What do you want to be when you grow up?

By Scott Malcolm, CFP®, SSA, RLP®

I am still working on the answer to that question. At the age of 20, I stumbled into a Financial Planning Assistant position, where I performed research and technical elements for an adviser. At first glance, many would think that this wasn’t my version of “living the dream,” but it sure ticked a lot of boxes for that point in my life. I was a kid who didn’t know what he wanted to do, but I was okay with maths and enjoyed computers.  

Around this time, my mentor had embarked on incorporating financial life planning into his business. At age 25, I had a few years of experience doing face-to-face work with clients and I was fortunate to be introduced to this new method. In 2005, I traveled to the US to attend the EVOKE® Life Planning Training with The Kinder Institute of Life Planning. Having taken the 2-Day Seven Stages of Money Maturity Workshop with George Kinder in Australia in the early 2000s, I thought I knew what I was getting into. As I flew over, I mentally prepared for another course on how to better serve my clients. I had doubts around being so young and working with clients as their financial planner. The experiential training wasn’t what I expected, but it was exactly what I needed. The course allowed me to look closely at my own life and how learning to better serve myself could be extended to being a better financial planner to my clients.

Going through the 5-Day training program and the subsequent Life Planning Mentorship was life-changing, both personally and professionally. I began to step into and live a more authentic life. I gave myself permission to focus on my own personal aspirations, including my desire to find a life partner. The inward focus led to outward changes that my clients, in particular, could feel. Living this more authentic life allowed me to hold space for my clients to explore their own life ambitions, empowered by a new relationship with money.  

I often say that the one commonality all of us human beings have is that we are all born into the financial system in which we live. The system is far from perfect, but when we choose to engage with the system, we can learn how to live, be, and thrive in it!

Part of the Kinder training is exploring the client’s responses to the “Three Questions”. We do this with all of our clients, and the responses provide insights and depth when building new relationships. I find the questions useful for checking in and assisting clients as they embark on their life transitions. I also use them myself as a personal reframe and focusing tool for my own life journey.

Fast forward a few years and the Global Financial Crisis hit. I was going through many life changes: I had just connected with my soon-to-be life partner (we’ve been together 12 years now) and while beginning to establish our lives together, I found myself without a job. Contemplating my next step, I redid my “Three Questions” and was confronted with the realization that I wanted to  run my own business, along with a few other dreams and experiences, including living in another city. (I still have “live in NYC” on the list but that will have to wait until a post-COVID world.)  

And so, my practice, Money Mechanics was born. My mission is to bring together human elements and technical expertise to help clients achieve their life and wealth goals. In practice this has meant finding the clients who want to go deep. I align with clients that want to gain a better understanding of what brings their life meaning and how their money can support that journey. I also love planting seeds with those clients who are not aware of these deeper elements in their relationship to money.

I am still working on the answer to the question of “What do you want to be when you grow up?,” but the EVOKE® Life Planning method has taught me that living a more authentic personal life is the key to professional success, even if you still haven’t figured out all of the details. I still have many professional goals to set, plan, and achieve, but I have reached a level of comfort–regular new client referrals and professional and personal relationships and engagements–which does leave me thinking I am “living the dream” or at least the current COVID version of it!  

Scott Malcolm has been awarded the internationally recognised Certified Financial Planner designation from the Financial Planning Association of Australia and is Director of Money Mechanics.  Money Mechanics is a fee for service financial advice firm that partners with clients in Melbourne, Canberra, Newcastle, and Sydney to achieve their life and wealth outcomes. 

Money Mechanics Pty Ltd (ABN 64 136 066 272) is a Corporate Authorised Representative (No. 336429) of Infocus Securities Australia Pty Ltd (ABN 47 097 797 049) AFSL and Australian Credit Licence No. 236523

The information provided in this article is of a general nature only. It has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs.  Before acting on this information you should consider its appropriateness having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs. 

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A Message from George Kinder Regarding the Recent Protests

Dear Life Planners,  

I write to you full of empathy for communities of color, who feel the impact of the coronavirus disproportionately and are subject to the effects of a racist system that disadvantages them economically and socially, endangering their very lives upon contact with law enforcement.

The recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and the countless many who came before them have exposed deeply set, systemic racism still at work in American institutions. 

It’s time for us to bring an end to racism all over the world. I think all of us as Life Planners, grounded in empathy, deep listening skills, and a sophisticated understanding of economics, have a role to play. 

I ask all of you to please consider ways in which you can take action during this time. I might suggest starting with listening, empathizing, and learning from others. If you feel compelled, take leadership and gather people together in your community to share experiences during this time. Certainly, signing petitions, writing letters to lawmakers, attending protests, engaging in community conversations, supporting organizations and causes you believe in, and committing to seek out wisdom when you find your experience limiting are all of value.  

