"An' I wanna pony, an' a GI Joe, an' a bicycle, an' a ..."
-Stereotypical young boy's Christmas wish list

"The unexamined life is not worth living."

Take out a piece of paper. This is a test.

1. Describe the first step in the "six-step" financial planning process.

If your response included "goals" or "objectives," give yourself two points.

Now, draw a line. Below the line, put the number of continuing-education hours you have earned over some ascertainable period of time. Let's say, oh, the last three to five years. Above the line, put CE hours earned over the same period of time addressing viable, useful methodologies for determining an individual's "goals" or "objectives" with substance. Convert into a percentage. If the resulting percentage exceeds 15%, give yourself two points. More than 30%? Two more.

For two more points each, discuss:

What is a "goal"?

Is it the same as an "objective"? If not, why not? (No fair reading ahead.)

What individual or entity has the right to determine a "goal"? (Hint: think "Client.")

Bonus round for infinite extra points: How do you spot one? Simply explain a fail-safe methodology for discerning the real deal. Especially expand upon distinguishing between the shallow and the profound. How should we respond to "goals" akin to my young friend's Christmas list? Would this differ from those encompassing an individual's most heartfelt concerns and dreams (per Socrates' notions of an examined life)? Is either approach legitimate, or is there some prismatic continuum for determining which light rays most effectively illuminate a client's most reflective motives? Is this an appropriate part of the first step in the six-step process? How do we know? How can we know? How should we conduct ourselves?

Big problem: We think we know what clients want. Attorneys are notorious imposers of value systems and personal goals. "Of course, you want to maximize your tax savings." Alternatively, "Naturally, you will want all of your children to receive equal shares of your estate." Really? Who said so?