Designing Your Life (and Your Financial Plan)

financial advisor, financial planning, Gertsema Wealth Advisors, Saint Joseph, Missouri

By Jackie Heater, Director of Client Relations

A few weeks ago, I went with my grandson to his college orientation. During the parent session, they recommended a book that each student and parent or grandparent should read: Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life, by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. Both authors have had very interesting and successful design careers, and are professors at Stanford University.

Upon watching a video clip about them and how the book came about I stopped at the first bookstore I passed on the way home and picked it up.

I’ve been reading it and while it has some very good advice for young people starting out in college or at their first real job, the basic ideas apply to all of us. So many of us focus mainly on our careers because that’s where we spend the most hours of our day and week.

They point out that work can be joyful and have meaning or it can be a daily grind of just trying to get to the weekend. This can also be true in other aspects of your life or in retirement. Are you suddenly feeling unfulfilled and useless because you are no longer at the job that you thought defined who you were?

One idea from the book that resonated with me was this: “A well-designed life is not a life of drudgery. You weren’t put on this earth to work eight hours a day at a job you hate until the time comes to die.”

Design Your Life

It’s hard to design a life that is well-balanced even if you are in a job you love or having the time of your life in retirement. Maybe you love the career but hate the job – it might be time to start looking for other areas you could use your degree or experience and expertise. Or did you work and save for retirement only to find that you are bored and unfulfilled?

The book talks about thinking like a designer and your life as a project; redesigning your life by breaking down the project and rebuilding it.

Before you can do a life design, you need to think like a designer. Designers don’t think their way forward, they build their way forward. What does this mean? It means you don’t just dream up a lot of fun fantasies. Instead, you build stuff (a prototype), try stuff, and have a lot of fun in the process.

Design Your Financial Plan

I like to think that when we meet with a client and help them develop their financial plan, that’s what we are doing – building a prototype. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but technology today can show us quickly and from there we can adjust.

When a designer is starting a project, they usually have a team that works on that project collaborating and sharing ideas of what may work. Depending on how you want to redesign your life, there could be some financial or tax consequences, and a good financial advisor can be part of your team and collaborate with you to determine how to best redesign your life.

Redesign After a Life Transition

As I’ve been reading this book it’s made me take a look at my own life. I love my job and the people I work with but I’ve had a lot of changes in my life over the last 14 months. Your life whether in your job or personally must constantly be redesigned for you to be happy and well-balanced.

I’d noticed over the past few months that I was feeling very discontent and restless, understandably after my husband, Bob, passed away. I had to figure out how to move on and redesign my life without him.

What worked for me was deciding to sell the home we’d bought together and purchase another that was more suited to my needs. This didn’t mean I was leaving him behind, it just meant that I was redesigning my life for my needs but he was still with me in my heart.

While the decision was mine to make alone I think he would be very happy with my choice. I can also say that even though I’ve only been there a few weeks, from that first night when I went to bed exhausted from the move, I’ve felt very content and at peace with the decision I’d made. I’ve slept well every night since.

Design Your Financial Plan for Every Life Stage

We see this every day with our clients, no matter what age they are.

In the past few weeks, we’ve met with a couple in their forties, making good money and saving for retirement but realizing they need advice as they work toward their goals for now and for future retirement. On the other side of the spectrum, we serve a widow in her eighties trying to get her arms around her assets and make well-informed decisions for continued cash flow and for her estate.

And then, there are the clients in between. They are in retirement, living their best life until they decide they want to make a design change. Maybe those changes involve downsizing their home and purchasing a vacation home or taking a big vacation every year. Whatever it is and whatever stage of life you are in it’s a constant redesign if you want to live your best life.

These are just a few examples of how each person or couple is unique in how they want to design their life. With the technology Gertsema Wealth Advisors has available for financial planning, tax planning, and social security planning we can give objective advice to help you make confident decisions when you decide to design your financial plan, no matter which life stage you happen to be in.

I’ve redesigned my life to meet my needs for now but I have no doubt it will be necessary to do it again, in fact, life would be pretty dull if we weren’t willing to look at those “what-ifs” and design a life that is more fulfilling in every way. Gertsema Wealth Advisors can help you design your financial plan around your life.

It’s time to start thinking differently—about everything!

If you would like to receive a complimentary copy of the book Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life you can email me at or call/text our office at 816-259-5060. Get in touch and let’s start to design – or redesign! – your financial plan.

 Let’s talk!

Get in Touch

In just minutes we can get to know your situation, then connect you with an advisor committed to helping you pursue true wealth.

Contact Us

Stay Connected

Business professional using his tablet to check his financial numbers

401(k) Calculator

Determine how your retirement account compares to what you may need in retirement.

Get Started