Personally, I think that without addressing the issue of economic justice, racism will never be eliminated. It is one of the reasons that I have always supported a basic income and free, hour-long life planning sessions to anyone that needs them. 

We will be thinking of ways to offer support and resources at this time and would welcome your suggestions. In the meantime, we invite you to our other platforms: Golden Civilization Conversations and Mindful Engagement, which both have ongoing meetings that are meant to provide conversation, inspiration, and healing. 

We know racism is not simply an American phenomena and we welcome your insights. We are profoundly moved by the expressions of concern by those outside the United States. Please continue to share your support. We need it. 

I just want to say again, much though you may not feel it, with your skills of listening, empathy, and leadership, you are the right people, in the right place, at the right time. Please don’t hesitate to share these skills now with your communities.

Much aloha,


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Changing the Conversation From Money to Vision™

By Joan Sharp, CFP®, RLP®, CeFT™, CAP®, MSFS

In my work at River Family Advisors, I refer to myself as a Family Advisor rather than a financial planner. Every person is part of a family; this is where money stories and life expectations start. I work with clients on their vision paying close attention to a person’s beliefs, to what inspires them, and to their imagination for the future. This exploration involves considering a person’s vision before resources. I also work to discover the values that guide their decision making. 

This approach didn’t come out of thin air. It is the result of the amalgam that was my childhood and the education and experiences I’ve lived since then. From learning about art to seeing money or lack thereof dictate choices, the early years lent too much power to money. I didn’t want finances to be the primary driver, the excuse or reason for any decisions I was going to make for myself, or anyone else.

The Registered Life Planner® process, taught by the Kinder Institute, gave me tools to be a better listener for my clients, prompting me to ask questions, and to guide individuals on their discovery of their life vision. The Kinder Institute training showed me how to put a process together to start walking toward that vision and how to adjust the journey, narrowing or expanding the path, as the vision evolved.  

I believe there is more than one way of achieving your vision for the future. Using education and professional experience as an example, armed with a degree in Economics, I used my work in marketing and sales for major consumer packaged goods’ brands as a way to understand the broader business world. I studied businesses and tracked their stocks decades before moving into Financial Services, long before earning an MS in Financial Services. I also fulfill my life vision when I endeavor to make philanthropy benefit both parties. I invest time and experience in exchange for education and fulfillment with a non-profit whose mission with whom I identify.

I know first-hand what it is like to work with personal accountants and investment advisors who have a lack of understanding of my vision. In the early years of my career, I learned to self-advocate – that identifying and voicing my intentions brought inner harmony. Utilizing the Kinder Institute Evoke process is a helpful tool in determining a path ahead for my clients. I take it one step further and look at these questions as a means of identifying a vision – a continuous journey that is about a process, not a goal.

I’ve built River Family Advisors by pointing out the underlying vision and values of my clients, by helping to plan resources, and for clients to communicate that vision to others.  I want to transform what was previously an unusual occurrence into a conversation that is commonplace. I hope to leave a legacy of empowerment, where people are living and communicating their vision and purpose – changing the conversation for years to come.

Joan Sharp is the founder and visionary behind River Family Advisors, Changing the Conversation from money to Vision. Joan serves in philanthropy by sitting on the boards of Easter Seals, DE, Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Delaware Historical Society, and is a Trustee of the Christiana Care Hospital System.

Joan L. Sharp CFP®, MSFS

Registered Life Planner®
Certified Financial Transitionist®
Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy®

W: (302) 427-9888
C: (302) 383-9678

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A Message to Kinder Institute Life Planners Regarding the Coronavirus

Dear Life Planners,

My heart is with you during these uncertain times. I know it is hard to keep everything balanced, yet I have faith that if ever there was a community ready to take on the challenge of keeping spirits up and being emotionally grounded, it is our community of Life Planners. Throughout our training, we have learned to meet times of crisis with authenticity, empathy, compassion, and great listening. There has never been a group of financial advisers that is more trustworthy than you are.

Please take the time to ground yourself: a few breaths before you pick up the phone to call the next client on your list, a minute to close your eyes before responding to another panicked email; 20 minutes in the morning of sitting in silence and practicing letting your thoughts go and your feelings be.

They need you. We need you. The world needs you.

Our practice of inner listening retrains the mind to no longer follow the habits of stress, suffering, or neurosis that we normally follow. When we are filled with turmoil and we manage even twice to return to the breath, we send a message to our unconscious that it is no longer in charge. Remember, a bad meditation is still a “good” meditation; it’s where we do the work.

As Life Planners, you know what is in the Heart’s Core for each of your clients. That doesn’t change when the market goes haywire. It becomes stronger. Do your clients a favor and help connect them with their Heart’s Core and their Third Question.

