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Considering just three hypothetical questions can help you formulate a solid financial plan, according to George Kinder, author of The Seven Stages of Money Maturity and founder of the financial life-planning movement. Focusing on your life's calling, rather than just maximizing your wealth, is part of what this type of financial planning is all about. Or, as one blogger puts it, life planning is "the point where your money and your happiness intersect."

If you visit a financial life planner you will typically be asked three key questions:

1) If you had all of the money that you needed, how would you live your life and what changes would you make?

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2) If you suddenly discover that you have just five to 10 years to live, what would you do differently?

3) And if you discover that you only have 24 hours left, what did you miss and who did you not get to be?

The largest part of your financial plan is based on the answers to these questions. Most planners should align your spending with your values, but whether you are working with a planner or going it alone, it's worth considering these questions to readjust your plans or create new ones.

Another valuable tool to gain clarity, and to see how much it really costs to live your dream life, is found at Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek, has created the "dreamline": a simple spreadsheet based on the things you want to have, be, and do. From here you can see your ideal lifestyle in detail and then match a dollar figure to the dreams.

I created my dreamline and was surprised that the ultimate dollar figure needed was lower than expected. If you're lacking motivation or financial direction, it's worth taking a look. It's much more motivating to make and stick to a financial plan when you have a clear vision of what you want and a realistic dollar figure attached to make it happen.

Angela Self is one of the founders of the Smart Cookies money group. Read her weekly column on managing debt and saving money at the Globe's personal finance site.

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