adopt the Kinder life-planning process as the center of Apprise’s financial planning. This week, I am attending EVOKE Life Planning Training. You can also read this blog to learn more.

In early January, Apprise hosted its first client event – A Conversation with George Kinder. For this week’s blog, I am sharing a segment of that conversation. In it, George walked attendees through the three Kinder questions. He also provided some insights related to what they mean and how people respond to them. You can listen to George by clicking on the video below. I have also included a transcript of the conversation below. (Please note that the transcript has been edited for clarity.)

Phil: Not everybody on the call knows the three questions. Could you walk us through them?

The Three Kinder Questions – #1

George: Sure. The first question is if you had all the money that you needed for the rest of your life – maybe you’re not as rich as, well you’re certainly not as rich as Elon Musk, but maybe you’re not as rich as the Queen of England or JK Rowling either. But you’ve got all the money that you need for the rest of your life and that’s defined by you. What would you do? What would be different? How would you live your life? So, that’s question number one, and we ask that question first because it’s kind of like you win the lottery. What would you do? We’ve all thought about it right, so it’s an easy question and it’s not one that is not terribly challenging because the others get deeper and more personal. So, it’s a good way of loosening up and experiencing – the two of you – the advisor and the client being together in this. Although I tend to do these questions as a piece of homework for clients, in the old days I would do them in person with them, so that’s done both ways by advisors.

The Three Kinder Questions – #2

The second question is deeper and may give you pause. The second question is if you were to go to the doctor – they’d been running some tests and you’re feeling perfectly fine. But they surprise you – shock you really – with the news that you have a rare ailment, and they tell you only have five-to-ten years left to live.  Now you’re going to live for five years for sure, and the good news is you’ll be as healthy as you feel right now for the rest of your life. But sometime between that fifth year and that tenth year, you’re just going to keel over. The question is, “What would you do with your life, what would you do differently? “ Of course, that’s a killer for many of us. It’s a tough question. Some of us – as you get to my age – maybe you’re thinking that way already. Anyway, some of us have had ailments or illnesses of various kinds that have forced that question upon us. But many, many people haven’t, and so five to ten years that’s it. What would you do? People tend to go more toward their relationships – not always – but they tend to go more toward their relationships and toward legacy issues and the bucket list, so to speak. The first question is filled with that bucket list kind of stuff.

The Three Kinder Questions – #3

The third question goes even deeper, and it’s really the one that a life planner pays the most attention to. It’s one that you would never ask first, and here you get the same scenario, the same setup. You’re going to the doctor. You weren’t expecting anything. They’re performing some tests and this time the doctor really, really shocks you by telling you that they misdiagnosed you, and that, in fact, you’ve got a rare ailment and you only have 24 hours left to live. The question is not about what you would do with that time. That’s not it. The question is reflecting on your life and reflecting on your dreams, your anticipations, your passions, and the things you love. Reflecting that you’re going to be gone in 24 hours, the question is, “What did you miss? What did you not get to do? Who did you not get to be?” Often that question is the most important of all.

The Three Kinder Questions – #3 – Reflecting on the answers

Often for the third question, the answers are shorter because this touches so deeply into a person’s life that what is most meaningful comes up. As a life planner, that’s what I want to deliver into your life, and even where things come up there are things that come up that sound impossible. Like, I’m my age and I wished I’d had kids. That’s one that could come up, and there are things like that, but most of them are not impossible. Most of them we can attach onto and move with. But for those that sound impossible, usually, there are links to the world from our heart or avenues we could go down that would fulfill a lot of that.  For instance, ‘I wish I’d had kids.’ Instead, it could be spending much more time with your nieces and nephews, if you have them, or it could be teaching and mentoring others. There are a variety of things that I’ve seen come out of that including foundations set up for children. So, it touches very deeply.

The Three Kinder Questions – #3 – What do people usually reflect on

There are five things usually people go for: They go for relationships. Family tends to be the number one thing. But for years I was not one that had family in there, and so family and relationships tend to be number one and quite significantly so. I’d say the second most powerful response is about values or about spirit or religion. It’s that really deep kind of spiritual side almost of people. Or saying, “I lived as a salesperson. I wish I’d been able to speak more truth.”

Then that’s something we can work with. That’s something we can go toward. Spirit could be meditation; could be religion as I say. The third one that’s very common is creativity. I wish I’d acted in independent films. I wish I’d written that great American novel. I wish I was playing jazz in a nightclub on Wednesday nights. I wish I’d gone to Africa. Well, Africa’s not that creative maybe, but still, we deliver on them. The fourth most common one is community. Giving back to the community. That we are trained in as advisors. You and I we’ve been trained no doubt in Estate Planning, philanthropy, and all of that. The fifth most common one has to do with the environment or a sense of place. So, people in the country often wish they had more time in the city. People in the city often wish they had more time in the country. The travel bug comes up here as well. The environment definitely comes up here with people who are concerned in that way. Those tend to be the most common ones. They’re wonderful things.

Going Deeper

Basically, you can go to town with all of them and get into a person’s life in a wonderful way. I don’t mean to get into their life but ask them and get them to open up. What would you do if you could do something with the environment or what would it be like if you lived in the country? Tell me more. People begin to dream, and we say look this isn’t just idle dreaming. I’m running your money. You can make these things happen. Some of them may take a little bit of work, and we might be able to open them up quite a bit now, but even more in a few years. You can make these things happen and I get that. That’s why I’m here. I want to see your energy come alive. Your vitality, and so those are the three questions as I think of them. I don’t know how you’ve been doing them and what your response is.

Phil: One thing that I go back to, one of the things that I said upfront is I used to ask them live, and now I have tried sending them in advance. Personally, I like that better because I think giving people the chance to think more about the questions makes a difference. Then we have a much fuller discussion because we can go through the things that they said and talk about them.

George: I love that. And Phil, I know we’re about to be working together, which I’m very excited about. You’re going to be engaging with a team out here that is just a phenomenal team, and you’re going to hear different points of view on that. It’s going to just go well oh maybe I could… I love what you’re doing, and it’s the way I ended up doing them. But in the early days, I did do them in person just as you did.

Phil: I’m so looking forward to that. I’m kind of counting the days till we get there.

Closing Thoughts

I hope the above discussion gives you greater insight into the three Kinder questions. helpful. If you have questions or would like to go through the entire life planning process – it includes more than the three questions –please schedule a free call. At its core, life planning helps align the way you spend – or use – your money with what’s most important to you. It allows you to spend with purpose on things that matter.

I’ll be back next week with “Apprise’s Five Favorite Reads of the Week.”

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