Not nearly often enough do we take action when we ask ourselves, “Do I need to live more simply?” and “What would life be like if I earned less and spent less?” Too seldom we ask ourselves, “How can I maximize the time I live in the present moment?” or “How can I maximize my inner wealth, as opposed to my outer wealth?”

Now is the time. Do this for yourself. Do this for your clients.

We need you. They need you.

Much aloha,


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What does ‘Financial Freedom’ mean to you?

By Rahul Agarwal

In recent times, there has been a proliferation in usage of the term Financial Freedom across media platforms, be it a personal finance show, a financial planning article, or advertisements by financial services’ companies.

While this comes across as the logical, rather the default outcome of a family’s or an individual’s personal financial plan, my question is whether it’s the ultimate or ideal outcome. Shouldn’t we as individuals, all endeavour and aspire to venture beyond this unidimensional and constricted notion of ‘freedom’ that ties it to the singular aspect of money?

Among the several definitions of freedom that google search returned, I found the following one on the Merriam-Webster website quite pertinent as it succinctly sums up the essence of ‘freedom’ as “the quality or state of being free: such as the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action.”

In my practice as a Financial Life Planner and my collaborative work with clients, before jumping into money issues straightaway, I want to know what their deepest, most cherished dreams and aspirations are (these are usally carefully and closely guarded). We then work around the obstacles to co-create a plan that delivers precisely such freedom into their lives–starting today!

I have a client who had an almost fanatical obsession with his investment portfolio’s return alongside a laundry list of behavioural biases. During the course of doing various life planning interviews and exercises with him, I found out that the germination of these were due to the money beliefs imbibed during his formative years. Today, he is far more relaxed, is not bothered about missing out on the next ‘hot’ investment opportunity, is soon taking a voluntary retirement, and has the proverbial bucket list of things he wants to accomplish in the next 2-3 years.

I am reminded of some lyrics of George Michael’s famous song, ‘Freedom’ which was released in 1990, and it goes as follows;

“I think there’s something you should know

I think it’s time I stopped the show

There’s something deep inside of me

There’s someone I forgot to be

Take back your picture in a frame

Don’t think that I’ll be back again

I just hope you understand

Sometimes the clothes do not make the man”

We as a society have increasingly begun to attribute personal and professional success to the acquisition of material things and the accumulation of wealth. Most of us find ourselves inextricably caught in a cycle of earning, spending, and investing often induced by societal and peer pressures to fit into a perceived definition of success.

And in spite of this, how many times have we heard from even well-to-do friends and relatives that they are not exactly happy with how their lives have shaped up, how they don’t enjoy what they are doing, or how they don’t have any time to pursue their interests?

If you look closely, there is a common undercurrent running across all these statements (and several others all confirming the same thing) that we find ourselves ‘enslaved’ to a script which was not exactly aligned to our values and innermost dreams.

If money was all there was to living a life of freedom, then I encourage you to consider the first of George Kinder’s famous Three Questions. I paraphrase it here:

Imagine you have just won a lottery ticket for an amount which can ensure that you don’t need to work for another day in your life, you have more than enough to meet all your ‘financial goals’ and maintain the lifestyle you have created for yourself, how does that make you feel?

I suspect that after the initial euphoria has passed, you might find yourself thinking about what this ‘financial freedom’ means to you and what to do with it. You might start questioning the beliefs you held onto for so long and wondering why the much coveted happiness for which you craved still eludes you.

I think the answer could be discovered by answering the following question:

“What does freedom mean to me?”

Your answer to this question is likely to be so profound that it will reshape your life and all other facets, including your financial life.

And therefore, whenever I meet new prospective clients, my first question to them is,

“Is your financial plan, life-shaped™?”


Rahul Agarwal is the Founder & Principal Adviser of Advent Financial, a boutique financial life planning & wealth management firm. He is a Registered Investment Adviser (RIA) & Registered Life Planner (RLP) and has over 17 years of experience in financial services. When he is not working, he likes to spend his time reading and learning about new things with a childlike curiosity. Contact Rahul at rahul@adventfa.com & +91 8910336611. Website: www.adventfa.com.

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Taking Financial Life Guidance to the Next Level

Frank Corrado and Frankie Corrado of Robertson Stephens

By Frankie Corrado

My father, Frank Corrado and I co-founded our firm, Blue Blaze Financial Advisors, on a concept called “Financial Life Guidance”.  Financial Life Guidance embraces the important life situations clients face, explores the range of options at their disposal to determine the best path, and advises them with the goal of helping clients have informed, intentional financial decisions that have a real impact on their lives. We guide clients as they move forward in their lives, setting and achieving important goals, and overcoming the obstacles that are in the way.

