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changing the way you think about 
monzoSassy, hard working, thirty and living in Manchester Thea, my brilliant daughter, is doing very well in IT Recruitment. So well in fact that she pays a lot of income tax and has ‘spare’ income in inverse proportion to the extravagance of her social life. And she is feeling annoyed, even a little guilty, about the sheer amount of cash that is slipping through her fingers. Dad is called in for a consultation.

“You need a budget.”

“Oh, Daaaaaad….” eyes rolling. Thirty has become thirteen..I persist.

“The only way you will get control of your money is by allocating each pound and consciously making a decision about how you want to spend it.”


For quick readers may I ask you to re-read that last sentence. It has taken me nearly forty years to acknowledge the wisdom of that simple statement. Without a decision there is no control. Something resonates with my brilliant daughter because thirteen quickly returns to thirty. Encouraged I continue.

“Decide how much you want to save and put it into a savings account at the beginning of each month. Before you do anything else.”

“Hmmm, that makes sense.”

“Next you need to take control of your spending - again  by deciding what you want to spend on going out, eating out, booze and so on. Take this amount out of the bank in cash at the beginning of every week. When it’s gone, it’s gone.”


This didn’t go down so well, probably because it hit the spot with a thud. It’s a guaranteed way of taking control of your spending. But it requires attention and discipline or as Thea put it, “I feel restricted.”
Exactly.
Thea never did the cash thing.

“Nobody uses cash these days, Dad.”

Instead she came up with a much better idea.
 

Monzo.

Monzo is a new kind of bank. According to the Guardian https://goo.gl/x83Ngq all the bright young things are queueing up to join including my brilliant daughter.
Monzo has everything you need in a Budget:

www.monzo.com

If you’d like to take more control of your money give me a call. You don’t have to be in your thirties to start being sensible with your money…
Eighteen years ago today, on April 9th , my father died. My brother Simon, my mother and myself stood at his bedside in Intensive Care as his breathing faded. I remember the moment clearly.
 
I have talked about my father's death before and how it has helped me to understand why my work as a financial planner matters so much. Earlier today walking down a street on paving slabs made shiny by April showers, I remember he used to make concrete slabs at a yard in Walsall. This is a man in his late fifties with a heart condition who spent his working days lifting concrete slabs on and off a truck. On and off. Over and over.
 
I have a black and white photograph of him on my office wall standing in his yard. Looking straight into the camera, a benign stare as he waits for me, a photography student, to take the picture. It is one of my treasured possessions.  He was always working. Even when he was not at work, he was digging the garden, replacing the engine in my Mum's Mini or building a gazebo. He never stopped.
 
Talking to a friend about this she told me how lucky she felt to have parents who taught her how to work. She complained bitterly as a teenager that she was always expected to help out in the family business at week-ends, while her friends were off playing. Now in her early forties she is grateful to her parents for teaching her the habit of working. It has served her well helping her to be fearless and competent as she starts her own business, whilst being a Mum and running a home. Work provides her with financial security and satisfaction from doing a job well.
 
My Dad has inculcated that work habit into me and I too am grateful. Other than the fact that my children are no longer children I could not have predicted any of the things that have happened to me over the last eighteen years. The real benefit of financial planning is about planning for an unknown and uncertain future. As John Lennon sang, “Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans.”
 
The paradox is that without a plan we are tossed hither and thither with no sense of direction, no insight and no goal to strive towards. It's the striving that makes it all worthwhile. My Dad never recognised the moment to stop striving, he never had a plan to arrive. I see men and women striving upwards and onwards with no plan. It can  only end in exhaustion and disappointment. This three minute video tells my Dad's story.
 
Have you a plan for your future? Do you know when to stop striving? How do you know if you've arrived at your goal?
 
If you would like to spend an hour with Nicholas at his expense to discover how financial life planning may be able to help you, drop him a line at nlee@demontfort.biz or call 07725 784348

I_want_thatEveryone knows that money can't buy you happiness... right? Obvious! The evidence is overwhelming – lottery winners who end up in a dreadful mess despite their millions, successful businessmen and women with divorces and strained relationships despite their wealth and success... the list goes on.
 
In my experience the opposite is also true. Lack of money is equally debilitating – too much month at the end of the money, rising credit card debt, a mortgage that never seems to diminish. This leads to a corrosive sense of hopelessness which looks and feels very much like despair. Most of us have had an experience of this at some time in our lives – and none of us want to go back there.
 
Where is the balance? This is a personal challenge for all of us because there is no 'one size fits all' answer... Here are some thoughts in no particular order.
 
  • First thing is to accept the importance of money in our lives – and not ignore it, avoid it or somehow imagine it will take care of itself. It won't – trust me. Getting a grip on your finances takes time and effort.
 
  • Second, we need to acknowledge that we live in a consumerist society. There is a whole industry dedicated to creating desire and they know how to do it very well. To imagine that we are somehow immune to their clever, subliminal blandishments is naïve. We all believe that a Rolex watch, a BMW motorcar or a detached house defines our success. Just pick your example – it may not be watches or cars or houses for you…but I bet it's something that somehow enhances your sense of self. It might be qualifications conferring status. Be honest with yourself...
 
  • Third, we need to ask ourselves the right kind of questions. What makes us happy? When do we feel most at ease and relaxed? Answering these questions honestly requires courage – we have all been subjected to conditioning, so don't take your first answer as the best one. Think of a time when you felt happy – where were you, who were you with, what were you doing? These answers will give you valuable clues about to what really matters to you.
 
