THE scariest thing about money is how its influence can insidiously creep up on us, invade our psyche, infect our souls and then flip the tables on us.

What on Earth am I talking about? Simply this...

Money is a great tool and a useful slave but a cataclysmically destructive master. As you digest that, please mull over this question: What do you REALLY want out of life?

When working with my life planning and financial planning clients, I always pose this question early on in our client-planner engagement. My clients then typically take two to three weeks of deep thought to identify, articulate and write down their answers to my question.

They often plumb great depths to detect what they crave to accomplish by life’s end, and the wonderful experiences they wish to savour along the way. To help them begin their process of life goal identification, I teach them this established definition of financial planning:

“Financial planning is the process of meeting your life goals through the proper management of your finances.”

It is a simple 17-word working definition that is easy to understand. Using it as an overarching guide for personal financial management helps us to understand why each one of us should first focus on goals tied to three specific dimensions of financial planning to ensure we do the best we can, humanly speaking, to wisely and effectively manage our lifetime flow of money.

Those three dimensions are wealth protection (using life and general insurance products plus legal tax planning); wealth accumulation (through saving, investing and sound career development); and wealth distribution (with a will and, in rarer cases, a trust).


The best life goals we establish flow from our roles, responsibilities, circumstances and aspirations. Such goals may include retiring all our monetary debts and, down the road, retiring ourselves as well; funding our children’s tertiary education stints; starting a foundation to help educate deserving kids from poor families; owning a Lexus, Audi, Mercedes or BMW; indulging in a long holiday in Australia or Europe or Hawaii; or enjoying any of a thousand other amazing experiences life can serve up to us on a silver platter IF we might afford the platter itself plus the life-menu items we choose to load onto it.

The big problem, however, is that our wants and appetites are infinite while our funds and time are finite. So choices must be made and sacrifices accepted.

Toward that end you might find this research finding fascinating: About 15 years ago, I read a summary of a human accomplishment study which concluded that when setting goals for ourselves, most of us seriously overestimate how much we can achieve in a single year while we underestimate what we might accomplish over a full decade.

For instance, if you’re an indolent, obese couch potato you might be unrealistically inclined to think you can bestir yourself to start exercising; conditioning your joints, tendons, ligaments and muscles, and strengthening your heart and lungs enough to run a sub-three-hour marathon by September 2019.

Yet you might simultaneously be underestimating your capacity for self-study and practice during weekends and some evenings to teach yourself higher level mathematics or a new language or short story writing skills over the next 10 years to allow yourself the joy and satisfaction of earning a mature adult part-time degree or becoming proficient in a world language other than English such as Mandarin or Spanish, or becoming a published author by September 2028.

Similarly, within the narrow confines of financial planning, we all underestimate what we can accomplish over the next one, two or three decades. We shouldn’t! Nor should anyone else should be allowed to rain on our parade by belittling our dreams.


To help us set big yet achievable stretch goals, we should look around our world and ask ourselves revealing questions such as:

Are there any people around me who are debt-free?

Are there millionaires in my town?

Are there multi-millionaires in my state?

Are there people younger than I am who ethically earn 10, 100 or 1,000 times what I make each year?

Your answer to each question will be “yes”. Once you realise that, you just need to ask yourself two more questions to set the stage for your quest to establish and pursue solid gold goals:

1. What big long-term financial goals do I care about?

2. Am I serious enough about the top one or two such goals to happily pay the high price of long-term diligence and sacrifice?

Write down my questions and, more importantly, your answers in a dedicated journal or notebook. Then revisit and flesh out your thoughts every day for six weeks. After that, please take action.

You will find this homework mind-expanding, inspiring and liberating. Along the way, if you find yourself wrestling with setting either too small or too big a goal, my advice is do both!

Aim too low in the short-term and too high over the long haul. Accomplishing easy goals first will help you build momentum for the bigger ones just up the road. Make sure you nurture one or two outrageously big goals for yourself because as English poet Robert Browning first stated firmly and then asked:

“A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s heaven for?”

© 2018 Rajen Devadason

Rajen Devadason, CFP, is a Licensed Financial Planner, professional speaker and author. Read his free articles at; he may be connected with on LinkedIn at, or via You may follow him on Twitter@RajenDevadason

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