Life Planning: Why Life Planning is Financial Planning Done Right

life planning
This week’s video addresses why life planning is so important to financial planning. Please watch the video to learn more.

This week’s video addresses why life planning represents financial planning done right. Please watch the video below to learn more. If you would like a free review of your current financial situation, please use this link to schedule a free call. You can find an auto-generated transcript with light editing below the video.

Phil: Hi! I’m Phil Weiss and this is Megan Kopka. We’re from Apprise Wealth Management, and we work with women facing New Beginnings. New Beginnings, what does that mean? It means various life transitions, that can include retirement, an empty nest, job transition, divorce, caregiving, and widowhood.

Megan’s Story

First, I’ll let Megan tell us a little bit about her story.

Megan: Alright, well thank you, Phil. I started in the finance industry back in 2007 and was plugging along and enjoying starting a new career when in 2010 my late husband Keith was diagnosed with ALS, and I instantly became a caregiver. I was told my first job as a caregiver was to research different drug trials of which Keith was part of three. Slowly he succumbed to ALS. I had two children in the home, and I was working a lot. My work schedule in life diminished and caregiving became a priority more and more as his needs increased.

Sadly Keith passed away in 2014. My children were 10 and 14 when he was diagnosed and 14 and 18 when he passed away. It just brought to light to me that it was less about the investment returns and more about our financial planning – about our financial plan that really mattered. Having a strong foundation in place and making sure that we would not only be able to afford this life event but that the kids and I would still live the life that we had planned in the future. Needless to say, the emotions that go along with that are huge. They’re very extreme. There’s exhaustion and just kind of burnout from caregiving only to go into the throws and shock of widowhood and grief.

To go through all of those phases with two children watching you and also dealing with their own emotions at the same time was a challenge. It just brought to light how much I could help other people because of my personal experience and because of my professional expertise. You know I always say money doesn’t make you happy. It definitely doesn’t fix problems – real problems. We could have had a billion dollars, and it would not have changed Keith’s outcome.  But money definitely can decrease stress for sure. That’s something where I know I can come into somebody’s life and be able to help them with a portion of their building resilience and leaning back into life.

Phil’s Story

Phil: Thank you for sharing that. It must have been hard, to say the least.

My story is a little different. I’ll just say that professionally I started out working as a CPA. Then I got my CFA (chartered financial analyst designation). But ultimately I ended up working as a financial advisor.

I’ll tell you a little bit about how I got to work with women facing New Beginnings. Growing up in my house, finances were the typical model. My father was responsible for it. My mother had more caregiving responsibilities. Unfortunately, my father was not very good at managing finances, to say the least. We had unpaid bills. We had utilities turned off. When I got my driver’s license, I remember going down to the PSE&G, which was the local utility, and places like that to give them money so that they could turn our power back on.

Ultimately I went to school at Duke where I went for 3 years. I had to leave after the third year for financial reasons. I ended up picking up and moving across the country and living in Tucson. Then I came back and got my accounting degree from Rutgers. After I graduated, I found out that my father had forged my name to open up credit cards, and forged my signature to open up credit card accounts in his name. I figured out a way to make that go away.

While all this was going on, my mother had gone back to school, and she became an occupational therapist. I know that she did that so that she could be strong enough to be on her own. Unfortunately, she came down with breast cancer. She was diagnosed with Stage 4. She asked me to help. I did what I could but unfortunately there just wasn’t enough time, and she passed away.

Now I view the work that I do as trying to help other women avoid or not have to experience the things that my mother went through. So I work with women facing New Beginnings to help with that. And part of my own life plan – the first element – is to provide a scholarship for women who go back to school later in life.

Megan: That’s really special. Thank you! I love how we met and I learned about your life plan through the development of my own. It was great experiential learning, and that’s where we really got to learn a lot about each other. What motivates us. What our values are, and I know so much of our stories drive who we are today. It’s very special.

