Versteeg sees the life planner designation as a badge of prestige for Allianz agents. He told Kinder that "our industry is not the most popular industry and people in our firm might be embarrassed to say they work here." He hopes the life planning designation will change that.

I can't quite figure this out. He seems willing to take the bread out of his own mouth. Can an insurer be altruistic? Is it a sign that competition is fierce and that innovation and customer service win?  

Kinder says that without life planning, financial planning "is broken." "You can't do a financial plan until you've done a life plan; otherwise financial planning is a blunt instrument applied to a complex person," he says.

"Another article on the Kinder Institute Web site, this one from the Dutch magazine Happinez, is written by a man who, having heard Kinder speak, says, "I have trust now it will be OK one day between spirit and materialism, God and money, Prada and karma."

Kinder believes that the life planning model is not only better for the client relationship but that it is more profitable for the advisor. He measures that by what a practice brings in a sale. "The fee-only model is more profitable," he says, bringing a price of three to four times earnings, because the clients are clients for life. In contrast, a commission-based planner doesn't get all the client assets in the first place because he "doesn't have all the client's trust" and he is always forced to spend a good chunk of time selling.

The Kinder Institute training includes a two-day workshop open to everyone; a five-day workshop limited to 12 people who team up and do life plans for each other; and  a six-month virtual classroom that holds a maximum of 12 people who, along with the leader, offer critiques of the life planning work of other participants. So far, the Kinder Institute,, has 800 advisors who have been through the two-day program and 80 planners who are registered life planners.

And, as I said, I've followed Kinder through his transformations for at least a dozen years. Now that he's spreading his training all over the place to enthusiastic reception, I'm going to get serious about it. I plan to take his two-day workshop this summer and report back on it in the fall. Who knows? Maybe I'll become a registered life planner myself. And maybe I'll get to spend half the year in Hawaii.

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