Is There Balance In Your Life?

File this one under the “Touchy Feely Approach to Finances“.  This Wheel of Life tool (from Money Quotient) is often used by financial advisers as a way to check in with their clients as an alternative to “How are you doing?” and I thought could be a useful reflection in the classroom.  Here is how it works (from Time):

The instructions are simple: you rate your satisfaction with each of the nine regions of life listed on the wheel. Your level of satisfaction can range from zero to 10—10 being the highest. Plot a dot corresponding to your rating along each spoke of the wheel. Then you connect the dots, unveiling a wheel that may — or may not — roll very well.

How to use this in the classroom?  I might suggest having students reflect on their current lives (substitute School for Work on the wheel).  In areas where they are currently dissatisfied with their lives, challenge them to come up with ways that they can improve in those areas.  This exercise helps to highlight the importance of a balanced life.

If you’re wondering how financial advisers use this tool (from Time):

It’s an incredibly efficient way to effectively answer the question, “How are you doing?” In a matter of seconds, you know exactly where your client stands. You now have an opportunity to congratulate them in their successes and encourage them in their struggles.

It demonstrates that you care about more than just your client’s money. It shows that your cordial greeting was something more than just obligatory. It shows that you recognize the inherently comprehensive nature of financial planning.

It helps in gauging how much value you can add to a client’s overall situation. For example, if this is a new client, and all the numbers are nines and tens except for a two on the “Finances” spoke, then it stands to reason that good financial planning could have a powerfully positive impact on the client’s life. If, on the other hand, a prospective client’s wheel is cratering, you might conclude that his or her problems lie beyond the scope of your process. Your efforts may be in vain, and a referral to an external source may be in order.

It could tip you off to a major event in a client’s life that should trump your agenda for the day. Many advisers use this exercise as a personal checkup at annual client meetings, sending clients the “Wheel of Life” in advance. Doing so encourages clients to share if they have suffered one of life’s deeper pains, like the loss of a loved one. That’s likely your cue to recognize that now isn’t a time to talk about asset allocation. It’s simply time to be a friend and, as appropriate, address any inherent financial planning implications.

You’ll likely find it a beneficial practice for you, too! I don’t recommend putting a client through any introspective exercises that you haven’t completed yourself. So please, complete your own “Wheel of Life” exercise. You’re likely to see this tool in a new light and find valuable uses for it that I’ve not uncovered here.