  • Fourth, start thinking about how you might do some more of that. Ignore the rational excuses for now – haven't got time, need to pay off the mortgage first etc. etc. Allow yourself to dream just enough to begin to sense what freedom might feel like. This is the beginning of thinking for ourselves and creating our world, not one that has been sold to us by advertisers.
 
Most of us won't do this. It's challenging and time consuming and, in my experience, we need help to get started and maintain momentum. I have two suggestions: Read 'Your Money or your Life' by Vicki Robin & Joe Dominguez (http://goo.gl/m3g9iM) and follow the 9 Steps. This will help you to understand the single most important concept in personal financial planning: our most valuable resource is time, not money. Once we understand and act on that truth the way forward becomes much clearer. And find a financial planner you can trust and work with them. We all need guidance with this, very few of us manage it alone.
 
If you would like to spend an hour with Nicholas at his expense to discover how financial life planning may be able to help you, drop him a line at nlee@demontfort.biz or call 07725 784348. More information at www.financiallifeplans.co.uk
Home_Sweet_HomeThe British have a unique and deeply neurotic relationship with property, houses especially, places we call home. We are a nation of homeowners. When house prices are rising we feel good. We feel successful. Even if our incomes do not quite meet our expectations, we comfort ourselves with the thought that we've always got 'the house' to fall back on.
 
Enabled by the massive expansion of funding from the banks and building societies in the eighties and nineties, millions of us have played snakes and ladders with the property market. For many of us it has been a saviour – rising prices have allowed us to move up the ladder and create wealth for ourselves and our children.
 
Consider these facts:
 
  • The average asking price of a home in England and Wales has broken the £300,000* barrier for the first time.
  • This means that house prices have increased by 50 per cent in a decade, far outstripping the 22 per cent rise in average wage growth over the same period.
  • The average asking price for first-time buyers rose 9.6 per cent to £185,612 in England and Wales
  • Research by Emoov showed that owning a house near a Waitrose store increases the value by an average of 6 per cent.
 
Those of us that got on the ladder twenty or more years ago buying a family home near good schools (and ideally a branch of Waitrose) and paid off our mortgage every month are sitting on a very tidy profit. We feel safe. Many of us consider it to be our best investment ever – far better than those pesky unit trusts and shares that keep going up and down. Provided we have the foresight  to 'downsize' at the right time (before we get too old to manage it) we have won the property game.
 
For the rest of us the picture is not so rosy. For many baby boomers who bought property in the early 2000s using a self-certifying mortgage (the lender didn't need proof of income) on an interest only basis (no repayment of the capital) the story is not so good. Many will have dipped into negative equity during the recession, waiting with bated breath for a rise in house prices to do its magic. Now they find themselves with a huge mortgage and the price rise has come, but not enough to enable them to downsize comfortably. They are stuck.
 
Not enough equity in their current property is compounded by the fact that, in their sixties, their earning capacity has diminished and they are unlikely to get a mortgage. And they are tired. What was a challenge in our forties becomes a trial in our sixties. We have to call on reserves of willpower and determination. We have to accept our mistakes and find a way forward. One thing is certain: in our sixties there is no room for error. The next move needs to be the right one.
 
If you find yourself in this situation and are not sure what to do next...
 
Perhaps spend an hour with Nicholas at his expense to discover if financial planning can be helpful. Drop him a line at nlee@demontfort.biz or call 07725 784348. More information at www.financiallifeplans.co.uk
 
* Index compiled by Rightmove from the asking prices of properties coming on the market from 13,000 estate agency branches listed on its website.
Being a child of the fifties I pretty much missed the 'Summer of Love'. I was twelve at the time (1967) and 'free love' was a vague (although appealing) concept to me. Reading that question right now I am embarrassed, I'd prefer not to get into that question. Let me re-phrase that: I'm not going to get into that discussion.Money_Talk
 
Turns out I am in the minority. Research conducted by University College London with 15,000 men and women found them SEVEN more times likely to discuss whether or not they'd had an affair (I'm cringing) than discuss their income. Three per cent refused to answer intimate questions (that would be me) whereas twenty per cent refused to reveal their salary.
 
We really don't like talking about money. Actually I knew that already. My working life is spent patiently (mostly!) inviting people, couples mostly, to talk about money. Rationally if possible, but talking at least. Speaking from around thirty years’ experience of doing this I can report that the hard bits are: 1) getting people into a room for the conversation and 2) inviting them to say how they feel about their relationship with money and how it impacts on their lives. The rest, all that 'advice' stuff that the regulators bang on about, is a doddle by comparison.

We really don't like talking about money and it's costing us our lives. In case you're wondering if I am overdoing this, here are some bald facts:
 
  • 40 per cent of baby boomers (me again) have not even started to make any personal savings towards their pension
 
  • The average size of private pension pots (excluding final salary schemes) in the UK is £15,000. That's the price of an average new car, never mind a Lamborghini...
 
  • People who set a plan and take advice increase their retirement income by an average of 53 per cent.
 
And from my experience the youngsters (thirties and forties) are not doing much better. Overwhelmed by credit card debt and the struggle of bringing up young children with both partners working, the last thing on their minds is making provision for the future. The future is the end of the week. (Take a look at past blog 'On The Edge') 
 
I believe our way forward is to have a conversation with a qualified financial planner. What I don't understand is why most of us won't be doing that. Is it fear about the cost? Shame at what a mess we've made of things so far? Apathy? Fear that we've left it too late?
 
If any of this resonates with you I'm here to help.
 
