“Holistic” is one of those squishy new-age words.

If you are over 60, you’ve probably heard it. Too many times. Used in common, daily conversation it may evoke images of people doing yoga in patchouli-infused studios, drinking zen tea, and meditating their aches and pains away. In reality, living a holistic life embraces health, and more importantly, natural health which observes “wholeness” as its core philosophy. It’s certainly a rewarding life pursuit that takes determination and dedication.

Holism often questions the solutions of mainstream health care. Since the body is a whole being, a holistic practitioner may ask, “why focus only on isolated ways of treating a malady rather than treating the whole being?”

Let’s say the malady is the common yet elusive headache, the one that just keeps coming back. Sure, you need all the modern imaging diagnostics, and when the tests, thank God, come back negative, and you still have the headache, then what? Rather than say “take two aspirin and call me in the morning,” the holistic health practitioner will explore broader whole-being options: Is it in your head? Is it coming from your back or neck? Is it stress or a mean boss? Is it psychological, physical, emotional? What do you eat? Drink? You get the picture.

Holism is Biblical

Remember that chart topper by Ezekiel and The Prophets? “Toe bone connected to the foot bone, foot bone connected to the heel bone, heel bone connected to the ankle bone…” and so forth, all the way up to the head bone. (If you are so motivated to see the source material, you’ll find it in Ezekiel 37: 1-14.)

So all our bones are connected into one unified skeletal support system, but how does all this squishy holistic health stuff translate to financial planning?

Like holistic health, holistic wealth planning observes “wholeness” as its core philosophy, and often questions the solutions of mainstream wealth care, which too often revolves around a few high priced products as the “cures” to what ails you. To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

…neither one’s financial condition nor human condition can be miraculously “cured” by a random hot stock tip or a quick budget fix…

So,is Holistic Financial Planning different from Comprehensive Financial Planning?

Not really.

Holistic financial planning is somewhat newish with no standard planning model from practitioner to practitioner. A person’s financial illness, if you will, is treated as a whole, suggesting that most people do not suffer from solitary, isolated financial headaches; rather the whole financial condition is considered along with the investor’s human condition, the natural starting point for true improvement.

In other words, neither one’s financial condition nor human condition can be miraculously “cured” by a random hot stock tip or a quick budget fix. Therefore, prescriptions of broad, meaningful advice can only be based on knowing about both the financial condition and the human condition.

Holistic may be another way to say comprehensive

Most people don’t realize that decisions they make regarding just one area of financial health–asset allocation, for instance–may effectively support or soundly destroy choices they’ve made in other areas, say estate planning. Heel bone connected to the ankle bone, right?

Holistic financial planning is objectives-based planning. It considers all areas of your life, not just your financial life, and follows a blueprint to manage your resources, such as assets, income, time and skill, in the pursuit of attaining your most cherished life goals.

Holistic financial planning is not off the rack. It’s a tailored approach that depends on the wealth coach or financial planner understanding the whole picture. The discovery process is one that brings much to the surface, and not just financial data and ticker symbols, but hopes, dreams, attitudes, biases, fears and concerns that drive the personal decision making process.

Holistic financial planning is not just a binder full of data. Financial plans can be very intimidating. They can seem like a do it or die proposition. Like right now! At its best, holistic planning seeks to determine the one thing that can be done now for maximum benefit. Then the next thing. Then the next. It’s a process, not an event. A marathon, not a sprint.

Holistic financial planning is about fixing the investor,  considering the whole person and the whole family and the goals that drive them, and having the overarching objective of achieving investor self-sufficiency.

Sure there are data, but more importantly, there are your hopes and dreams that will stipulate a series of decisions that may take months or years to administer. Adopting a realistic view of the planning timeline, a series of actions over time, increases the probability of plan success.

What can you expect from your holistic plan?

Everyone is different, so it follows that every plan is different, yet there are a number of typical areas that may be explored in most plans, each with its own importance in the hierarchy of personal priorities.

How long should a plan be?

As long as it needs to be, and not one word longer.

Does everyone need a full, holistic plan?

No. But everybody will benefit from the planning they need.

The following list is not complete, but is intended to give you an idea of just how comprehensive holistic planning can be.

Fix the Money. Fix the Future.

Behavioral Investor Coaching
Identifying habits, biases and behaviors
Goal Setting
Price tagging your dreams
Current Snapshot
Net Worth statement
Income flow
Expense reduction
Current Portfolio review
Record Keeping
Spending and Budgets
Gauging ability to save
Setting “Pay yourself first” targets

Passive Make

Current portfolio analysis
Passive v. Active opportunism
Asset Allocation
Asset Location
Risk analysis
Diversification analysis
Tax Efficiency analysis
Time studies
Retirement Planning
My Continuity Plan
Pension annuitization
ROTH and IRA accounts
Income distribution planning
Education Planning

Leveraged debt
Unlevered debt
Mortgage evaluation
Refinance opportunities
Home Equity Lines of Credit
Reverse mortgages
Credit cards and revolving debt
College loans
Long term care
Auto and Homeowners
Employee Benefits
Income Taxes
Credit, deduction, deferral, and reduction strategies
Estate Planning
Establishing Legacy goals
Working with Estate Attorney
Document creation or review
Powers of Attorney
Physicians Directives
Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts
Charitable trusts
Specialized Areas of Consideration
Family business
Special needs children
Special assets
Multiple Streams of Income

While this is a fairly comprehensive list, it still may not be complete based on your client’s personal goals. As stated earlier in this post, holistic planning is not a one time, all or none proposition. Remember the old saw, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

Who can create my Holistic Financial Plan?

Not every Money Coach will be a Certified Financial Planner professional, and any level of planning will be best prepared by Certified Financial Planner professional, using the industry-accepted 6-step model.

It is critical that they are experienced enough to identify the “critical things” that require attention now, and the “important things” for later attention. The important thing is to start the process and lay out a reasonable timeline to get the things done that are important to you.

And ask the questions: What is your experience in financial planning? Have you earned the licensing and credentials required to perform this work in your state? Are you a fiduciary? More than ever, clients want to know the person that leads their financial planning efforts is a fiduciary, not just a salesmen, licensed to sell certain products.

It’s easy to find a local CFP® professional on CFP.net. 

CFP® professionals are fiduciaries, bound by painstaking ethical standards to act solely in their client’s best interests, have satisfied voluminous training requirements and should have experience in real world client situations.

Never. Lose. Money.