By employing George Kinder’s EVOKE Life Planning process, we thoroughly understand our clients’ interests through an authentic conversation about their optimal life. The strength of this relationship obviates the need for the client to jump from advisor to advisor. They understand the importance of working with holistic, fiduciary advisors who have their best interest at heart. We are there to help them plan out all of life’s goals, risks, and opportunities, and our fiduciary nature is never compromised.

For a long time, we have heard George Kinder extoll on the need for life planning to be practiced by more advisors as a way to deliver better services and outcomes for clients. His message always resonated with us at Blue Blaze, but we were still a small firm and could not effectuate the impact he was talking about.  

On October 1, 2019, our firm, Blue Blaze, merged with Robertson Stephens Wealth Management.  The whole process started last year when Frank was asked to speak on a panel at a Fidelity conference, about their “Advice Value Stack”. Frank was on stage with some well-known advisors in the industry, but Frank differentiated himself from the rest of the panel by talking about our holistic approach of financial planning (Financial Life Guidance) and our dedication to Life Planning opportunities for our clients.  The CEO of Robertson Stephens, Stuart Katz, was in the audience for this panel and was inspired by Frank’s approach to financial planning, believing it to be a truly differentiated approach.  Stuart tracked Frank down after the panel and the two continued conversations after the conference.   

When we reconnected with Robertson Stephens, we explored how each of our firms, together, could leverage our unique talents to create a superior combined firm.  We sat down with their executive team and private equity partners to have a very candid conversation about each of our businesses and what our goals were for the future. Robertson Stephens explained they had four core pillars that their business was built upon, one of which was financial planning.  The team at Robertson Stephens had a tremendous amount of experience and expertise when it came to financial services, investment management, and delivering great service to their clients. But they also recognized something in our team that they did not have – Financial Life Guidance.

Our motivation to merge with Robertson Stephens was primarily based on the positive impact that our work has on a person’s life.  We continue aspiring to deliver “freedom” to our clients; helping them outmaneuver their plan’s obstacles is substantially rewarding to us.  And we wanted to deliver this “peace of mind” to more people.  Our goal was to grow and spread more value to clients through an expanded offering of Financial Life Guidance.  In trying to “build it on our own”, we realized that the effort was just too enormous.  However, we recognized that if we joined a firm like Robertson Stephens, we would be able to deliver Financial Life Guidance in a more efficient and effective manner not only to our existing clients but also to more people.

With the addition of our team, Robertson Stephens crossed over $1 Billion of assets under management.  We have taken a leadership role in delivering an enhanced approach to financial planning through Financial Life Guidance.  And we now feel like we have a platform where we can make a greater impact on the wealth management industry. As Robertson Stephens continues to grow, we can leverage the life planning process for more client success and freedom to more people. This is just the beginning and we are optimistic that the impact can and will be big!


Frankie Corrado, CFP®, RLP®
Frankie is a Principal and Managing Director at Robertson Stephens. Alongside his father, Frank Corrado, CPA, CFP®, RLP, and Kevin Talty, CFP®, EA, Frankie guides clients towards peace of mind and the freedom that comes from financial security in a comprehensive plan. As a Certified Financial Planner™, Frankie combines his technical finance experience with authentic and curious listening skills to develop trusted, long term relationships focused on the client’s optimal desired outcomes. With over a decade of experience advising individuals and families, Frankie feels comfortable whether the discussion focuses on complex areas of taxation and personal finance or problem solving to reach important goals and priorities. As a Registered Life Planner (RLP), Frankie feels particularly equipped to bridge the gap that often exists between someone’s optimal life and their money. Find out more about Frankie and Robertson Stephens at https://rscapital.com/


For more information about Frankie and Robertson Stephens, please visit rscapital.com  Investment advisory services offered through Robertson Stephens Wealth Management, LLC (“Robertson Stephens”), an SEC-registered investment advisor. This material is for general informational purposes only. It does not constitute investment advice or a recommendation or offer to buy or sell any security, has not been tailored to the needs of any specific investor, and should not provide the basis for any investment decision. The information contained herein was carefully compiled from sources believed to be reliable, but Robertson Stephens cannot guarantee its accuracy or completeness. Information, views and opinions are current as of the date of this presentation, are based on the information available at the time, and are subject to change based on market and other conditions. Robertson Stephens assumes no duty to update this information. Unless otherwise noted, the opinions presented are those of the author and not necessarily those of Robertson Stephens. Investing entails risks, including possible loss of principal. Any discussion of U.S. tax matters should not be construed as tax-related advice. © 2019 Robertson Stephens Wealth Management, LLC. All rights reserved. Robertson Stephens is a registered trademark of Robertson Stephens Wealth Management, LLC in the United States and elsewhere.

