How to take a holistic approach to the puzzle of financial planning

Woman and young girl assembling a puzzle

Assembling puzzles can be a practical way to pass the time while serving as a challenging cerebral workout.

The UK clearly has a penchant for puzzling, as a survey from Aviva found that 68% of UK adults do puzzles at least once a week, clocking an estimated average of 169 hours each year. 

Interestingly, beyond the cognitive benefits, some intriguing parallels exist between the art of puzzling and holistic financial planning. 

On 29 January, the UK celebrates National Puzzle Day, so now may be the perfect time to review some of these interesting similarities. Continue reading to discover some common approaches to solving puzzles that you could apply to your holistic financial plan, helping to improve your overall wellbeing.

Start by assembling the borders, then work inward

Imagine you decide to pass some time by assembling a puzzle; you sit down comfortably and tip all the pieces onto the table. 

The sight of all the pieces strewn about can often seem daunting at first. So, before diving headfirst into the task, it’s often pragmatic to start by assembling the borders. 

This gives you the proper framework to lay out the rest of the puzzle, making it easier to find patterns when you eventually start assembling the centre. 

Just as laying out the borders of a puzzle offers a structured approach to assembly, successful holistic financial planning also often begins with a foundation before then working inwards. This can make it far easier to identify any short-term steps necessary to reach your financial goals.

Holistic financial planning adopts a top-down approach that first considers your goals and preferred lifestyle, using these as the “borders” to help shape and guide your financial decisions. 

From these “borders”, you can then work inwards, forming a plan that helps identify your current financial situation and how close you are to meeting your goals, as well as the actions you need to take both now and later down the line to reach any milestones.

Holistic financial planning focuses on your motivations for saving rather than simply considering how much you could save. Much like assembling the borders of your puzzle first, this approach to financial planning could help you achieve your goals more effectively. 

Group pieces by colour and shape

Sorting your puzzle pieces by colour and shape may seem like a meticulous task at first, but it’s an essential step to save you time later down the line. 

Moreover, it could help you appreciate all the various parts of the picture that must fit together.

In a similar way, holistic financial planners tend to organise each aspect of your financial plan together, such as your: 

  • Assets
  • Investments
  • Pensions
  • Liabilities
  • Expenditure

This comprehensive overview enables your planner to create an accurate picture of your financial situation, helping you appreciate how each moving part of the “puzzle” fits together. 

For instance, if you invest in the stock market to meet your financial goals, and these investments perform better than expected, your loved ones may be more likely to pay Inheritance Tax (IHT) when you pass away. 

Meanwhile, since a holistic plan considers every aspect of your wealth at once, you could take steps to mitigate that potential IHT bill regardless of how your investments perform. 

This well-organised approach to your finances could help you meet your goals in the most tax-efficient way. 

Work with a friend

When you’ve been working on a puzzle for some time, you may come to an impasse, unsure how to progress.

At this stage, the age-old wisdom that “two heads are better than one” holds true when you’re puzzling, and a fresh set of eyes can help you unlock solutions you previously couldn’t see. 

Similarly, having a holistic financial planner in your corner could help you identify any gaps in your plan and ensure you’re covered from all angles. 

Better yet, they will usually develop a long-term working relationship with you, meaning you can rely on them to guide you through any challenging periods such as market volatility affecting your investments.  

And, since getting to know you and your family means they’ll have a clear understanding of your situation, they also could provide invaluable coaching to help you feel more in control and confident about your financial wellbeing. 

In fact, a study from Royal London found that 34% of 4,000 customers who were questioned said having access to financial expertise made them feel more confident and in control of their wealth, while 32% said contact with a planner provided peace of mind.

Stick with it, and don’t give up

While you may be able to complete some puzzles in a single afternoon, others could be more long-term projects since they come in various shapes and sizes. 

Much like you need to be persistent to solve a puzzle, some of the goals that your financial planner can help you to achieve are likely to require more than a single meeting. 

Retirement planning, for example, might be something you regularly revisit with your planner over several decades. Depending on your specific goals, your circumstances, and investment returns, you may need to tweak the plan to stay on track. 

Additionally, unforeseen events can make things complicated at times. Consider how the recent increase to inflation and interest rates has affected your financial plan; having regular reviews with your financial planner throughout your life means you can address these challenges as they arise to mitigate their impact on your wealth.

So, just like a more complex puzzle, remember to consider financial planning as a long-term project rather than a one-off task to complete.  

Get in touch

If you’d like to develop a holistic financial plan that considers each aspect of your wealth, then we can help.

Please get in touch by emailing us at or by phone on 01273 086 311. 

Please note

This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate estate planning, tax planning or will writing.

Investments carry risk. The value of your investments (and any income from them) can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount you invested. Investments should be considered over the longer term and should fit in with your overall attitude to risk and financial circumstances.

17 Jan 2024

Could you be paying more tax in 2024?

28 Dec 2023

Guide: 7 allowances you might want to use before the end of the 2023/24 tax year