At Dorval & Chorne, we define Quality of Life Planning™ as a focus on helping people more efficiently utilize their available financial resources to help improve general well-being as measured by happiness and health, rather than the simple accumulation of money. Many people have been conditioned to think financial planning is all about dollars, percentages, fees, and complicated calculations. When faced with decisions involving complex processes and concepts, we often experience feelings of anxiety, guilt, and potentially even fear that result in emotional decisions that may not be in our best interests. The natural result when we experience these types of feelings is procrastination in an effort to avoid bad decisions. At Dorval & Chorne, we believe the real value of a financial advisor is helping our clients modify their behaviors to produce better quality of life outcomes. We try to change the conversation from complex and often confusing concepts like investments, insurance, and financial jargon to the things that really matter to you.
Our goal is to help all of our clients make consistently prudent decisions in line with their unique personal values and goals which should result in improved quality of life over time. Quality of life is most often associated with the feelings produced by our decisions. For example, our clients often describe “peace of mind” as one of the outcomes produced from our planning and advice. Peace of mind would be difficult to define or even describe for most people because it is a feeling we have rather than a tangible, quantifiable thing. We may struggle to define “peace of mind,” but we all know it when we experience it!
Examples of Quality of Life Planning™
The idea of setting numbers-based goals has been ingrained in most people as being a good thing, but despite our best intentions, human beings have evolutionary behavioral biases that often sabotage our efforts. This is true of our decisions with diet, exercise, and certainly with finances. Our brains will naturally tend to overweight short term emotional decisions rather than longer term rational decisions. We might want to lose a certain number of pounds to reach an “ideal” weight so we can theoretically feel better about ourselves, but that number does not change the fact we still want that piece of chocolate cake right now! Diet and exercise can wait until after the holidays. When it comes to finances, we might feel good about reaching a certain number in our retirement accounts or savings, but then we will naturally desire more. There is never technically enough as even the wealthiest among us always want more if they are focused strictly on the numbers.
Using investments to pay off a mortgage offers a perfect real world example. There are financial considerations and quality of life considerations to this type of decision. Financial planning with a focus on quality of life might advise to pay off the mortgage if possible. The primary reason why is not because of numbers or calculations, but rather the simple fact that most people will feel safer and more secure if they no longer owe someone else money. The result is an immediate feeling of “peace of mind” with fewer concerns about an uncertain future. Quality of Life Planning™ favors actions that tend to reduce stress, anxiety, guilt and fear and try to enhance feelings of well-being including happiness and health.
Another great example is using investments to help delay collecting Social Security benefits in retirement. More guaranteed income tends to make people feel more secure which enhances quality of life by potentially reducing anxiety. Waiting to collect Social Security benefits can provide that greater amount of future income and yet we see many advisors suggest their clients take Social Security as early as possible to help preserve investments. Having a bigger investment balance might seem like a perfectly good goal, but plenty of studies have shown having more money does not directly lead to greater happiness and in many cases might even result in more anxiety out of a fear of losing it. Our advice will tend to favor waiting because that decision has greater potential to enhance quality of life.
Fiduciary Advisor Standard and Quality of Life Planning™
There has been a lot of debate in recent years about what it means for a financial advisor to be a fiduciary to their clients. Being a fiduciary means we need to act in your best interests rather than our own self-interests. In our opinion, it is very easy to operate as a fiduciary when the focus is on quality of life decisions. It is very difficult to be a fiduciary when the focus is on selling a product or opening new accounts.
Dorval & Chorne has always operated as fiduciaries to our clients. In our opinion acting as a fiduciary is simply the right thing to do.