Do you have a story to tell? We want to hear your Journey in Life Planning. Email lora.woodward@kinderinstitute.com, to express interest in being featured in the Kinder Institute blog.

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Michael Bibb RLP®

There is nothing special about me. In my 48 years on the planet, I have no sporting badges or trophies of merit from my younger days. I am Joe Ordinary. So, let us begin and hopefully some sparks will fly, and you may find, as I did, your ordinary self doing something ‘extra’ ordinary. 

The Marathon Des Sable (MDS) has been called the ‘World’s toughest foot race’—six marathons in seven days, being self-sufficient, carrying all your kit and food for the seven days through the Sahara, for most, would put the fear of God in them—so why am I standing on the start line of this, the 34th MDS? There are a couple people I could hold to account for this: Joseph Campbell who wrote that we should ‘Follow our Bliss,’ George Kinder when he reminds us to live ‘on purpose’ and to dig for the treasures that we all have buried inside of us, or a much over looked screenwriter, who in 1976 wrote a film that was to become a friend of mine. That same writer also said, ‘I may not be the tallest, fastest or prettiest, but I just want to take a shot at it and then I’ll know’. The film was called Rocky, eponymously written and played by Sylvester Stallone.  

Everyone loves the story of the underdog, the ‘Hero’s Journey’ as Campbell has framed it. You know the tale, someone living a life but knowing that inside them there is more. So, too, did I feel that there is something, some act that has not been done, a box that is unchecked, unfinished business that I have to get done, to live with intention and get closer to what fulfilled might look like for me. So, I arrive in the desert armed only with my alter ego ‘Rocky’ and a whole backpack full of expedition foods and my vision. My vision to do The Marathon Des Sables, not for me but for my four kids, to show them that anything is possible; for my clients to believe that it is doable, to help as many people as I can on the way; and for my friends, to borrow from Coldplay, we really are ‘diamonds taking shape’—we all have greatness inside us.

But hold on, hold on, I hear you say as the obstacles start talking to you, “you must be able to train a lot and I don’t have time for that” (for lots of reasons I couldn’t train a lot), or “I am too old” (the oldest competitor was 83, with many 60- and 70-year-olds taking part), or “my knees” or the like. I saw two athletes with prosthetic limbs not only start MDS but rip it up, and there was a blind chap too, yes, you read that right. So, your reasons for why you couldn’t possibly ever do anything like 150 miles through the desert have been silenced by those who have come before you and took that road ‘less travelled’. Please understand I am not recruiting for The Marathon Des Sable, this is just a story of how something that seems impossible has been made possible and has been done by some 30,000 people who got through, over, under, or around their obstacles. So, if you have something you want to do in your life, do it, don’t wait. The Red Hot Chili Peppers tell us that ‘This life is more than just a readthrough.’

What is your Marathon of the sand? What is that thing that you have buried as ‘life’ gets in the way? Will you look at the time past as a big insurmountable desert, impossible to cross with all your baggage, or make your time count and use it to find your buried treasure in the sand? You already know where your X marks the spot, go to that island where you cleverly buried it and have since come up with lots of reasons not to visit that secret island again. Please get out your treasure maps, go get your treasure whatever it is, wherever it is, yes the journey may be arduous and you can talk yourself out if it easily, but this is your call to action, suit up and go do that thing you just have got to do. It’s ready and waiting for you. “Maktub” as some say across the finishing here in Morocco, ‘It is written.’


Michael Bibb Co-Founder & Financial Life Planner.
Michael Bibb, DIPpfs, is the Financial Planner at CarpeDiem Financial and has more than 20 years of Financial Services experience, directly linked to fulfilling customer’s financial goals. He’s a father of four, almost knocking in the door of 50 and hearing that voice saying: ‘Do not go gentle into that good night, rage, rage against the dying of the light’. He learned to do the front crawl stroke three years ago and now is taking on his sixth half Ironman and fourth full Ironman this summer. Michael says, “I want my clients to have their most interesting life – I am duty bound to do the same.” Find out more about Michael and CarpeDiem Financial at https://www.carpediemfinancial.co.uk

Do you have a story to tell? We want to hear your Journey in Life Planning. Email lora.woodward@kinderinstitute.com, to express interest in being featured in the Kinder Institute blog.


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Morgan Ranstrom CFA, CFP®, RLP®

Each time I think about Life Planning and how it’s helped me, I can’t help but smile.

I started the Registered Life Planning program in the Spring of 2016 at a 7 Stages of Money Maturity workshop in Chicago. At the time, I was a bit lost in my career. I’m an introvert and early in my career I gravitated toward managing investments instead of working directly with clients as a financial planner. However, I found myself feeling disconnected and lonely. There’s value in optimizing investment portfolios for long-term success, but I desired something more. I wanted to help people by combining financial planning skills with life coaching skills and having impactful conversations around meaning and personal aspirations. That’s how I found the life planning movement, and ultimately the Kinder Institute.    

