by Mitch Anthony

Independence has as many meanings as you have clients, but my assumption is that for most of them it means being able to live their lives on their own terms. As a financial life planner, your goal is to help clients achieve independence, however they define it. Unfortunately, some advisors still equate independence to a number. Money is certainly an important, if not a critical component, but it doesn’t guarantee true independence.

Three important factors—curiosity, work, and leisure—combined with the right financial resources, lead to independent living. A truly independent life is one in which we are constantly learning something new, engaging in work that challenges and fulfills us, and reserving time for rest and relaxation. Trying to keep each of these activities in separate boxes will instead make your clients prisoners, regardless of how much money they have invested with you. A lifetime of independence comes only by learning how to fluidly integrate all three components.

The only way to keep pace and flourish in this fast-paced world is to be a lifetime learner. Gone are the days when your degree or diploma defined you. Think about it—we all know those who have a great deal of knowledge and focus in a specific area to the point that that’s all they can talk about, which is unfortunate. Regardless of how successful people are, if they aren’t curious, they are boring. Curiosity is a major ingredient in independence. Personally, I have found the greater reward by tracking my heart instead of grinding it out in a career track that would have paid well but would have taken too much from me. This is not to say that I haven’t taken a detour or two and learned some hard lessons. But the fact is, my constant curiosity has helped me maintain my independence.

The 40-year company man (or woman) is extinct. Your clients will change jobs and/or careers many times before they turn 50, often through no choice of their own. It is ridiculous to expect 18 year olds to decide on a course of study for employment that will engage them for the rest of their lives. It’s simply unrealistic to expect that most people will have a clue about how their lives will evolve. Doing so results in being incarcerated in a prison from which one can never escape. Show your clients that they can impact their own working lives, even if it takes them on a journey they didn’t expect. It’s easy for clients to become “victims”—help them focus on securing their independence by taking charge.

What’s the point of independence if you can’t enjoy it? People work like oxen for years with no vacation. In their minds, they relegate leisure and relaxation to retirement years. Unfortunately when they finally get there, many are miserable because they have no idea how to relax. Leisure and relaxation need to be integrated on a regular basis.

Encourage your clients to break out of the “boxes of life” and integrate curiosity, work, and leisure into one fluid lifeline. Demonstrate to them that life has no finish line and no retirement date—only then will they discover true independence.

What’s Stopping Them?

The question to ask your clients after they’ve shared their thoughts on what they would rather be doing is, “What’s stopping you?” Try getting them to articulate the obstacles they need to overcome to get from here to there. Are they willing to take risks? If they aren’t, they will never truly be free. As a financial life planner, you can bring so much more to your clients than investment advice—you can literally change lives.

Your clients can do what they really want to do if they are serious about making it happen. For some, the motivation comes from facing the inward loathing they carry toward their work and themselves for not doing something about it. They are tired of lukewarm waters. For others, the motivation comes from facing the dreams, passions, and energies they have stored up within themselves that are not being expressed through their current work. Regardless, the conclusion should be the same: life is not meant to be a lukewarm experience. Once your clients decide to take responsibility for their own independence, they will experience true freedom. At that point, my guess is that they will have erased the need to ever fully retire because retirement becomes a non-event.

I’ve developed a profile your clients can complete at their leisure. The profile is available in my book, The New Retirementality, as well as to subscribers of The AdvisorINSIGHTS Program ( The tool will help your clients frame a picture of where they want to be and open up a dialogue with you on how you can help them achieve true independence. And by helping your clients gain their own freedom, you can take pride in the fact that you’ve given them a gift they’ll enjoy for the rest of their lives. There’s no greater independence day than that.

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Adapted from The New Retirementality: Planning Your Life and Living Your Dreams…At Any Age You Want, Fourth Edition by Mitch Anthony. ©2014 by Mitch Anthony. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

© 2014 Mitch Anthony

Mitch Anthony is the founder and president of Advisor Insights Inc.and the Financial Life Planning Institute, the leading provider of financial life planning tools and programs.

For almost two decades, Mitch and his team have provided training and development for both individual advisors and major organizations throughout the world. Mitch personally consults with many of the largest and most-recognizable names in the financial services industry on both financial life planning and relationship development.

Mitch has been named one of the financial services industry’s top “Movers & Shakers” for his pioneering work, and is interviewed by the media on a regular basis. The Institute is partnering with both Texas Tech University and the University of Georgia to develop financial life planning programs for their undergraduate programs. Mitch is a popular keynote speaker, columnist for Financial Advisor magazine and Journal of Financial Planning, and host of the daily radio feature, The Daily Dose, heard on over 100 radio stations nationwide.

Mitch is also the author of many groundbreaking books for advisors and consumers, including perennial bestseller StorySelling for Financial Advisors, cited by “Financial Advisor” magazine as the number one “must-read” book for financial professionals. Mitch’s other books include The New Retirementality (now in its 4th edition)From the Boiler Room to the Living Room, Your Clients for Life, Your Client’s Story, The Cash in the Hat, and The Bean is Not Green. For information on these books and more resources, click here.