‘A person may be materially successful but not at peace’

Aug 01, 2019

After his decade long experience in advisory and sales functions, Vivek Damani struck out on this own by floating his advisory firm. He got inspired to practice life planning after reading George Kinder’s books. A registered Life Planner, Vivek chats with Morningstar on how life planning has helped his clients.

When did you realize that you have to start learning about life planning concept?

Somewhere in 2012, I was introduced to two books ‘Seven Stages of Money Maturity’ and ‘Life Planning for You’ both written by George Kinder. These books made me realize that we have to take a deeper dive while having planning conversations with our clients. Conversations which are engaging beyond money and returns; which explores the unexplored. A deeper and more engaging conversation will help us better understand our client and his life - a fulfilling and meaningful life; full of purpose and vigor. Finances can then be mapped based on the purpose of life thereby having an enriched client. Luckily for me, that was the time when Network FP organized the Life Planning sessions in India for the first time and I was lucky enough to attend and become Registered Life Planner in due course.

How has life planning helped you?

Firstly, we need to understand this. Money is just a means; a resource. Planning for a resource without knowing the end use will not help in achieving larger goals of life. To plan and remain focused life-long we need to find a vision. General tendency is that we will always talk of maximum returns as our goal. There are many instances wherein we have seen that a person may be materially successful but not at peace. By applying life planning skills we are able to get into an engaging conversation with our clients. In these conversations money and finance is not the focal point. It is the client and his life which becomes the focal point. The conversations help the client to explore his life, it’s meaning and purpose and what should be done to achieve the same. What are the probable obstacles and how to overcome them. These conversations help in strong alignment of life with its purpose. The result is stronger connect with client. Best part is that in these conversations we are just facilitators. It is the client who himself discovers what he wants from his life, what may be the challenges and how he will overcome them. Because of this the buy in from the client is much stronger. The probability of achieving the desired result is much higher.

How has life planning helped your clients?

I distinctly remember one client who felt insecure despite having a decent corpus size. When we got into the deeper conversation; we realized that the insecurity was not with the corpus but the client felt something missing in life. And that something was sense of self-accomplishment. Digging deeper we realized that she wanted to earn herself rather than depending on the passive income coming from the available corpus. The process of exploration, vision and obstacles were followed and we were able to understand that the client has to take up higher studies and she did. The result we are seeing today is lesser anxiety and more peace with self. Every time, after the result, when we hear an exciting voice over the phone that I have done it gives us a greater sense of pride. Asides, the client has also taken up a teaching job which gives her a sense of fulfillment.

Another case is of a lady who separated with her husband. She came back with two kids with negligible financial support. Luckily, she was able to find a job. A meaningful conversation helped us understand her insecurity towards the future. Again, the process of exploration, vision and obstacles was carried out and we realized that the first and foremost requirement was to create a future for her two kids. While the work is still in progress in this case but the clarity of vision is helping in having focused approach in building the right strategies for their future. It is around five years now but because of the vision created the focus has not fizzled out.

There is a client who despite having loads of money was still working for twelve hours a day because he felt that his money will not suffice for his family if he stopped working. He was clearly burning out with the pressure and self-inflicted insecurity. We had a long, engaging conversation across couple of months. At the end of our discussion, this client was able to convince himself that he will be able to take half a day off from his work and still manage the same life style for himself and family. Today this client is able to do exciting work for the poor and deprived children. He is making these children gain self-confidence by organizing workshops for them on soft skills and language. Imagine the sense of achievement he is getting with this activity.  

I think if we are able to direct our life towards a purpose; we will be able to align out finances with our life meaningfully. Returns in this scenario is much more than mere percentage and corpus much more than the sum total of investments. It is the sense of mindful living.

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