I showed up to the Seven Stages of Money Maturity 2-day Workshop ready to learn how to help my clients. What I received was something more profound. I was life planned. In hindsight, before learning how to positively impact people’s financial lives, everything about my own had to change. 

I’ll never forget the feeling of being the ‘client’ in front of the class for our incredible facilitator, Mary Zimmerman, as she went through my answers to the Three Questions. Not once in my life had I been listened to like that, and within a moment of extreme vulnerability in front of my peers, everything became clear.

Within two weeks of that initial training, I was implementing a plan to leave my old firm to start a new financial life planning business. Trailhead Planners, a firm I co-founded with my sister, Courtney Ranstrom, is now nearing its fourth year of existence and we have never looked back.  

In my 20s, I recorded a couple of albums of original music. I have played guitar and written songs since I was a teenager, and I loved playing live shows. But a mistake by my producer on my second album led to me unwittingly printing one thousand albums with sound impurities on a few of the tracks. I was a tentative artist to begin with, but that mistake led me to feel great shame, as if my music and my art would never be good enough. I slowly stopped playing live shows and writing new songs. Eventually, I rarely even picked up my guitar. 

I attended the EVOKE Life Planning Training 5-day in the Fall of 2016 with Kinder trainers, Rosemarie McKinnon and Ed Jacobson, two wonderful facilitators and mentors. My partner for the 5-day was Christine Macdonald, an empathic and top-notch life planner from Portland, Maine. Once again, I found myself in front of the class being life planned; however, I was more confident this time around. Surely, by now, I had it all figured out, right?

Wrong. During our ‘Obstacles’ conversation, Christine looked at me and said, “I think you’re a blocked-artist. I think you need to put your albums online and let others listen to them.” The room felt crushingly small. I nodded my head. She was right.   

A few weeks later, my personal torch statement burning inside of me, I submitted my music to iTunes and Spotify. I cried. And then, in the ensuing days and weeks, the most magical thing happened. I started writing again.  

I was originally drawn to the Kinder Institute by reading George Kinder’s books. Though admittedly, as an aspiring author myself, I was concerned that the book I wanted to write on money and meaning had already been written a few times over by George himself! Laughingly, I expressed this to George when he stopped by our 5-day Training to meet us, answer questions, and discuss his latest book, A Golden Civilization and the Map of Mindfulness.

Later, George wrote us all notes. Mine said, “Morgan, I wrote my books. Go write yours.” With my inner-artist motivated and revived, I did just that. Early in 2019, Wisdom Editions published my first book, Money with Purpose: Receive the Dividends of an Undivided Financial Life. The initial response has been incredible.     

I owe the seeds of my current life to the Kinder Institute and the life planning process.  For that I am eternally grateful.


Morgan Ranstrom, CFA, CFP® 
Co-Founder & Financial Life Planner

4816 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55419
(503) 773-9682

Morgan Ranstrom, CFA, CFP®, RLP®, is a co-founder and financial life planner at Trailhead Planners in Minneapolis, MN. He has released two studio albums of his own music (SpotifyiTunes) and is the author of Money with Purpose: Receive the Dividends of an Undivided Financial Life.

Do you have a story to tell? We want to hear your Journey in Life Planning. Email lora.woodward@kinderinstitute.com, to express interest in being featured in the Kinder Institute blog.


Posted in Life planning | Tagged ,

The Fourth Question

By Adam Wells

Each time I think about Life Planning and how it’s helped me, I can’t help but smile.

The dictionary definition of the verb evoke means to bring a feeling, memory, or picture into the mind. 

‘the smells, sounds and colours evoked pleasant memories of his childhood’.

As a life planner, through the EVOKE process, I invite you to tell the living story of your life.  I get the privilege to listen to your past, present and, in particular, the yet to be written story of your future.

Telling your life story is important because every story has the power to inform, inspire, guide, persuade, entertain, educate, open hearts, create laughter/tears, heal and transform.

In times past, elders in traditional communities, through stories, fairytales and myths, passed down through the generations their customs, culture and wisdom to ensure survival of the community.  Rituals and stories helped the individual to see the world more clearly and equally make sense of their ‘place’ within it.

In modern times, such cultural traditions, in many ways, have been lost.  The industrial age undermined our connection to nature and the individual is now left to fathom out by themselves how to transition through never ending change.  Ecological crisis, climate change, ethnic conflict, global warfare, financial debt crisis are all examples of immediate challenges for today’s communities.

The EVOKE life planning process involves answering four questions.  The first three questions ask you to consider your life: 

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. 

2) This time you visit your doctor who tells you that you have only 5-10 years 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?

