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How To Design Your Dream Retirement & Life

by | Jul 12, 2022 | Financial Planning

“Life Isn’t Determined By The Cards You Were Dealt But How You Play Your Hand”

Isaac Breese

Have you ever seen a person with all the money in the world that wasn’t happy? How about a person with very little that is calm and content?

There are many studies that show that having money is correlated to happiness to a certain extent; however, it is just a tool to allow us to experience our hopes, dreams, and goals.  If we don’t use that tool effectively, our dreams and vision of our most fulfilled lives can end up sitting in the background as we continue to grind through our day-to-day lives.

My Story

I worked for a Fortune 500 company for almost 11 years. While I was there, I grew a successful practice to about $800 million of assets across about 300 clients. I loved my clients and my coworkers.  I was paid well, bringing home close to $400,000 in my last year. But, I knew something was missing. Even with the great pay, I wasn’t excited to get up in the morning. I lost the spring in my step.

I went through George Kinder’s Life Planning Training, created for financial advisors to help themselves and their clients better align their resources (time and money) with their life hopes, dreams, and goals. I was personally “life planned.”  I found my heart’s core desires and values were as follows:

  1. Spend more time with my family and friends
  2. Help people live their best lives via financial life planning
  3. Travel and experience more of the world
  4. Live a more balanced life and be healthier
  5. Create more music, a passion of mine

Once I understood my vision, I had a better understanding of what I needed to achieve it. I needed more autonomy and freedom. I needed a place where I could go deeper with clients to make a more meaningful impact on their lives. With my vision now clear, I confidently took a big leap and left my job to start Swad Wealth Management.

I tell you this story because it shows it is pointless to try to build any type of plan without understanding YOUR true vision.  It’s like selecting a plane, train, or automobile for transportation before you know your destination.

Your values may be very different or similar. As a first step, you will want to go through Kinder’s Three Questions to determine your values. Here are the ground rules to this exercise:

  1. Set aside 30-60 minutes of quality time to give yourself enough time to really think.
  2. Eliminate distractions.  No TV.  No phones.  No kids around.
  3. It is important to go through the questions one by one.  Do not skip ahead until you have answered the first one, then the second, then the third.  
  4. If you have a spouse or partner, answer them separately before sharing answers.
  5. Have fun with the exercise!

Kinder’s Three Questions:

Question #1

 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? Would you change anything?  Let yourself go.  Don’t hold back on your dreams.

Describe a life that is complete, that is richly yours.  

Question #2 

 This time you visit your doctor who tells you that you have only 5 – 10 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?  

Question #3

 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 did I miss?  Who did I not get to be? What did I not get to do? 

How was it?  Did you get a sense of what you truly desire?  About 70% of the time, the third question typically has the answers as to what is most important to you.

From here, you can build your list of goals starting with the core needs, then wants, and then wishes.

As a financial life planner, this is one of the many exercises I take my clients through in order to design a financial plan that is custom-tailored to them.

Pro Tip: Remember that it is the feeling from the experience that is most important. What does that mean? If a certain goal is unattainable financially, think of other ways that you may be able to have a similar feeling and experience at a lower cost.

More Resources

If you’d like to learn more about Kinder, I recommend visiting his site, Kinder Institute of Life Planning

For DIYers that want to go through the entire life planning process, you can visit his website at Life Planning for You.

You can also find a financial advisor trained in financial life planning, like myself, that can guide you through the full process.

Want to learn more tips to help you thrive in retirement, check out my free guide, “15 Retirement Planning Tips For People Age 50+.”

Meet the Contributor

Zack Swad is a fee-only financial planner located in Santa Rosa, CA serving clients locally and across the country (virtually). 

He specializes in financial planning and retirement planning for people age 50+.  As a fee-only, fiduciary, and independent financial advisor, Zack Swad is never paid a commission of any kind, and has a legal obligation to provide unbiased and trustworthy financial advice. He has been in the finance industry for over 11 years. He previously worked for a Fortune 500 Financial Services company, managing a practice of $800 million for 300 clients. Zack then went on to build his own firm, Swad Wealth Management, LLC so he could make a deeper impact in his client’s lives. In his free time, Zack enjoys spending time with his wife Elise, playing board games, piano, and singing.

Zack Swad’s Contact Information:

Email – zack@swadwealth.com

Want to talk to Zack? Schedule a Call


This commentary on this website reflects the personal opinions, viewpoints and analyses of the Swad Wealth Management, LLC employees providing such comments, and should not be regarded as a description of advisory services provided by Swad Wealth Management, LLC or performance returns of any Swad Wealth Management, LLC client. The views reflected in the commentary are subject to change at any time without notice. Nothing in this article constitutes investment advice, performance data or any recommendation that any particular security, portfolio of securities, transaction or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person. Any mention of a particular security and related performance data is not a recommendation to buy or sell that security. Swad Wealth Management, LLC manages its clients’ accounts using a variety of investment techniques and strategies, which are not necessarily discussed in the commentary. Investments in securities involve the risk of loss. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

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