If you would like to spend an hour with Nicholas at his expense to discover how financial planning may be able to help you, drop him a line at nlee@demontfort.biz or call 07725 784348. More information at www.financiallifeplans.co.uk
daffodildaffodilsThis week Spring has been in the air. Each morning I open the kitchen window and smell fresh air and the bouquet from the huge bunch of daffodils on the window sill. The smell of daffodils is Spring! I feel a sense of hope, renewal, of having come through.. there are lighter, softer days stretching ahead. Joy is bubbling in my heart...
 
Then I read the key points of George Osborne's Budget and my mood crashed. I shouldn't let it bother me, it's only a Budget, moving money around, taxing this and giving away that. It doesn't really matter to us real people... But it does, it really does. It affects every aspect of our lives, how we spend our money, who gets help and who pays for it. It is an expression of our values and beliefs. It defines who we are as a nation and how we behave towards each other.
 
Underneath the headline grabbing  'Sugar Tax' – excellent, by the way, a firm step in the right direction, thanks to consistent pressure from Jamie Oliver and others – we don't look that good. This Budget rewards those that have money. It does nothing to help those who need it. This is not a budget analysis (there's plenty of those on offer) but here are some key points:
 
  • An increase the 40p tax threshold – another tax cut for high earnersaaaafalling_coins
  • 'Reforming' the disability payments system to save £1.2bn – cutting benefits for the most vulnerable
  • Corporation Tax cut to 17% by 2020 – getting companies to pay tax is hard enough, why cut it further?
  • Capital Gains Tax cut from 28% to 20% - wealthy people sell assets, make a profit and pay less tax.
I am in favour of enterprise. I admire entrepreneurs. Britain is a nation of small businesses, men and women taking risks, working hard, providing for their families and creating jobs in their communities. It's about 'filling the fridge' as my friend Peter Roper describes it (www.thefamilybusinessman.com). I count myself in that group and I know we need all the help we can get it. It's not, and never has been, easy out there.
 
Those of us that have created a successful small business know we have been lucky. Our hard work and persistence has been rewarded. Finding your way through the assault course of creating a small business requires some luck and usually some help. I know I can identify people who have helped me on my way. Now that I have achieved some measure of financial security, isn't it my turn to help? Remember the three jars....
 
I believe real financial planning can improve things for everyone – especially small and medium sized businesses which is the area I specialise in. Contact me if you want to take steps towards a real budget and financial freedom for yourselves and those you care about.
 
If you would like to spend an hour with Nicholas at his expense to discover how financial planning may be able to help you, drop him a line to nlee@demontfort.biz or call 07725 784348.

More information at www.financiallifeplans.co.uk

When was the last time you sat down and methodically went through your finances? Do you know what you are worth? What you owe? How much tax you pay? Do you know how much your pension is worth? Do you have a pension? When did you last check how much life assurance you own? If you were ill how would you pay your bills? Have you made a will?

If the answer to any of those questions was a slightly sheepish 'No.' Don't worry, don't beat yourself up, you're in good company... but DO something! Take action!

Gather your information together and go and speak to a financial planner – somebody who is qualified to help you get a grip on your financial situation and provide you with objective and independent guidance. There is tremendous value in simply making an audit of where you are financially speaking. Nobody will do this for you. Here comes a terrible truth: nobody else cares if you're still paying your mortgage off in your sixties or doing night shifts at B&Q in your seventies in a desperate attempt to eke out a state pension. Each of us must take responsibility for our financial future.

And most of us don't. We pay the bills (mostly), we rely on credit cards to see us through and we buy things we don't need because we 'deserve it'. And this isn't confined to a small section of our society, this is most of us. We work hard, we do our best and we want the best for our children – the best education, the best opportunities and we'll do whatever it takes to get it for them. So if that means moving to a 'better area' for schools we'll take on a huge mortgage and work hard to pay for it.

Many of us are too tired to take control of our finances, we simply keep going and hope for the best. Many of us are relying on an inheritance at some indeterminate future date to put everything right. Some of us admit that to ourselves and some of us don't. And most of us haven't realised that an inheritance can be decimated by care fees - £30,000 pa for an ordinary care home can soon make a pile of cash look, well, a much smaller pile of cash.

This paints a bleak picture. There has to be a better way. There is. It's called financial planning. Working with a good financial planner will help you to take control of your finances, establish clear priorities and install the disciplines needed to work methodically towards achieving them. Boring but true. And gradually as time passes we begin to get ahead of the curve – we're ready for life's challenges. We've got some money in an emergency fund to pay for the unexpected expense. We've paid our mortgage off as quickly as possible and we're now investing the payments into an education plan for our children or topping up a pension. We have no outstanding debt. And, all being well, we know when we can expect to reach that magic moment – financial independence.

Do you know how many people are on target to achieve the retirement they want? Eight per cent! That should be eighty per cent! But it isn't. Come on we can do better than this....

If you would like to spend an hour with Nicholas at his expense to discover how financial planning may be able to help you, drop him a line at nlee@demontfort.biz or call 07725 784348. More information at www.financiallifeplans.co.uk

Yes. They are completely different. blog_pic_1_march_2016

Financial advice is about recommending a course of action, usually investing in a financial product such as an ISA, a pension plan or a life assurance policy. There are around 30,000 'Financial Advisors' in the UK authorised to give advice by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Their authorisation ranges from mortgage and protection advice to more complex pensions, investments and specialist fields such as equity release and pension transfers. The FCA keeps a register of each individual and requires them to apply each year for a Statement of Professional Standing (SPS) confirming they have kept their knowledge up to date.