Life Planning – Financial Planning Done Right

Phil: It really is, and I remember the first time we met it was at the beginning of the life planning training, and we shared a little bit about our stories – each of our stories – at that time and it was like we immediately connected from that point. Life planning is really important. For us, it’s been experiential and now we get to help others with their life plans. And financial planning is life planning planning done right.

Megan: Yes, right.

Phil: We always like to say that, but it’s really true. Financial planning helps give you security and confidence that you can do the things you want. We think about it, and I’m going to use the acronym TEAM because when we think about our Capital, we normally think of capital just in terms of money. Think about it in a broader sense, and you can think of Time, Energy, Attention, and Money – all those things. If we use that Capital as efficiently or as well as we can, that helps us to live our most fulfilled life. That’s really what life planning is about

Megan: Right. I mean a lot of people come to us for traditional financial planning. A holistic approach from cash flow to insurances to taxes to investments. You know most people see a financial advisor because they want to plan for retirement or check out if their investments are aligned with the market. It’s really more than that. It’s about improving your life today. That’s where financial life planning really sheds light on who you are as a person. We can all amass money. We can all try and watch returns and align them with the market.

But how are you aligning your actual attention and energy? What does your calendar look like? Where are you actually spending your money? The goal is to live your most fulfilled and very unique life. Coming in during a transition time where you’re going to have so many changes, why not figure out who you are? Align your money with your goals so you can flourish through those changes and that’s why Financial life planning is financial planning done right.

Phil: It really is and it goes beyond that, too. It’s about understanding more more about what your money’s for. Remember there’s an emotional side to money, too, Think about looking at your checkbook. What did you spend your money on? Or getting your credit card statement, what did you spend your money on? Were those the things that really matter to you or were those things that you thought you were supposed to do because somebody else did them? You want to make sure that your spending is aligned with your values and that’s really what the exercises that we do when we do life planning are really meant to help us accomplish.

A Framework for Financial Planning Done Right

So let’s talk a little bit about the framework we use for life planning.

Megan: It’s called EVOKE. It’s actually an acronym. So we use the EVOKE process – a process that both Phil and I experienced ourselves with many of our other colleagues. In the first meeting, we actually sit down with you, and it’s called Exploration. Exploration is just a time for you to really explore. We find out what brings us here – why are we here – and we do some introspective work in that meeting as well. They are very popularly known as the three questions.

We use the three questions to really help explore how you’re living today. If your own timeline was shorter, how would anything change in the way that you’re living today? Then the final question really hits you, “What If Today Was Your Last Day?” What would you miss? What would you like more of in your life? Ultimately, a lot of people think that the third question is exploring regret. It’s too late for regret, and it’s very negative.

If we look at it through a lens of what would you miss, those are things you’d want to be doing more of immediately, like spending more time with your children. I remember the first time I did this back in 2015 what I would miss was petting my dog and my children’s laughter. I was like okay that’s easy let’s spend more time with Mushu on the couch. Let’s have a lot more fun as a family together. Those were things that really focused on what brings me joy in my life.

Although it’s a scary question to think of, “What if today was your last day?” It’s also a question that really gets to the heart of if time was really an issue, how would you spend it? It wouldn’t be looking at your statements. I wouldn’t be like let’s check my investment returns. So we help through this EVOKE process really get to the heart of who you are and the way that you want to live. Do you want to talk about the other in introspective work?

Creating a Vision Statement

Phil: Sure. So we take those three questions, and we use them to create a vision statement. That vision statement is supposed to be things that really matter to you. Things you want to do, and when I’ve created vision statements – and I know it’s the same for Megan – they’re not going to be all financial. A lot of them are those other things that you want to accomplish. I love the idea that this is about avoiding regret because it’s you get to do those things now and experience them. Like I said I wanted to start this scholarship. I can do this now, and I can see the benefit and the impact that it has instead of making it something that happens after I’m gone.

