Where Do You Find Your Heart?

The financial-planning process frequently presents unique opportunities for individuals to purposefully examine their priorities and to talk about "big picture" issues. For folks with busy lives, it often is difficult to find the time for genuine self-assessment. This is one of those times. Are they happy with their relationship with money? The simple act of asking about values and goals is a great first step.

The Bible always has been a terrific source of financial wisdom and perspective. Without bringing the "R" word into this diverse community, we can objectively observe that the Bible provides time-tested acumen in matters of personal finance. In fact, with money as its second-most-addressed subject for 2,000 to 3,000 years, the Bible is abundant and fertile in matters of money's interface with vision and balance.

For me, this verse from Matthew has been particularly instructive. From its venerable vantage point, it puts money in its place and reminds us that our "treasure" must inevitably mirror our heart. In so doing, it speaks to the importance of values and goals and their place in matters of life and soul. Within the context of money, our actions reveal our heart's core far more clearly than words.

In turn, the heart has long symbolized that which is most profound. As a metaphor, it speaks to our reason for being, our purpose in life and our source of life. Our heart is our nucleus, our core. Spiritually as well as physically, our hearts are at the center of ourselves and our relationship to that which is most sacred in our lives. This is why our work is so vital. Money takes us to heart rapidly and unerringly. It reveals us. Our budgets, our net-worth statements, our tax returns and our credit-card and checking-account statements all expose our conscious priorities with unparalleled accuracy and efficiency.

As financial advisors, the extraordinary issues posed within the treasure/heart continuum take us to the heart and its core. Does our work help clients align their hearts with their treasure? Does their financial planning and use of money reflect where they want their hearts to be? Do we help them fulfill their goals and objectives, or are we simply taking an arbitrary template and stuffing them into it? How can we facilitate a journey of discovery that combines hearts and money?

First, let us get our terms straight. For our purposes, the word "treasure" shall include "money," "time" and "talent." Each of these is within the purview of a financial-planning relationship. We all know that time is money. Talent is generally that which enables us to access money. Ultimately, in our work we engage a process addressing our stewardship of each, even as we anticipate their financial implications.

Some call this life planning. Others simply contend that this work is part of identifying goals and objectives. Accordingly, they note, this is rightfully part of the six-step financial planning process, as we have known it for decades. Personally, I suggest that helping clients articulate the core of their hearts is both an incomparable service and an unavoidable aspect of a quality financial-advisory engagement. Moreover, it is a service that will continue to distinguish superb financial-planning advice from the generic.

Our conscious address of treasure and its mindful assimilation with values and goals is simple, healthful stewardship. The reward for integrating money and life is to come to peace and understanding with this most powerful secular force. Done right, our clients are wealthier, healthier and happier. It puts money in its rightful place, neither ignored nor elevated beyond a wholesome respect. After all, life is not about money. Money's function is to serve life.

How does such facilitation take place? I suggest it engages a process of asking, understanding, synthesizing and reality checking. Ideally, it then culminates in a stewardship policy fully integrating treasure, values and goals. Then, not only do we find the heart with the treasure, we also find the heart exactly where the client wants it to be-at the core of a life worth living. Unfortunately, this is not as simple as it looks. For most of us, this is a lifelong process.

Breaking it down, this process has several steps. Any one of these steps has its own timetable and its own rewards. Each is as unique to a client as his DNA or fingerprints. First, it inquires. Then, it enables. Finally, it integrates and compels action as it commands commitment.

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