Always check that any adviser you are dealing with has a current SPS and is authorised to give advice in the area you are discussing with them.

Of the 30,000 advisers around 15% are Chartered Financial Planners. These individuals have reached a higher academic standard than their peers by passing challenging exams. A significant percentage of these will also be members of the Institute of Financial Planning (recently merged with the CISI*) and will adhere to the standards set by the Institute which include following the six stages of the financial planning process.

Whilst this is all useful information it doesn't really get to the root of the difference. And that's crucial. I beleive that the difference is not to do with examinations and qualifications, important though these are. It is in fact about the approach to the work of helping people make sense of their finances and also about an entirely different process.

Financial advice is about making financial recommendations. In it's crudest form it is about 'selling' a financial product. Nothing wrong with that provided it's done well and with integrity by a properly authorised individual.  Financial planning is not about advice. It is about planning. Step 4 of the six steps (see above) is: “Develop and present financial planning recommendations.” These recommendations may or may not include financial advice.

The real work of financial planning is done in the first three steps. In my view anything to do with finances is intensely personal and we are only willing to discuss personal matters with someone we have come to trust. The first stage of the financial planning process is about the planner really understanding a client's aspirations. This requires empathy, patience and an ability to listen actively. A client needs to feel that they have been heard.

The second and third steps are about gathering financial information and creating an accurate view of the client's current financial status. This in itself can be helpful and traumatic by turns. Nevertheless done properly it is the truth about a person's financial position. The client then has the benefit of the planner's clarity of vision as someone who is outside looking in. I often say to my clients that one of the benefits of working with me is that I am not you. I can see what's happening.

A good financial planner will in time become a trusted advisor. And that is not just about financial advice.


If you would like to spend an hour with Nicholas at his expense to discover how financial planning may be able to help you, drop him a line at nlee@demontfort.biz or call 07725 784348. More information at www.financiallifeplans.co.uk

I love being a grandparent. The joy of children without the 24/7 responsibility of being a parent. Or as one of my clients so eloquently put it, “You can hand them back at the end of the day...”

Children copy their parents and the 'elders' in their family. That's how they learn. This is never more the case than with money and attitudes towards money. Much of what we learn from our parents about money is unconscious – it just seeps into us and gradually becomes our way of doing things too. My children are in their thirties I recognise some of their behaviour around money. I know where they learnt it. Some, not all alas, is good.

I realise of course that my relationship with money has been directly affected by my experiences as a child. My Dad was entrepreneurial, a risk taker, a worker and blamed himself terribly when things went wrong. My Mum recognised early on that money could buy status and so she focused on acquisition, rather than happiness, and was ever fearful that we hadn't got enough. Her focus, bless her, was actually on never having enough.

It's shocking to see these themes present in my own life. And yet how could it not be so? What we say and teach our children about money is really important. So imagine my delight when I came across Ron Lieber's 'The Opposite of Spoilt.' It is a brilliant manual to help you teach your children good habits around money. In teaching them and modelling the right behaviours you will learn so much yourself.

Think of it as some clever software that you can gradually introduce into their brains to help inoculate them against the relentless 'must haves' and peer pressure of a consumerist economy. An economy that judges us on what we have and less on who we are.

Here is one simple idea from the book. Give your child three jars and help them to label each jar 'Spend'  'Save' 'Give'. So the money they receive is always divided into three:

1.      Some to spend on whatever they want. This is important. Because they will want to spend it all on sweets or one thing. That's fine. Once spent, there is no more. We quickly learn about consequences.

2.      Some to save for a future need or want, something that's desirable. Huge lesson, you can have anything you want, but it takes time and it costs, so make sure you really want it.

3.      Some to Give to someone who needs it more than we do. Here then is the root of compassion, a direct understanding of the power of money and how part of why we're here is to help others.

Those three jars actually represent the basis of the financial plans that I help my adult clients to create. Wouldn't it be fabulous if these simple ideas were hard-wired into our kids, giving them the best chance of coping with the temptations and challenges they will inevitably face? What if their future decisions around money were driven by an innate understanding of how it works and what it means to have peace of mind?

I am offering a copy of Ron Lieber's marvellous book to the first email out of the hat on Friday 15th January. Just email your name and phone number to enter the draw.

And for the grandparents out there...here is your chance to do it better!

Regards,

Nicholas.


I ask the question because the NHS has launched a controversial calculator which predicts when you will have a heart attack or stroke – and compares a person’s heart age with their biological age. The issue is significant because coronary heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the UK and in 2013, more than 18,000 people died prematurely this way. Most deaths from coronary heart disease are caused by heart attacks with an average of 90,000 attacks in England per year. Money_Health

The rationale behind the calculator is simple. By showing people their heart age and detailing their risk factors – smoking , weight, family history, diet – the hope is that they will make changes and give themselves a chance of a longer, healthier life. The individual wins and the NHS wins because they will save money on treating so many people with heart disease.

It made me think about the work I do with clients. We spend a great deal of time understanding our clients – their needs and aspirations, their challenges and shortfalls – and then we create a financial plan that addresses those needs and aspirations. It is essentially a prediction: if they do their best by spending less than they earn, investing consistently and sticking with the plan, they stand a very good chance of achieving their financial and life goals. Just as if we don’t smoke, eat sensibly, exercise regularly and avoid unnecessary stress we stand a good chance of living a long and healthy life.

So do most of my clients stick with the plan? The honest answer is –sometimes. It depends on the individual and their willingness to persist, which in turn is dependent on their commitment to their goals. My job is to invite them to articulate their goals and help them to understand their true significance for themselves and their families. And with their permission review progress at frequent intervals and to help them get back on track when things go awry – as they inevitably do.  We work together.