3) This time your doctor shocks you with the news that you only have 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?

The fourth question goes beyond your life and asks you to contemplate your vision for a better world future and what you can do to create the world you would wish to live in.

4) Imagine you are the wise elder of your family and community.  What world you would like your grandchildren, great grandchildren, great, great grandchildren to live in?  What lifestyle changes/actions (large or small) can you take today to ensure the sustainbility of the human family and natural world around you for generations to come? 

Whilst walking Spain’s Camino de Santiago pilgrimage path a few years ago, I met Paul.  He told me the following story:

‘On my first Camino ten years ago, an elderly man in his eighties would always be the last person to arrive at the hostel. I watched him almost collapse into his bunk bed for the first three consecutive nights of the Camino journey and because of his frailty, during each of those nights, I was convinced that he was going to die in his sleep   And frighteningly, on each arrival, he was more exhausted than the day before.

I finished my Camino walk in Santiago de Compostela 790km/500 miles later, toured around the Galicia region and returned back to Santiago.  By now it would have been around seven weeks since I started the Camino walk in St Jean Pied-de-Port.  Anyway, one afternoon, I went for lunch in a restaurant.  Whilst I was eating, the door opened and, you never guess what, in walked that old man.  Our eyes connected with an intensity: you remember the pilgrims from the beginning of your Camino.  I got up from the table, walked over to him and we hugged each other.  He told me that he had just arrived into Santiago de Compostela and finished his Camino that morning. I cried in that moment and I also learned an important life lesson: ‘age is not a barrier to doing anything if the will is there.’

If ‘age is not a barrier to doing anything if the will is there’, what will you do today to transform your world and the world around you?  

After all, to evoke the story of your life may well be your greatest legacy of all.


Adam Wells | Life Planner & Personal Coach | El Camino Ltd 

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Integrated Life Planning

The small man builds cages
for everyone he knows.
While the sage, who has to duck his head
when the moon is low,
keeps dropping keys all night long
for the beautiful rowdy prisoners.

Written by Miriam Whiteley

With the yearning to fill our pockets with keys we came to our EVOKE® Life Planning 5-Day Training in Hana, Hawaii in December 2017. I flew in the night before it started, and as the sun rose on Maui, I walked to get a coffee. I looked up at the purple mountain rising before me, perfectly encircled with a ring of cloud at its very tip. “Yes,” I thought to myself, “I’m so close, and there’s still a cloud over it all—however nebulous—that’s holding me back.”

After the wild ride to Hana, we sorted out how the week would go, met our housemates and paired up with our life planners. As the week progressed it became clear that my life planner, my housemate, and I had forged a connection. Sheila, Charley, and I decided that we did not want to let the work we started in Hana wither. The three of us decided to mentor each other and keep our life plans alive. We have been connecting every two weeks by phone.

During the six-month mentorship we had a weekly conference call that shifted to a biweekly schedule through the next stage—now we’re RLP® certified but are we dropping keys yet? On our clients, and on each other? We stoked the flames of our torches and held each other’s feet to the fire of our best intentions. We shared triumphs when we saw them, but more often the achievements were so gradual as perceived from the inside that it was through the reflected praise of our trio-mates that we could see how far we’d come.

We floundered a little around the anniversary of Hana and pondered on our call what direction we wanted to take. Each of us was meeting the truth of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s line, “Wherever you go, there you are.” We’d lived our life plan, some more than less, but our life of freedom was feeling confined, bound by the inner voices that were talking about the same things they always have.

If each of us had a key we carried away from Hana (you might read it in George Kinder’s voice, as we received it), Charley’s was: “Why wouldn’t you do this, this is your life plan?” He boarded the plane for home ready to shoot out of the cave. At home, tucked back in the cave, he looked through the opening and heard the familiar refrain of his monkey mind: “It’s dangerous out there; why do I want to leave the cave again?” Sheila got right to work, fueled by the vigor fountain she tasted in Hana, and discovered her days often felt breathless. She found herself asking, “What if shortening the time horizon results in a pace that’s not authentic? We want to create flames to exit the cave, but we don’t want to burn people out!” My key was “give yourself permission to exhale—set down your sack.” The doubt door didn’t unlock with this key—”Give myself permission to do what? What if thing 1 (write a book, promote my niche) comes at the cost of thing 2 (connecting with husband and children, hearth tending)?”

We were wondering—if this is happening for us, this will happen for our clients too, right? Do we need coaches? Are we doing it wrong? We decided to life plan each other again.

If you’re game to try it with your pair or trio from your five-day, this is how it worked. We set a timeline and structure: three calls, 60 minutes each, two weeks apart. A week before the first call, we sent each other our 3Qs and HCG. Call 1: one of us did 10 minutes each of Explore/Vision with the other two (i.e., 20 minutes per person). Homework: craft two torches. Call 2: deliver torches, again each of us getting 10 minutes for the other two. Homework: notice obstacles and establish accountability metrics to overcome them. Call 3: obstacle check-in and share metrics.

