The father of holistic planning has automated his process for helping individuals figure out the most important things in their lives, essentially robotizing the first few steps of the life planning process he created almost 20 years ago.
“Everyone has always said you can't do this online, so I set my mind to it,” said George Kinder, founder and president of The Kinder Institute of Life Planning.
His firm recently created the website Life Planning For You, an online tool that leads people through a series of deeply personal questions, including asking them to imagine if they had only a day left to live, what would they feel they had missed out on doing or being?
One aspect that makes this online process better than doing it live is that a client can more privately delve into the in-depth nature of the questions, Mr. Kinder said.
But by virtue of it being an automated system, it has weaknesses, he said.
The challenges of a web-based program include creating intimacy with clients and inspiring them to commit to and live out their life plan, Mr. Kinder said. Of course, some advisers don't do this particularly well either, he added.
The institute makes the tool available for free to the public and has a modified, paid version for advisers who have been through Mr. Kinder's two-day training on the life planning process and want to incorporate it into their own processes and business models.
The planning tool for consumers concludes by offering some basic financial advice on investments and insurance and suggests that those who want more should contact a live adviser trained in life planning. The institute offers a searchable tool for finding these advisers, all of whom have completed the life planning training.
About 3,000 people have used the online tool, and about half of those who complete the process look for an adviser, Mr. Kinder said.
“The consumer who has complex issues is going to want an adviser,” he said. “We show how they can find an adviser.”
The tool that advisers can integrate into their planning process will conclude before giving any financial planning recommendations, as advisers themselves can provide that after clients complete the automated front end, he said.
“If you want clients for life, you want to have a real relationship with them, and we think this makes it easier,” Mr. Kinder said.
The amount advisers will have to pay to integrate the tool and use it with clients will range between $4 and $12 per month per adviser plus a $1 or $2 per month client charge, Mr. Kinder said, depending on the number of advisers and clients involved.
Life planning, or holistic planning, grew in popularity in the late 1990s as the giant baby boomer generation began to think seriously about retirement. Mr. Kinder, then an adviser, published a book in 1999 that became a practical guide for other advisers on how to get into personal, goals-oriented talks with clients, even though it was originally written for consumers.
Goals-based planning has grown in popularity among advisers ever since and is part of the process many go through with clients today, including some advisers who work for wirehouses.