I love this quote from the actor Steve Martin:

'I'd do anything for a good body except exercise and eat right.”

The correlation between health and financial planning is striking:


Eat fairly well                                                                Work hard and earn good money

Get some exercise at the week-end                             Make a pension contribution most years

Don’t smoke (except maybe the odd cigar)                 Very little credit card debt and we really needed that holiday

Don’t drink excessively

Isn’t red wine supposed to be good for you?               We keep out of debt, except for my overdraft.. but I’m going to pay that off when...

I just don’t have time to go to the gym                        We’re hoping that my inheritance will help to put things right.

 

I believe we can do better by working together.

Toby sits in the first floor window sill of our bedroom staring intently at the birds, mostly squawking gulls, across the street. Occasionally he will whimper and his tail will bang up and down in, what I imagine, is a
mixture of frustration and anticipation. He’s wanting...  and wishing. 
cat_for_blog
The gulls fly past the window. Nothing in Toby’s head connects with the impossibility of his wanting and certainly not the ludicrous nature of this endeavour. He just carries on wanting like the cat that he is, driven by some ancient instinctive part of his brain over which he has no control.

Sound familiar? Idle wanting. We all do it. One of my clients said he wants an Aston Martin. No real reason. He probably likes the shape, the shininess, the cost, maybe has some fantasy hidden deep in his psyche about being James Bond. Now he owns a very nice Jaguar and he’s quite happy. He no longer wants an Aston. It was just idle wanting.

Most of us have done this at some point in our lives. Thoughtless and greedy we want more and more...
How many of us have ‘stuff’ in our houses that we never use – books, gadgets, clothes – purchases driven by idle wanting? Surely it’s harmless... No it isn’t! Aside from the sheer waste of our money the real cost to us is the unreal nature of our wanting. We turn fanciful wanting into ‘stuff’ piling up around us simply because of the power of a credit card. This undermines the respect we must have for our money if we are ever to make any progress towards financial freedom.  We are literally frittering our lives away on idle wanting. (Have a look at my previous blog http://www.financiallifeplans.co.uk/2015/03/17/how-much-of-my-life-will-this-cost for more on this).

The financial life planning process helps us to see what we’re doing and to move forward by defining our real needs and our life purpose. This takes patience, effort, persistence and clarity of thought. It is the precise opposite of idle. And most of us won’t do it.

We’ll sit on the window sill wanting and wishing and feeling frustrated, driven by forces over which we believe we have no control.

What about you?

Not able to watch the video today? Why not read the transcript below:


The fifties are a little close for me as I am barely through them having reached sixty this year. I have a simple observation: we are the 'Sandwich Generation' .

We are slap bang in the middle of our children in their twenties and thirties trying to establish themselves in life with careers and partners. They need our moral support, a listening ear and often our money too if we have any spare. And sometimes even if we don't!

At the other end of life we have a responsibility for our parents many of whom are engaged in a guerrilla war of trying to maintain their independence in the face of failing health. They need varying amounts of support and sometimes that can have a financial implication too. Our role here is to be supportive without being intrusive – a delicate balance sometimes.

For all of us this is a wakeup call. We realise more than ever before that our lives are finite, time for us will not go on forever. We need a plan, we need to know that our finances make sense and we're going to be alright. This becomes especially poignant if we are watching our parents struggling with limited resources. We can see first-hand that this isn't a good place to be. Or perhaps we were quietly hoping for a decent inheritance top put things right for us and we are watching it disappear into the ever increasing cost of care facilities.

Either way we are awake to the importance of planning our finances, perhaps for the first time. Sometimes things are in such a muddle that we daren't look. As regular readers of this blog will know procrastination and avoidance are brilliant tactics. Until they're not! At some point we have to face the music.

For most of us life's path has had its ups and downs. Redundancies, re-mortgages, debts and divorce may have driven a coach and horses through the best laid plans. We find ourselves still paying a mortgage, possibly carrying some credit card debt and with a pension that is less than adequate. For some of us it's more of a muddle than a mess: pension entitlements stretching back thirty years, bits of money in ISAs and deposit accounts, some shares, a personal pension started and then paid up.

If any of this sounds familiar do not despair. It is possible to create clarity and order around your money. It's simply (notice I didn't use the word 'easy') a matter of sitting down, working out what you've got and where you are and where you want to go. For this you will need help, someone to offer guidance and to be a listening ear as you work out what makes sense to you and begin creating peace of mind around your finances.

The great Holly wood star Bette Davis said, “Old age is not for wimps...”

She was right. So turn and face the dragon. You may be surprised by how effective a long, cool look and a little ingenuity can be.


Regards,

NicholasLee

Nicholas.




Don't want to watch the video today? Why not read the transcript instead: 

Now that I am sixty I have decided to send a little note to myself in my twenties, thirties, forties and fifties. This is my forties – it seems a lifetime ago and yet it's only fifteen years or so.
 
Let's set the scene – you've probably got some grey hair, you're well established in your career, your children are teenagers and there are thoughts about college education and the costs that could involve. For me, my eldest daughter was off to train as a nurse, my son was tackling GCSEs and 'A' levels and my youngest daughters were getting ready for secondary school.
 
Notice how our lives in our forties are dominated by our children and their needs and aspirations. Our job is to be the stable centre as they experiment, move away and return, move away and return, all the time working out who they are, what they want and where they are going.
 
