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Three deep questions that could change your portfolio

Most financial advisers focus on the numbers - budgeting, investments, taxes, or insurance - without exploring the broader context. However, before asking traditional financial planning questions about desired property type and the kids' education, a life planner will aim to encourage investors to undertake a thoughtful inquiry into their deepest and most enduring values and objectives.

The movement started in America, but is gaining traction among UK-based financial advisers. Critics say it sounds like a cult or is too American for the British investor's sensibility. But others are evangelical. So hold your scepticism at bay for the moment.

"We ask three questions about what really gives life meaning," says Mr Kinder. "What do people care about secretly? This could be a secret sorrow or profound aspiration. Most often we find it is to do with family."

But he finds that people make excuses for not living the life they had wanted to live. These could be 'I need to pay for the mortgage/kids' education' or 'My spouse would kill me'. "It's often about the financial constraints of the relationship," says Mr Kinder. "However, the arguments are mostly specious. They can go away."

Here are the three questions that Mr Kinder advises you ask yourself.

Q1. If you suddenly realised that you had all the money you need for the rest of your life, what would you do? "This is the Lottery question," he says. "People list a lot of fun things."

Q2. Imagine a situation where you go to visit a doctor and are presented with the news that you have a serious illness. You have five to 10 years left to live. However, you won't have pain or feel sick during that time. What would you do? "This goes much deeper," says Mr Kinder. "How would you live that time? Family plays a key role here, but you may have other passions. Some people will choose to continue to work, take time off or abandon work entirely."

Q3. You go to the doctor and are told you have 24 hours left to live. What have you missed in life? What did you not do and who did you want to be? "This goes deeper still and you'd never ask this one first," he says. "Values come up - authenticity, generosity, friendships or spiritual. Some people say 'I didn't give back to my community'. Philanthropy can be very meaningful. Others mention creative pursuits or starting a business. Some find that they live for the environment - 'I'd have liked to have lived in the country or city'.

There is a line beyond which these conversations are clearly straying into the realms of therapy, and financial advisers are told by life planning training to be careful not to cross this. Clients on the other hand may question the need for six two-hour meetings spread over a year to arrive at the answers to these questions.

So what does this really have to do with money? I ask. "Benjamin Franklin said 'Remember that time is money'," replies Mr Kinder. "Often it is time away from the TV. Often it is time away from work. For example, I found that I need 10 hours a week to write well and creatively.

"All of these are things that are personal have money consequences. Your portfolio has to make sense in terms of your life structure. It's not just about investing, but also about spending."

The argument is that once an investor identifies their secret, they can be more focused about portfolio construction. So what happens when an investor discovers what is really important to them? "They just go for it," says Mr Kinder. "But their investment strategy often changes - people become more interested in 'simple'. They are more likely to have a buy-and-hold portfolio with less following of individual stocks. But they will still invest intelligently and be sharp with taxes and costs."

Mr Kinder says his own experience was a shift from chasing stocks to a passive indexed approach. "It's less about playing in the market and having fun to do what I care about," he says.

More information on the three questions and a template to take you through the life planning process is available at www.kinderinstitute.com and www.lifeplanningforyou.com. The websites have a facility whereby you can search for a life planner in England, Wales or Scotland.