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The Art and Science of Financial Planning: Gleaning Wisdom from Iain McGilchrist


At first glance, financial planning, with its focus on numbers and logic, may seem worlds apart from the realm of cognitive neuroscience and the study of brain hemispheres. However, the work of esteemed psychiatrist and author Iain McGilchrist offers a fascinating bridge between these two seemingly unrelated fields. Renowned for his examination of the distinctions between the left and right hemispheres of the brain, McGilchrist’s ideas provide an intriguing framework for understanding and approaching financial planning.

McGilchrist’s Brain Hemispheres: A Fresh Take on Financial Planning

In his groundbreaking work, “The Master and His Emissary,” McGilchrist delves into the contrasting ways the left and right hemispheres perceive the world. The left hemisphere is detail-oriented, focusing on individual elements rather than the entire picture, while the right hemisphere adopts a wider view, bringing together diverse aspects to form a coherent whole. By applying these insights to financial planning, we can gain a more nuanced understanding of money’s role in our lives and develop a balanced approach to managing it.

The Science of Finance: Left Hemisphere’s

The left hemisphere excels in its analytical, logical, and detail-oriented abilities. Through this lens, financial planning becomes a methodical process involving meticulous calculations of income and expenses, strategic resource allocation, and the pursuit of financial objectives. The left hemisphere prizes accuracy, objectivity, and predictability. It perceives money as a tool – a means of exchange that enables transactions and facilitates the acquisition of material needs and desires. It emphasizes savings, investments, and insurance as crucial components for reducing risk and ensuring financial security.

The Art of Finance: The Right Hemisphere’s Approach

In contrast, the right hemisphere’s strength lies in its capacity for holistic understanding and context-based thinking. It appreciates money’s role in enabling life experiences, allowing us to interact with the world in meaningful ways, and creating opportunities for personal growth and development. The right hemisphere acknowledges the subjective, emotional, and often unpredictable aspects of financial decision-making, recognizing that our financial behaviors are deeply connected to our values, relationships, and life goals. Furthermore, it is attuned to the social and ethical dimensions of financial planning, raising questions about the equity of economic systems, wealth distribution, and the consequences of our financial decisions on society and the environment.

Striking a Balance: Harmonizing Perspectives in Financial Planning

In the spirit of McGilchrist’s insights, effective financial planning should strive to achieve a balance between the left and right hemispheres’ approaches. The left hemisphere’s analytical prowess is vital for competently managing finances, making informed financial decisions, and navigating the intricacies of economic systems. Without these skills, our financial plans would be directionless and disorganized.

On the other hand, the right hemisphere’s broader perspective is essential for reminding us that money is a means to a fulfilling life rather than an end in itself. It prevents us from becoming consumed by the details of financial planning and helps us maintain focus on the larger picture – our life goals, our relationships, and our values.


By integrating Iain McGilchrist’s insights into our approach to financial planning, we can move beyond a strictly numbers-driven viewpoint. Instead, we can embrace a more balanced, holistic approach, where analytical precision is accompanied by ethical considerations and a comprehensive view of our life goals. This marriage of art and science in financial planning cultivates a more thorough understanding of our relationship with money, promoting not only financial health but also overall well-being. In the end, it’s about finding harmony between the two hemispheres and using their combined wisdom to navigate the complex world of personal finance.

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