Spirituality and Financial Life Planning

Contributed by: Lewis J. Walker, CFP®

The phone interview lasted an hour and raised interesting questions. The gentleman was gathering ideas for his thesis at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, the subject dealing with the question, “Does spirituality play a role in financial life planning?”

When you think about a financial planner, you tend to focus on money issues. But an advisor who thinks holistically frames money in terms of your life and the lives of those you love and who depend on you. Money is but a tool to finance necessities and meet obligations, but it also revolves around life issues—buying a home, marriage, raising of children, educations, caring for aging parents or other loved ones, building a business, career changes, confronting adversity, independence and choices in life and in retirement, meaning, purpose, and all of the emotions and anxieties that accompany life transitions, both positive and negative. Financial life planning recognizes that life issues guide money issues.

“So does spirituality belong as part of financial life planning conversations?” he asked. “And is there a difference between spirituality and religion?” The answers to both queries is, “Yes.”

Consider the second question first. Studies from the University of Virginia and Pew Research Center point to the trend seen in the frequent comment, “I am spiritual but not religious.” (See “Why Millennials Are Leaving Religion But Embracing Spirituality,” Caroline Newman, 12/14/15). Only about 40% of millennials say that religion is important in their lives. They are less attached to organized religion than their parents or grandparents were at the same age. The survey indicated, however, that 80% of those surveyed believe in God. Many made statements like, “I experience a deep sense of wonder about the universe,” or “I feel a deep sense of spiritual peace and well-being.”

Those of any generation who do not attend religious services, or do so infrequently, do seek peace, well-being, purpose, and meaning in their lives. Those deeply involved in organized religion have beliefs and life direction nurtured by religious principles. The goal of an advisor is to understand what your values are and what you are trying to accomplish in life and how money and risk management play into your aspirations. What you believe relative to eternal life and accountability to a Supreme Being may govern what you do with money, assets, and your gifts (including human capital) over your lifetime. Understanding your groundings helps an advisor to ask the right questions and work with you to frame plans tailored to your values.

Those who do not believe in God have values that must be understood by a financial life planner. The search for meaning and purpose, a desire for peace and well-being, legacy, and a sense of social justice and obligation to your fellow humans tend to be universal guidelines for most.

Mother Teresa of Kolkata (Calcutta) has been canonized to sainthood. A series of quotes attributed to her sum up a prescription for a good life, whether you are spiritual or spiritual and actively religious. “People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.”

“If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway. What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway. If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.”

“Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway. In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”

If you do those things, you will handle the vagaries of life, traversing valleys as you seek the next peak, until the last day when you long to hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant!”

How does money, spirituality, and religion play into your journey? That is the stuff of meaningful conversations!


Lewis Walker is a financial planning and investment strategist at Capital Insight Group; 770-441-2603.  Securities and advisory services offered through The Strategic Financial Alliance, Inc. (SFA). Lewis Walker is a registered representative and investment adviser representative of  SFA which is otherwise unaffiliated with Capital Insight Group. Lewis Walker is a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach and Living Your Strengths is a growing theme in faith-based organizations.

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