Next Comes Obstacles

After we go through that visioning then we get to the O and that’s obstacles. That’s really what can get in the way. Remember that at any part of this process, this isn’t us figuring it out and telling you, this is us working with you to help you figure it out because it’s your life. It’s your life plan. It’s your vision not ours. This is what’s best for you. It’s unique to you, so you’re going to figure it out. We’re just going to help guide you along the way

Knowledge and Execution

After that, we get to knowledge, which is where the financial part does come in, and that’s where our experience as financial advisers comes in to help you implement that plan and do what’s necessary to do the things you want.  Then the last E is just execution. Let’s just go out and do it

Megan: Yes, over and over and over again. Because when you’re living your life plan you end up taking small steps towards the larger goal and partnering with someone who’s a life planner can really help you follow through. But also things change along the way. We might have some shifts, and in our exploration of living our most fulfilled lives, new opportunities might come up. We can help by knowing you so well. This is an opportunity that we really want to explore more, or is this one that really detracts from the overall goal? Working that through.

I think a lot of people know changes and opportunities can come with big price tags. Does it make sense does it really make sense? Can we live without regret if we choose to spend our finances in a particular way? Do we have to have shame around that? It’s really about making healthy choices along life’s journey. Again, it’s you know we have one life. It’s not if I die, it’s when I die and what we are putting forward out there as a role model for the next generation. Are we living healthy? Money can create a lot of stress, but I think it can also decrease stress as well.

When you partner with someone who has the knowledge and experience but also is financial planning done right.

Phil: Yes, absolutely. And the other thing I love that you said is how it can change. I always think that we have a “Kowing-Doing Gap,” What I mean by that is a lot of times we know the things we’re supposed to do, but we don’t always do them. The other thing that we can do is we can be there to help you by guiding you, by looking over your shoulder. If something’s changed then we may want to change your plan. If it’s you’re having trouble with something, we can see if we can help you talk through it. That’s really important to think of as well.

Let’s talk a little bit about some of the things that we can do to help you take control of your financial future. Some tips about what kind of work are we going to do with people to help them figure this out.

Megan: I mean I love all of the introspective work we do. We hold space for you. We’ll read out loud answers back to you to help you really align what you say you want to happen with what’s happening now.

More on Knowledge and Life Planning

Phil: Let’s talk a little bit about that knowledge perspective because people hear the word budget, and they think of it as a four-letter word but it’s really not. Just think about it. You want your inflows to be more than your outflows so that you have something left that you can use to provide for your future. That can allow you to do those things that are not part of everyday life that really matter to you. It’s part of that, and the cash flow is huge.

Megan: I actually take it to the next level. We look at your cash flow, the income, and the expenses. Whether you call it a spending plan or you call it a budget, often time-life transitions bring a change in income; maybe not expenses. You and I need to be apprised. What expenses are there? Are there loans or decisions you made three years ago or 10 years ago? Can we unravel those decisions if they don’t align? It’s a bigger picture. I always say you know I don’t want to get in the weeds of your daily spending however sometimes there are problems with daily spending.

The average income decrease for a widow is 40%, and that’s huge. Some changes might need to be made, and maybe they don’t because at some point you and I know as we’ve retired people hundreds of times, that your nest egg can actually spin off income. What does that look like? A lot of people go and see advisors just for retirement planning. They want to know how do I go from being a saver to living off of my savings. How does that work? We can help structure and really get in the weeds.

I guess my greatest tip is to find an advisor who you feel like you can disclose everything to without shame. There’s never any shame, especially when working with women. I always say you know we have been held out of the financial and legal realm almost since written history has existed. A lot of us don’t know this like you and I are unique in the fact that we have a lot of education and information about finance. In general, it’s something that I’ve always liked researching. I like financial plan planning and putting the puzzle pieces together for a particular person because it’s really their heart and their story that I’m designing this plan for.

