From the November 2009 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

Lessons From an Experienced Advisor

Sidebar to the Cover Story "Reassessing Risk"

Dick Vodra, a wealth manager with Spire Investment Partners in McLean, Virginia, doesn't use a questionnaire to develop a risk profile for clients. Instead, he helps them examine what's important in their lives, using life planning guru George Kinder's three fundamental questions plus another (number 2, below) of his own:

1. Imagine you are financially secure, that you have enough money to take care of your needs, now and in the future. How would you live your life? Would you change anything? Let yourself go. Don't hold back on your dreams. Describe a life that is complete and richly yours.

2. If your income and your financial wealth were permanently cut in half, how would your life change? What aspects would you want to hold onto, and what would you be willing to give up?

3. Now imagine that you visit your doctor, who tells you that you have only five to 10 years to live. You won't ever feel sick, but you will have no notice of the moment of your death. What will you do in the time you have remaining? Will you change your life, and how will you do it? (Note that this question does not assume unlimited funds.)

4. Finally, imagine that your doctor shocks you with the news that you only have 24 hours to live. Notice what feelings arise as you confront your very real mortality. Ask yourself: What did you miss? Who did you not get to be? What did you not get to do? These thoughtful and provocative questions can help you embark on a deeper dialogue with your clients on what they really want and need.

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