The next call was with our mentor, Ed Jacobson, who had generously offered to join one of our calls. As we made arrangements for the call with Ed, he suggested we condense our anniversary torches. I found this a fabulous exercise, and a wonderful page in my Planner has the combined torch I synthesized from what Sheila and Charley created for me, a “mini-torch,” this condensed version, and a “micro-torch,” a distillation that has helped me hold fast to the key.

We shared our process with Ed, and we brought our questions. At the core of them was how to integrate life planning in a way that puts us in a flowing current, instead of furiously paddling (Sheila), going around in circles (me), or inwardly shrieking to get back on dry land (Charley). Ed, ever the sage, reminded us that we went to Hana on purpose and took home the experience of the value of clarity. He urged us to recommit to practices that strengthen equanimity and awareness, to help us listen to these inner voices with empathy and go about the next step of EVOKE: knowledge. With better data and reconnaissance, we can leave the cave.

We’re onto the next phase of our biweekly calls and have settled on holding each other accountable to doing a Sunday Review, and setting three desired outcomes for life, work, and personal realms. We’ll approach the call by sharing first, “I’m going to . . . (examples: tell you why I didn’t do the Sunday Review, or share three outcomes).” I’d like you to . . . (gauge progress, sense alignment, reflect praise)” so the other two know how to listen. It’s a work in progress, as are we all. For now, we’re delighted to be rowdy prisoners on this adventure together.


Charley Herbert,CFP®  is the Director of Sales and Marketing for Bradley, Foster, Sargent, a money management firm in Hartford, CT. Charley has 36 years of experience in the financial services industry, starting with Dean Witter Reynolds in 1983, and he’s been with BFS since 2003. Charley is chair of the board for Copper Beech Institute, a mindfulness organization based in West Hartford, CT. He is on the board of Wheeler Clinic, a mental health agency in central CT. Charley earned a B.S. in business administration from Rochester Institute of Technology and an M.B.A from California Lutheran University. Charley is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional. He attended the 5-day EVOKE training in Hana in December 2017 and needs the 2-day for full qualification for his RLP®. Charley is married; he and Karen have two grown daughters.

cherbert@bfsinvest.com Charley lives in Avon, CT.

Miriam Whiteley, CFP®, RLP® is a financial advisor with Roehl & Yi Investment Advisors LLC in Eugene, OR, an independent and locally owned wealth management firm that takes a financial planning approach. Miriam earned a B.S. in Business/Finance from California State University, Long Beach, and intended to have a financial planning career. Her life plan shifted to mothering and then becoming a Waldorf class teacher. About 12 years ago she read Lighting the Torch, and it reignited the spark. She made a career change in 2016, became a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional. a Registered Life Planner and earned an End of Life Care and Support certificate to enhance her understanding of the aging process, and to be of assistance to clients at the intersection of money, health, and end-of-life issues. Miriam enjoys helping clients prepare rather than repair when dealing with the stream of transitions that aging brings. The expression of Miriam’s passion for the power of education, art and music to bring us to states of awe and connection has moved from the classroom to her volunteer work, and she serves on the Board of Trustees of a private high school serving at-risk students, on the Advisory Board of the Oregon Bach Festival and is a hospice volunteer and sings at bedside with the Eugene Threshold Singers.

mwhiteley@roehl-yi.com Miriam lives in Eugene, OR

Sheila Padden,CFP®, RLP® founded Padden Financial Planning LLC in Chicago, IL, to provide comprehensive, fee-only financial planning for individuals and families. Focused on the big picture, Sheila puts the pieces of the puzzle together to define goals, optimize investments, minimize taxes, and create a roadmap for reaching goals and financial independence. As a fee-only fiduciary, Sheila accepts no commissions or referral fees – ever. As a CPA for over 25 years, Sheila brings a long history of integrity, quality and value. Sheila is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Certificant, a NAPFA-Registered Financial Advisor, and a Registered Life Planner. Sheila graduated with Honors from the University of Notre Dame and holds a Bachelor’s of Business Administration in Accountancy. She completed Northwestern University’s Certified Financial Planning Program, and the Kinder Institute of Life Planning Program. Sheila was the first national chair of Notre Dame Women Connect and NDWC’s Chicago co-chair for several years. Sheila has been quoted in numerous publications including the Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report, and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. Sheila has been a guest advisor on Wharton Business Radio. Sheila is married to Mike Padden and they have four children, including twins.

Sheila@paddenfinancial.com Sheila lives and works in Chicago, IL

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