I know that it’s unique but oftentimes I feel like, “Oh my gosh, pinch me I can’t believe this is what I do the majority of my day.” It’s so exciting, so the tip is I would say yeah sure cash flow is part of it. You are going to have to sit down and write out a budget whether you’ve ever done it or not because we need to know. I check in with you moment-by-moment. There’s no shaming you for what I see come through on your credit card. We need to have some good reasonable estimates and then explore.

By going through life planning, we learn what their values are, and if something seems off, let’s talk about that. We want to put it on the table, and most of the time it’s like oh thank you thank you very much. So cash flow is part of it. I also think that having a a general idea or a good estimation of your net worth – your assets and your liabilities – is also very prudent and imperative of course in the work that we do. When people hire us we do that for them – with them really – with them.

The Importance of Considering Taxes in Your Plan

Phil: And it’s really important, too. I like to think about the idea that taxes are very important, especially when you go from that period when you’re transitioning from being a saver to now you’re a spender. All the rules are very very different, and it’s not about trying to avoid taxes or anything like that. It’s just about paying your fair share. You have to think about it in terms of managing your lifetime tax liability and not just your liability in any one year. I think that’s really important because it might mean I pay a little bit more this year but if it saves me a lot in the future. It’s really worthwhile, and you have to think of it that way.

Megan: Go back to those transitions. Marriage begins and ends. If you think about the tax filing status, I went through four tax filing statuses in less than a decade. I was married and filing jointly when I was caregiving for Keith. Sadly he passed away, and I spent two years as a qualified Widow because it’s the only amount of time they’ll let me be qualified. Then I filed as head of household. Now I’m a single filer.

So beyond the tax filing statuses, are the various ways that you’ve chosen to save for yourself. Whether it’s a brokerage account, a retirement account, or even selling your own home, especially in the case of a widow. When you sell your home, what are the capital gains, if any. There are definitely things to be aware of. One of the things that was said to me that I held on to back in back in the early financial advisory years is it’s not how much you make for your clients. it’s how much they get to keep. I think it’s both, but taxes are imperative. They’re very important and there’s something that we can plan for and and help assist with.

Working With Life Planning Clients – Megan

Phil: I agree. So we’ve done this work. Can you share an example of somebody that you’ve worked with and how it’s helped them?

Megan: I love the client stories, and the particular client that’s coming to mind right now is a woman who has left her big corporate job. She’s a young mother, and the resources that I helped provide her, from being a business owner on my own, she’s decided to open her own business. I’m on that journey with her. I’ve seen her website; shared it with you. So just watching the change and the dreams breathing life into the dreams is something that I find extremely rewarding. And really listening to her and uncovering that she has a marketplace. That she has a a product a service that is in high demand, and her biggest struggle is how do I price that. But resources of the small business community that I immersed myself into and as you can imagine.

I have a lot of life planning stories and a lot of resources as well. I gather them whether it’s the caregiving ombudsman, estate attorneys those types of people, or going into widowhood. the probate process, and the support materials that I use there. It’s so heartwarming to know that we can support in more life transitions because life doesn’t stay static, it’s dynamic. It’s going to constantly change, and and the better we know you and the better our conversations are the better the life plan can become. And that’s something when I tell people.

When I speak in front of groups, I suggest that they find a financial planner, and that they select the one that they feel most comfortable talking to. I mean there’s a lot of things to research as far as, are they compliant, are they good and knowledgeable, and are they fiduciaries. But the other part is how how well does the conversation flow and do you feel like you’re being heard and seen.

Phil: That concept of being a fiduciary. it’s really important. I think one of the things that life planning does is a fiduciary is supposed to work in the best interest of their client and put their interests ahead of their of their own personal interest. If you do a life plan, you really get to know what’s in your client’s best interest.

Working With Life Planning Clients – Phil

Megan: So tell us an example of your life plan work.