This can be exhausting for us, especially when combined with the demands of a career which is likely to be approaching it's zenith in terms of responsibility and earning power. Here is what I wish I had said to myself: pay attention to how important money is to the way you live you life and what your future holds. Take the time to really think about what you want (and why) and ask yourself these questions: The_5_Big_Questions
 
1.How Much Could I actually Save?
 
This is different for everyone. It's reasonable to expect there is a good income, possibly two incomes, coming into the household. Getting a grip on where it's going and ensuring you are funding your medium and long term investments will pay dividends for your future. But you'll only actually do it if you understand why. And that won't happen by accident. You need to sit down and think this through.
 
2.How Much Risk am I willing to take with my Investments?
 
This is a whole conversation. Pensions are very much in the news at the moment, followed closely by the wonders of buy-to-let property. And all of us at some time or another get presented with a 'great investment opportunity'.  For me it was a ruined stone cottage in the middle of a Welsh field that was going to become a brilliant investment and a second home... No. Let me just repeat that to myself – NO! We need to get a firm grip on what's important to us and make sure it's these needs and objectives that are driving the bus.
 
 
3.How Much Will I need?
 
This is where cash flow modelling (more about this later)  really comes into its own. By assessing what your likely needs are in the future and allowing for inflation, you can begin to get a really good idea of how you are really doing. If financial independence looks as though it might be happening around 85, it could be time to start taking some tough decisions about your expenditure. Now rather than later.
 
4.When Will I need it?
 
See above.
 
 
5.What do you want to Leave?
 
This is a very individual thing. One of my clients is adopting the 'S.K.I.Plan' (Spend the Kids Inheritance) by embarking on a very active travel and holiday programme, believing that after forty years of hard graft he and his wife have earned the right to treat themselves. And another has accumulated a small property portfolio and plans to leave each of his grandchildren a house to live in or rent out as they see fit. The point is each individual has made their decision and has a plan to achieve it.
 
By addressing these questions in your forties, life will be a lot simpler and easier in your fifties and sixties. And if the prospect seems daunting consider asking for help from a financial planner, somebody who will listen to what you want and has the experience and expertise to help you get it.
 
I'd love to hear from you, love to hear what you think about these 'notes to my younger self', so do please get in touch. And remember my job is to help you make sense of money.

Regards 

Nicholas.
 

My first day as a 'financial adviser' was June 28th 1982, over thirty-three years ago. The eighties were the 'glory days' for financial services – on the back of her Falklands victory Margaret Thatcher was leading a Tory government committed to entrepreneurial endeavour. Making money was good – and there was plenty of that in the City of the eighties with a Stock Market boom (at least until the fateful crash of October 1987), deregulation of the Banks and everyone a shareholder with the privatisation of BT, British Gas and others. Margaret Thatcher sold the family silver and saved the nation or so we were told. 

Gordon Gekko the protagonist of the film 'Wall Street' played by Michael Douglas as a voracious trader who believed that 'greed is good' defined the zeitgeist of the era. As did Tom Wolfe's brilliant satire of the whole self indulgent quagmire in  'Bonfire of the Vanities'. 

Me? I just plodded on quietly talking to people about savings and financial protection and inviting them to make sensible decisions, rather than not. As my career progressed and my family grew I began to experience the benefits of a good income. No champagne and swimming pools but a sense of making progress, paying our bills and putting some aside. The excesses of the City were remote and faintly distasteful to me insofar as I ever thought about it.

Imagine my delight then when I read a report recently about a new movement 'Earning to Give' which encourages young people to go into the most lucrative careers their skills allow, in order to give the money to specially chosen charities which are vetted for effectiveness. This is not idle posturing – so far 200 people have signed up to 80,000 Hours, a not for profit organisation founded in Oxford in 2011. The name refers to the length of the average career. 

There are some wonderful examples of modern day philanthropy. Sacha Romanovitch is the new chief executive of accountancy firm Grant Thornton. She has limited her own wage and implemented a scheme to apportion the firm's profits amongst staff. This could boost salaries by 25 per cent. It's happening elsewhere too: Dan Price, boss of Seattle company Gravity Payments, introduced a new minimum wage of $70,000 for staff and reduced his own $1m salary by 90 per cent to the same amount.

And it's not just the youngsters. Two of the wealthiest men in the world, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, have signed the “Giving Pledge” agreeing to give away more than half their fortunes before they die. Our own Richard Branson is a fully paid up member of this exclusive Billionaire's Club. 

A new mantra then to replace Gekko's ghastly 'Greed is Good'. 

'Giving is Good'. 

Now that sounds more like it...I could sign up to that. 

What about you?

Regards,

Nicholas.




Unable to watch the video today? Why not read the transcript below:

Our thirties are all about getting the balance right. Very often this is an intense period of our lives. Most of us have made long term decisions: we are in a committed relationship, we have or are intending to have children, we've bought a house and we are building a career or a business. The pace of life is fast, we are constantly busy as we move between child care, work, a social life and even (some of us) hobbies. There's no time to think and plan our finances – what we do is react and cope.Cutting_back_now
 
Where this goes wrong, or perhaps I should be more specific and say where this went wrong for me, is simply that I got the balance wrong. We had two very young children. Parents will know what that means for finances and sleep (!), our expenditure went up as I struggled to maintain our income.  If I could send my 'thirties self'  a message, it would be something like this:
 
1.The Big House Fallacy
 
Don't believe you have to move to a bigger house. You may have two or three children (we had four..)  and have convinced yourself that you need more space, bigger bedrooms, a bigger garden. Consider the possibility that you don't – a well designed extension can often do the job. And believe me your children are not going to hate you because they have smaller bedrooms than some of their friends. They'll find lots of reasons – but that is unlikely to be one of them!
 
