Planning Is Contextual

Some people think there is an objective way to organize financial affairs. There is not. All financial affairs are organized in the particular person’s specific situation. Their context. Understanding context is very important. Physics can provide a guide.

In physics, quantum theory is contextual.

It can help you see the point.

In quantum mechanics, the observation, the observer, and the way chosen to observe, form a system. You cannot establish reality in a general way, just reality in a particular context.

Here is a simple idea

Is the picture right side up or not? Would the image be different if it were rotated? If an experiment were run with this picture, could there be different outcomes depending on which image orientation you used?  Possibly. If you did not include the context, would you have any way to explain the difference?

John Bell did a lot of work on contextuality.  Chris Ferrie sums p his thought on contextuality like this, contextuality is the name for the fact that any real states of the world giving rise to the rules of quantum physics must depend on contexts that no experiment can distinguish.”

How is Financial planning like that?

Obviously it not the same exactly but some ideas soak through.

The planner, what they are trying to do, and what they observe when the implement their plan, form a system and reality (success or failure) is defined by the system’s limits. Bill Gates and I do planning somewhat differently. My tactics and resources will be different and the method used will only have meaning in my context.

Since context matters, what should you pay attention to in order to plan better

Aspects of Context


  • Your resources including money you have now, money you can earn, for how long, Money you may come into by other means, (inheritance maybe)
  • Possible variances. Illness, injury
  • Non-financial resources. Your home is the most common, but there could be others. Can these become usable money at some point?
  • Obligations. Debt, lease, and commitments to children, or others.
  • Lifestyle commitments. You could think about it as having a negative present value. Could you change it if you had to do so.
  • Health and family history

Relationship context

  • Even the Lone Ranger had other people involved in his life. You should know what assets and expectations others have to contribute and draw from the relationship.
  • Work through the factors in your internal context
  • Anticipate whether there could be others. Parents. Another child.

External Context

  • Could you or any others involved die before completing their obligations to the others
  • What is the economy and the rules and regulations that govern it like in your location.
  • How are rules and laws that affect you changing, income taxes, sales taxes, government programs like pension plans, and Employment Insurance.
  • What regulations are there that could affect your business or employment.
  • How will inflation play out
  • What will happen to interest rates.

Putting it together

When you have a vision of yourself, your family, and what you want to make of your life, you can begin to plan.

Planning will be

  1. Strategic level discovering particular what to do factors., the resources that can get those, the priorities and timing. In physics terms, this is like experimental design.
  2. Tactical is about doing it. The experiment itself, (particular action. save, insure, improve skills and income)  followed by observation of what happened, and the assessment of meaning.
  3. The key part and the one that keeps in touch with your context and the parts of it you missed earlier, revising as you learn more. In physics each experiment adds a little to what can be called reality. In physics there is no “reality” there is only experiments whose observations conform to the known context.
  4. The thought to take away. From Chris Ferrie again, “You may be inclined to believe that when you observe something in the world, you are passively looking at it just the way it would have been had you not been there. But quantum contextuality rules this out. There is no way to define a reality that is independent of the way we choose to look at it.”
  5. You can only see the world form your own platform and you can only develop a better platform by paying attention.

The bit to take away.

Your context changes and so does what you pay attention to.

You will evolve in your ability to employ tactics and to understand your purposes and priorities.

Your plan will evolve too. Done once, done forever is a losing approach.


Help me please. If you have found this useful, please subscribe and forward it to others.

I build strategy and fact-based estate and income plans. The plans identify alternate ways and alternate timing to achieve both spending and estate distribution goals. In the past I have been a planner with a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency, a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business. I have appeared on more than 100 television shows on financial planning, have presented to organizations as varied as the Canadian Bar Association, The Ontario Institute of Chartered Accountants, The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Banks – from CIBC to the Business Development Bank.

Be in touch at 705-927-4770 or by email to

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: