Life’s Main Questions

Several years ago I was introduced to the six questions that people ask themselves, as they enter different stages in their lives. The stage that someone begins asking each of these questions is usually tied to the individual’s age and maturity. The 21st century financial planning professional, desiring to assist clients as they ask themselves these six questions, find that understanding what question each of their clients are asking himself or herself is their greatest professional ally in helping their clients reach answers to their specific life questions at a particular moment in time. Below I have included the six questions so you can know what they are and what lies behind each of them.

Life Question One: Who am I? This is an identity question. Individuals usually begin asking this question when they are small children. When we are born we have no identity, we are given our names from our parents, we are born into a certain place and culture to a family and we may assume the religion of our parents. Individuals answer this question by assuming different labels that describe who they believe they are, and this is how we identify ourselves.

Life Question Two: How do I fit in? Individuals begin asking this question usually when they reach their teens. It is a time when they try to figure out how they fit into their social and physical environments. When individuals begin asking this question in their development, they are highly influenced by their peers and are susceptible to peer pressure (i.e., high school).

Life Question Three: What will I do? Individuals begin asking themselves this question usually in their early twenties. This stage occurs when individuals try to figure out what they will do with themselves for their career, and who they may or may not partner with. This question is different from Question One because it is concerned with the actions the individual will take in their lives; this question is not an identity question.

Life Question Four: Who have I become? The question usually arises when individuals reach their forties. Individuals wake up and realize that they are no longer planning their lives, dreaming of what they will become when they grow up, because they are grown up. Some people transition to asking this question very gracefully; others do not. This question often leads individuals into the so-called “mid-life crisis”. This is also a time when individuals become serious about planning their financial affairs.

Life Question Five: What have I accomplished? This question usually arises when individuals reach their mid-to-late fifties. Individuals realize that their working career is coming to an end, and a new stage of life is about to begin. At this stage individuals are getting ready to retire from work and enter their retirement. In the area of financial planning these people are putting their financial affairs in order to make sure they have enough income to support themselves when they no longer receive income from their own labour. For business owners this is the time when they start planning and implementing succession plans for their businesses.

Life Question Six: What will my legacy be? People start asking this question of themselves after they retire. They come to the realization that they are at the end of their lives. They begin to think beyond their mortal existence and start contemplating about what will they be remembered for and what legacy will they pass on after they are gone from this life.

Individuals asking this question are quite serious about gifting their time and money to people and causes they care about deeply. It has been said that those who begin asking this question of what will be their legacy, are the individuals who have the biggest impact on families, communities, society and the world long after they have departed. There is a Jewish saying that applies to many in this group asking Life Question Six:

“It is better to give with a warm hand than a cold hand.”

Written by Peter Merrick

Peter Merrick, FMA, CFP, FCSI, Instructor at George Brown and Seneca Colleges, President of Merrick Wealth Management, a boutique financial planning, employee and executive benefit consulting firm.

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