Phil: Sure. So one of my favorite stories is a client who you’ve met. When I was early in the life planning process. I got an email from her. She told me that she was taking a leave of absence from work. She was feeling really stressed. Plus, she didn’t know what it meant in terms of her financial plan or anything else, but she had to do it. It ends up that her older daughter was a freshman in college and experienced a lot of issues. She wanted to be there for her daughter. Her other daughter was in was a sophomore in high school at the time, and she wanted to be there for her, too.

She had a very high pressure job so she actually took family leave for 12 weeks and during the time she was off, we worked on her life plan. We put it together. She was able to get the confidence that she could leave her job and do other things that mattered more to her her.She and her husband had worked for for many many years. They lived on really one salary and saved the other one. That’s why they were in this good financial position.

She had seen my life plan because I’ve shared it on Apprise’s website, and she told me the effect reading that had on her. She had been sitting there trying to build the biggest pile of money and never thinking about what it was, what it was for, and how much she needed.  Going through this process helped her realize she didn’t have to keep building that pile that she could now go and live her life. So now when I look at her, when I talk to her on Zoom – because she’s a virtual client – when I look at her and when I hear from her, it’s like she’s a different person. She actually has said to me that going through this process changed her life it was really a life-changing event for her because of what it did for her.

Megan: It’s really interesting, too, to watch people when they hire us go from this place of fear and nervousness and really focused on the money to client meetings now that are so much fun and, yeah, let’s explore that. Let’s take a look at it. Let me run the numbers for you but really getting to the the story and what the why is. The drive there and finding out if it’s feasible

Getting to Know Your Clients Through Life Planning

Phil: Getting to know our clients; I love that part. That’s my favorite thing that we do. I can do the numbers but getting the relationships and getting to know your clients  is so great. When we have calls with our clients we’re usually not talking that much about their finances. It’s more about all the other things. It’s checking in. How are things going? How are you? The same client (I told the story about) I met with her father –  at the same time as they were together. He was s kind of shocked because we spent most of the time talking about life instead of finances. You just wanted to worry about the finances.

Megan: The numbers part is really fun for me, too, but it’s become more fun in our partnership and collaborating together as well. For example, let me float this by you and is there any way that could be more efficient. Are there things that missing, and I love that. I’ve always loved the number side and it’s so much more fun to have someone to share that part with, too.

Closing Thoughts – Life Planning Is Financial Planning Done Right

Phil: It really is. Let’s close with summing up kind of the importance of this for the women facing New Beginnings.

Megan: When you’re facing a new beginning, sometimes it can be very daunting. You want to explore possibilities though, too, so there might be fear; there might be stress. But there’s also so many possibilities, and I would just say going through a transition working with someone that can be a thinking partner or even a guide can help. I work with a lot of fresh widows and that’s not a time to learn. It’s probably not a time to put long-term goals in the background I’m thinking about retirement and the timeline of their life, but in the near term, I’m thinking about let’s only work with things that are urgent. The things that are urgent financially usually have a date or a timeline to them.

However, there might be things that are more important to them to talk about and I’ve been there. I understand that there’s a lot of chaos going on in relationships and family and there’s resources there, too. There’s a lot of support that I can offer, or I can provide for them. But I would say when when you’re looking at a life transition you know that you’re not going back ever to the way things used to be. You’re going to create a new life and I know you and I are very good at building out timelines and having a vision because we’ve been there.. We’ve done that for ourselves, and we love doing it with other people.

Some Additional Resources

Phil: Yes, we do. I would like to mention a couple of resources that we have before we close.  There are two things. Our website is, and if you go there you can sign up for our blog which comes out every week. We also have an ebook which is at It’s called, “How to Flourish Through Life’s big Changes:  Five Steps for Women Facing new Beginnings.” We’d love for you to download it and reach out to us and see if we can help you.

Megan: And we always offer complimentary consultations to begin with to get to know you better and let you know more about our services and what that means for you. It’s been great today Phil thanks for collaborating as always. It’s so much fun to be with you.

Phil: Thanks Megan. This was great. It’s a pleasure to work with you, too, as well as our clients. Thank you.

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