three questions

George Kinder’s Three-Question Test

A new calendar year is a great time to refresh and take stock in life – to assess “what is working” vs. “what is not working”. Many years ago, I heard a presentation by author and trainer, George Kinder. He lectured on a Three Question Test that captivated me and has become a touchstone in our profession. His simple test serves as a catalyst to clarify goals and help individuals re-set the course of their life.

So if you have a few quiet moments, ponder the following:

Question #1

Imagine you have enough money to satisfy all of your needs, both now and in the future. Would you change your life and, if so, how would you change it?

I will never forget hearing Oprah Winfrey talk about the day she knew she was rich. She said, “I was able to buy myself nice towels.” This is a perfect example of something very simple that most people would not consider. For some, it is perhaps throwing out items from the refrigerator that are no longer appealing, replacing worn shoes a bit sooner, or not feeling a need to buy everything on sale. Others may think on a grander scale, such as multiple homes, a boat, or other expensive hobby.

This question is easy and fun, and the possibilities are almost endless. Dreaming does not mean you are committed, and it allows small things to surface that you could implement now to make your life a bit more comfortable.

Question #2

You are back in your current financial situation. Your doctor tells you that you have 5 to 10 years to live, and you will feel fine up until the end. Would you change your life and, if so, how would you change it?

This one is a bit tougher. The key here is identifying what is missing now that would realistically enhance your life. Assuming your financial resources are the same in the future as they are today, what steps do you need to get there?

This question is thought provoking. You may realize that the most important thing in 5 or 10 years (and at the end of your life) may have nothing to do with money.

Question #3

Imagine that your doctor tells you that you have just one day to live. You look back on your life and ask what did you fail to experience, who is the person that you did not become, and what did you neglect to do?

Last week, Rick’s article described Regret Theory, and how it both empowers us and propels us. Kinder’s third question is intended to identify the regrets we have (or could have), and propel us forward to change. This question is powerful, and the answer(s) many not come easily.

It reminds me of the story of Albert Montella, a 99-year old man from Pennsylvania, who graduated from high school last fall after dropping out in 1938. This is a perfect example of someone who did not want to face the last day of his life regretting that he had never graduated from high school.

The Three Questions can be found in the following books by George Kinder: The Seven Stages of Money MaturityLighting the TorchLife Planning for You, and A Golden Civilization & The Map of Mindfulness. Anyone can experience the Three Questions using the DIY website

A desired course of action may need to be delayed until we are past the COVID era – but perhaps not. In either case, it is never too early to put a plan together and work towards the one thing on which you do not want to miss.

I hope you enjoy this reflective journey.

Kristina Bolhouse CPA/PFS, CFP®
Vice President/Shareholder

This material was developed by George Kinder and Kinder Institute of Life Planning.  It is part of a training program that leads to the Registered Life Planner® designation. Used by permission of George Kinder © 1999-2021. 

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