Are You Trying to Make a Living or a Life?

by Sophia Bera on August 21, 2013

I recently went to a breakfast meeting to hear financial planner, Ross Levin, speak on his philosophy behind his book, Implementing the Wealth Management Index.  He started his firm, Accredited Investors, when he was 28 years old and now, at age 54, the firm has over $1 Billion in assets under management.  One of the really important questions that he asks his clients is, “Are you trying to make a living, or a life?”  (Click to Tweet this).  I think that’s a really important distinction.  He’s very clear that he’s trying to make a life, and so am I.  That’s the reason I founded Gen Y Planning: to help my clients build a life they’ve envisioned and to do the same.  This is also why I decided not to accept an offer to work for a local financial planning firm.  (Side note: I did interview at Accredited Investors and didn’t get hired.  No hard feelings!).  I know I could make a living working in financial planning, but I couldn’t live the life I’ve dreamed of without running my own business.  A life that involves: world travel, flexible hours, and being my own boss.  (Looking back, I’m glad I didn’t get hired there, because it wouldn’t have worked long term.  Just ask my former bosses, I’m not the easiest person to “manage”).

How a Financial Planner Can Help You Build a Life

Ultimately, what I really hope to shape for my clients is to help them build a life: the life that they really want to live, rather than having them focus on just making a living.  Often times there’s a disconnect between one’s money and one’s values. One of the most important things that a financial planner can help you do is to point out those discrepancies and help highlight ways that you can use your money to match your values.  I spend a lot of time with my clients talking about goals and values because it’s pointless for me to make financial planning recommendations if I don’t know anything about what’s important to them and how they want their lives to look in the future!  I think that too many planners cut right to the planning without taking time to explore the “why” behind the money.  Once a client’s deepest values are identified, it’s much easier to talk about ways to trim expenses or increase income because there’s a purpose behind the money.  (If you’re interested in scheduling a free consultation, send me an email:

A Fun Tool to Help You Build Your Dream Life

I was listening to the Tropical MBA Podcast the other day and they spent a whole episode talking about building a “Dreamline” which is a term that they borrowed from Tim Ferriss’ book The 4-Hour Work Week.  Here is a Google Doc from Jared Goralnick’s Blog that the hosts Dan and Ian, have personally used to create their “dreamlines.”  It’s a way to help you map out the goals that you want to achieve that don’t have a clear path.  The first part is mapping out your big goals that consist of “having, being and doing.”  Then you figure out the costs associated with each of these dreams and break it down monthly.  This allows you to visually see how much your “dream life” would really cost (which might be less than you think).  After that, you look at your current expenses and you can see which ones directly correlate with your “dream life.”  By seeing these lists next to each other it puts things in perspective.  Maybe your dream life involves living abroad for a year, which might be less expensive than living in the U.S. for a year.  The last step is tying these to your business goals.  I highly recommend listening to this episode (TMBA40) or subscribing to the podcast.

Taking Time to Reflect

When we are so busy making money, we sometimes forget to spend time enjoying it.  That’s why I believe reflection is so important.  At least every few months, if not more frequently, we should take time to reflect on our lives and make changes when we realize we could be doing a better job.  I did this recently and here was my observation: I live in Minnesota because of the lakes, nature, and the beauty of this state in the summer.  (Six months out of the year it’s snowing, so I better enjoy the other half of the year!)  Some of my favorite memories as a child involved going up to the North Shore every summer, but I haven’t done that in years!  Seriously, I don’t remember the last time I did that.  Maybe five years ago?  So, what did I do about it?  I planned a 2 night, 3 day trip to Duluth next week!  I want to spend a few days hiking, exploring small towns, and eating good food.  (Plus, I found a great deal on AirBnB!  A girl has to be thrifty!)  Those are the things I love about Minnesota in the summer, but I wasn’t experiencing any of them.

Now it’s your turn: what small change can you make to bring you closer to your dreamline?  Are you trying to make a living, or a life?  Tweet me your responses @sophiabera.