Skip to main content

Van Der Noord Financial Advisors

Three-Dimensional Planning


I started in this profession close to forty years ago (1982-2020). In all that time, nearly every financial plan I have ever seen – or written for that matter - exists in a single dimension. It is built on the premise that the world as we know it remains intact for the duration of the plan. Ironically, within these assumptions which are common to everyone, planning is intensely customized and unique.

Comprehensive planning however needs to expand in scope to include other dimensions. What if you are alive when R.E.M’s tune “It’s the end of the world as we know it” becomes a reality? Existentially, there is no way to “plan” for the end of the world; however, what if it is just the end of the world AS WE KNOW IT?  Granted, a one dimensional financial plan is vital because in all likelihood the world continues as it always has during the course of your lifetime, but if a financial plan is to be truly comprehensive, it must address those other dimensions when the “rules of the game” change.

A truly comprehensive approach to financial planning employs at least three dimensions. In broad terms, three dimension our comprehensive approach to planning looks like this...

STAGE 1: Stage 1 is activated during periods of “normality”. Stage 1 is comprised of maintaining a 3-6 month cash reserve; maintaining a fully managed, low-cost investment strategy that is designed to never underperform the financial markets and that displays a definable range of possible future performance outcomes from which we can apply our analytical process to monitor and maintain the FUNDED status of your high-valued goals. During Stage 1, the portfolio is rebalanced as needed. At Stage 1, clients are encouraged to work towards the reduction/elimination of debt. 

STAGE 2:   Stage 2 is activated during times of extreme uncertainty caused by a natural calamity, an act of war, or a significant geopolitical upheaval. Stage 2 can best be described as a dimension of planning that overlays on top of stage 1. While there may be turmoil, the financial markets are still functioning as are the three branches of government. The basic structure of America remains intact, but beyond that, not much would seem- normal. An escalation to Stage 2 planning would be characterized by an intensified review of spending needs to identify areas where spending could be scaled back or eliminated altogether. More aggressive measures to retire all non-collateralized debt are integral to Stage 2 planning. Finally, Stage 2 calls for the stockpiling of essential goods and medications as well as making initial disaster plan preparations. Ignoring or procrastinating this added dimension of planning is done at your own risk. Stage 2 is “bad”, but it could get a lot worse. That’s when Stage 3 is called into action.

STAGE 3: For this dimension of planning to be activated there would have to be widespread turmoil and a general disregard for the rule of law. The situation experienced by the folks in New Orleans approximately 4 days after Katrina comes to mind.  At the very least, there would have to be a breakdown in the flow of basic goods/services that was expected to last more than a week.

While most of the initial reports of civil disobedience around New Orleans were later discredited, some important lessons were learned. Perhaps the biggest factor in securing the safety of you and your family was the ability to bunker in place until civil law is restored. This requires you to be adequately prepared. An event extending beyond your initial supplies will require you to buy/trade for the things you need. And while fiat currency may not be useful as money, contrary to the ads you hear and see in the media, gold and silver won’t do you much good either unless it is in your possession and in small enough denominations to be used practically in commerce. More likely, items needed for basic survival such as food, water, medication, and firewood will be accepted as currency.  Many disaster planners also feel that personal hygiene items will also be valuable for bartering. Preparation for Stage 3 must be done beforehand. You can’t begin building the ark after it starts to rain. That is something that needs to be done ahead of time.

It is important to understood what Stage 3 is NOT. Stage 3 is NOT being prepared to withstand a nuclear/radiation event. Stage 3 is NOT being able to live off the grid. Stage 3 is NOT being loaded for bear with enough ammo and weapons to singlehandedly fight off an army. Rather Stage 3 is simply taking common sense preparations to stay alive and out of harm’s way until law and order is returned following a disruption in civil services.  Another “P” word that is relevant is Partnership. Don’t try to be an island unto yourself. Instead, reach out to friends, family and neighbors to build synergies together. For example, while one home may have an abundance of firewood, another home two doors over may have a decent water source. One household may have skills in healthcare while the household next door may be best adept at hunting/gathering. 


It should be of no surprise that most things in life are not in our control. Yet that is not a license to be reactionary, impulsive or to live life with a laissez-faire attitude. Rather, a prudent man would control what can be controlled; quantify as much as possible the uncertainty of that which cannot be controlled; and take reasonable measures to affect an outcome in his favor as often as possible.

From discussing crisis planning with clients in our top service level,we learned that preparedness not only improves response time immediately following a crisis or disaster, but it also plays a big part in shortening the recovery process afterwards. Comprehensive planning should incorporate a multi-dimensional approach. We suggest no less than three stages- or dimensions. Falling short of this standard could call into question an Advisor’s adherence to the Fiduciary Standard of care.