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I’m going to guide you through a process to overcome the four major ways planning for female executives gets derailed. It starts with understanding where women want to go, i.e., their goals for life. I don’t even talk about numbers or money until further on in my process. Instead, I spend time exploring what is important to them in life personally, professionally and financially.

Once those values have been laid out, I dig into the details. I find out exactly what’s involved in sending a client’s kids to college, paying off their home or buying a new home, growing their business or getting a leadership role in their industry, both from a numbers standpoint and a timeframe standpoint. I talk about the different options available for achieving those goals, examine how each option would affect the bigger picture of their life, and decide which plan feels the best.

The next step is getting a good picture of where your clients are with regard to their finances. I’ll dive into a comprehensive analysis of their lives, looking at everything from homeowner’s insurance and risk management, to investments and the contributions to their 401(k)s. I’ll have a clear picture of where they are financially.

Once I know where they want to be and where they are currently, I identify the gaps in-between and come up with solutions. Typically, there are at least a few options for bridging each gap, so we’ll try on different scenarios for size, and see which one feels like the best fit. Once we know what is important and what they are willing to do, given what we have to work with, we come up with the action plan.

Introspection into your best life

This process works, but it can’t happen without some deep introspection into your client’s best life. The number one way plans are derailed is because most female executives never take the time to articulate – even in their own minds – what they want their lives to look like.

I can’t tell you how many people sit down in my office and immediately lay out exactly how much money they have in their 401(k) accounts. I understand why they do it – for the vast majority of people, financial planning means one thing: numbers.

Instead of numbers, though, I prompt them to think about living life. Helping them consider their passions and pursuits forces them to think outside of vague future concepts and instead reflect on the specifics of how they want their life to look in one, three, five and 10 years.