I didn't listen to that advice and so we bought the 'big house'.. and from that moment on our finances were dominated by THE HOUSE. It needed new purpose built window frames, a new driveway, repainting and of course it came complete a huge mortgage. It consumed thousands and thousands of pounds and kept my nose to the grindstone for ten years. The ten vital years of my children growing up. I'm not saying I didn't see my children grow up, but I worked very long hours and I was often tired by the time the week-end came round.
 
Our house was very impressive but from a strategic perspective it wasn't really the brightest investment  because we had all our eggs in one basket – the residential property market. There was very little money left over for anything else. For the record we made no money at all over ten years, after deducting the cost of all the improvements. If we had not had the huge outgoing of the house our lives would have been easier, our holidays more frequent, our savings diversified and I would have had that most precious of assets – more time with my family.
 
2.Financial Protection
           
This, more than at an other time in your life, is the moment not to scrimp on life assurance, disability cover and critical illness. If you have been lucky with your health so far then it      will be relatively inexpensive and your thirties and forties are when you and your family     have the biggest financial exposure – mortgage, income, education costs. So please sit down    and make a sensible, rational assessment of what cover you actually need. Not what a      salesman tells you and not a token bit of term cover bought on the internet. Do it properly, ideally with a financial planner who will ask the awkward questions that you prefer not to ask yourself. (Take a look at my previous blog “Things We Don't Want to Talk About").
 
Our thirties are an exciting time, a time of career and personal growth. By thinking things through and getting that balance right we can set the foundations for a secure financial future.
 
If you'd like to talk through how that might work for you, do please get in touch.

Regards,

Nicholas.
 


If you don't want to watch the video today, why not read the transcription below instead?:

It's 2015, I am sixty this year and I thought it would be fun to do a series of short blogs in which I talk to my younger self in the four decades since my twentieth birthday. It's the stuff I would have told myself if I'd had the sense to listen!
 
Thinking back to my twenties I know I made plenty of mistakes which is probably what our twenties are about. The scenario is likely to look something like this: you've been to college and therefore have some debt, especially if you had a Gap Year. You are in your first or second job so have some idea where you are headed at least for the next ten years or so. By the way there are almost certainly a couple of false starts somewhere along the way, even a love affair that went wrong and may have left you feeling sad and possibly with a financial burden that won't go away easily. Welcome to your twenties!
 
You may have a clear idea of where you are going and it will be helpful if you have, but what you won't know is how you're going to get there. And that's okay. There will be many bends in the road.  Your job is to keep going and accept that's the way it is, go with the flow, do your best and learn from your mistakes.Current_Reality_-_Goal
 
Looking back I would give myself three pieces of advice:
 
1.Take money seriously - Don't ignore it (too boring), don't imagine it will turn out okay (it won't). If you don't pay attention and treat money with respect it deserves it will bite you on the bum and cause you problems for years to come.
 
2.Cut up your Credit Cards – seriously. Just do it.
 
If you need anymore convincing on this subject work out for yourself how much an interest rate of 20% on a debt of £2500 will cost you over five years. Go on. Get your calculator out and multiply 2500 by 20% x 5.
 
Yes, it's £2500 paid in nice monthly instalments of £41.66. Forty quid a month doesn't sound too bad does it... it's two and half thousand pounds! And that's only the interest, there's another £41 per month of capital to pay back as well over five years.
 
Please, save yourself the pain, cut up your credit cards! It will go on for years if you don't. And if you are in debt work out a plan to get rid of all debt (other than a mortgage on bricks and mortar) as quickly as you can. If you need help, ask for it.
 
Trust me you won't regret it.
 
3.Make a Budget – this doesn't have to be an elaborate affair, just write down on a piece of paper how much money you spend on basics – food, accommodation, travel - and see how much is left every month. Then decide what you want to spend it on. Easy.
 
Put around 10% of your income into a savings account at the beginning of the month before paying anybody anything. You're not working to keep the utility companies and the credit card companies in business, you're working for you. So start by paying yourself first.
 
We haven't talked about the 8th wonder of the world – compound interest. We'll come to that later.. think of it this way, it's the exact opposite of credit card charges – it rolls up for your benefit and nobody else...
 
If I'd just done these three things in my twenties the next thirty years would have been so much easier.
 
Tell your friends. And if you want to chat this through – call or email – I'm here to help.

Regards,

Nicholas.
In my work as a financial planner I invite people to engage in a simple three part process.
  1. To Create a Budget – so that they know what is coming in, where it is being spent and what, if anything, is left over. This process includes a complete review of their assets, income, expenditure, investments and debts. It allows them to see a financial summary of where they are. They can then begin to determine their financial priorities.
  2. To Protect what they Have – their income, assets and wellbeing – from the financial consequences of premature death or unexpected disability and illness. The information on the financial summary enables us to quantify this accurately.
  3. To Save and Invest – once we have protected where they are we can begin to save for short term goals and invest for their future and long term well being.
Put like that it all seems very simple and logical. For most people it is not, most people feel daunted by taking these steps, confused by financial jargon and unsure where to start. The vast majority of us avoid the issues all together and simply muddle through.

Muddling through definitely works in the short term. The long term reality sadly is unrealistic expectations, disappointment and a sense of regret. Most of us in our thirties and forties struggle with the demands of a growing family, and perform a high wire act between the  income that never seems to keep pace with rising prices and a vague sense that we are not managing things as well as we might. And most of us in our fifties and sixties have a sharp ‘reality check’ at some point and wish we had taken more care of our finances when younger.

