Finding the (Financial) Meaning of Life

MetLife turns to life coaching to help customers find their purpose.

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Ready to meet your new life coach? It just might be your insurance company.

MetLife has started going beyond its financial services niche to offer clients advice on the meaning of life and how to achieve personal happiness. A new survey from MetLife Mature Market Institute found that people of all ages define the “meaning of life” similarly. Specifically, they value strong relationships, financial freedom, health (physical and mental), and a sense of purpose and belonging. The survey also found that the recession didn’t have a significant impact on people’s values, either. “Purpose is age-proof and recession-proof,” as MetLife’s Sandra Timmermann puts it.

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But as MetLife points out, just because we value these things doesn’t mean our day-to-day lives always reflect those priorities. We might value our partners and children more than television, but find ourselves working long hours and then watching television late into the night.

To help us live more closely to our priorities, MetLife asks us to imagine our future selves 20 years into the future. “Take the time to fully imagine a positive vision for your life – one that will bring you fulfillment and joy,” the insurance company urges.

Then, answer the following questions: What are your goals? How much are you working? Are you spending enough time with family and friends? What’s your daily routine? Where are you living? How close do your loved ones live to you? (Visit http://www.metlife.com/mmi for the complete exercise, which draws on the expertise of life coach and bestselling author Richard Leider.)

Next, take a shorter term view and picture your life over the next several years, and answer the same questions. When you’re done with that, consider these financial ones: “Do you know what your assets are worth? Do you know your net income? Do you know your total spending? Is there any money left over to help you reach your goals?”

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I must admit, I am a sucker for this brand of life coaching. I love imagining life’s possibilities, considering where I’m off track, and thinking about how to get back on. I write New Year’s Resolutions and review them regularly. But these questions seem a little touchy-feely, even for me. I expect them from the latest self-help book, not an insurance company.

The foray into life coaching from MetLife may be the latest answer to the biggest challenge financial services companies currently face: Winning back the trust of customers after a rocky few years. Some banks are doing it by engaging in social networking sites and more customized service; MetLife appears to be doing it by adopting the role of life coach.

Will this win customers over? Do we want our financial services companies to also help us find the meaning of life? What do you think -- do you like financial companies who wander into these psychological realm? Or do you prefer to leave the life coaching at the therapist’s office?