With these thoughts in mind I have devised a series of short videos that address the main issues we face in each of the decades between 20 and 60. Watching them won’t put things right for you, but it might motivate you to talk to a financial planner and take control of your finances once and for all.

The videos will be shared over the next few weeks, I do hope you enjoy them. 

Regards,

Nicholas.


Most people don't, alas. Where_do_you_want_to_go

There are three big life changes when people usually think about speaking to a financial professional:

1. When they need a mortgage to buy a house
2. When they retire or take benefits from a pension
3. When they inherit some money.

The rest of the time we steer clear of financial advisers. It's tempting to believe that this is primarily because people don't trust financial advisers. To be fair our image is down there with estate agents and journalists... That said I believe that many people avoid talking to a financial adviser because they don't want to talk about the mistakes they have made. This is very understandable and, after all, denial is a good strategy... for a while. But it gets you in the end.

“Most people have been taught how to work for money, they have not been taught how money works.” - Tom Barrett, Dare to Dream and Work to Win

I believe that financial planning is for everyone, not just so called 'rich people'. Everyone from college students to young professionals, young families, business owners and 'retired' people can all benefit from having a proactive, positive relationship with money and the guidance of a trusted advisor.

A good financial planner will help you to avoid making daft decisions (we've all done it!). As Carl Richards describes it in his book, The One-Page Financial Plan, a good advisor will stand between you and The Big Mistake.

He will also help you to 'behave'.. for a very long time. Behaving means doing all the things we know we should do: budgeting properly, paying down debt, saving every month, not buying stuff without thinking and so on. Getting this right for a long time means we end up achieving our financial goals and acquiring the freedom and ease around money that seems to elude so many of us.

And it all starts with a conversation... ideally with a financial life planner, someone who will take the time to understand you, what you want, and where you want to be, so that together you can create a plan that works for you.

Regards,
Nicholas.
Do you want more money?We_Buy_-_We_Value
Daft question.
We immediately say yes, without thinking.
Of course.
 
If we are asked what we want to do with this money we'll probably say: go on holiday, buy a newer/ bigger car, build a conservatory, get some clothes. Tick the one that applies to you or add your own.
 
Our perspective then is to look out into the world and want more. More money to get more stuff, to feel safer because the more we have the better off we are. Easy.
 
And yet we have so much.
 
It's a fair assumption if you're reading this that you have probably got some money. You will probably have more than enough to eat as well as access to unlimited supplies of clean water. You will live in a house with lots of stuff in it – computers, TVs, clothes, I could go on...
 
Yet our first response typically to being asked if we want more money is YES! I want more!
 
I'd like to suggest a revolutionary concept. Most of us don't need more. We need to look after what we have and to think about our automatic response – give me more. When Wendy and I moved to a smaller home in 2013, we were both shocked by the amount of stuff we had. It was ridiculous.. books we'd never read, DVDS from way back that we are never going to watch again, clothes we hadn't worn for years and so on and on.
 
In my work with clients we carry out a simple audit of their income and expenditure. It helps us to get clear about exactly where they are. Two things frequently emerge from this endeavour:
 
1)Most people have more income than they 'thought' they had.
2)Aside from the obvious expenditure on mortgage / utilities, most people have no idea what happens to their income. None. It disappears. Gone.
 
So we say we want more.
 
Most of us need to clear out the clutter from our lives and get a real understanding of where our money is going, so that we can decide if that's what we truly want. Only then will we be able to decide if we want more...
 
If you'd like to know more about this go to www.theminimalists.com
 
And if you want to take a long, cool look at your finances and where your money is going, call me on 07725 784 348 or email me at: nicholas@financiallifeplans.co.uk

Regards,

Nicholas.

That's what we're called... those of us in our late fifties and early sixties... sandwiched between our ageing parents who need our care and grown-up children who need our financial and practical support as they launch their careers and their own families.

 

Sometimes life can feel like an endless daily round of demands and obligations leaving us with no time to be ourselves. As soon as we've picked up a grandchild from school and delivered them safely home it's time to pop in on an ageing relative and make tea and...

 

In her new novel 'Not Quite Nice' actress Celia Imry (star of Calendar Girls) writes about 'put upon' grandparents who are exhausting themselves to help their families. According to Imry these obnoxious children demand babysitting and talk about their inheritance in a less than subtle way.

 

As a fully paid up member of the sandwich generation I have to say I don't recognise this version of events. Maybe my wife and I are just fortunate…we have lovely grandchildren and spend as much time with them as we can and none of our children have even hinted at their 'inheritance'... possibly because there isn't that much to get excited about...

 

According to a survey carried out for 'Senior Railcard' today's pensioners (as they are quaintly called) have three holidays a year, possess disposable income of £330 per month and drink a daily glass of wine at 6.30pm. As well as enjoying three meals out a month they spend a mere six hours a week babysitting their grandchildren.

 

Hmmm, sounds idyllic to me. I have to say that's not quite how things are in the Lee household. We both continue to work, albeit Wendy for two days a week, whilst I still do the full five days and more. As well as four grandchildren in this country (and two in the US) we both have ageing parents who need varying amounts of care. It rarely feels a strain however and, I don't mean to sound a 'goody two shoes', but it's privilege to be able to give back to our parents and help out wherever possible with our grandchildren.

 

And there's always the glass of wine at 6.30....

What about you? What's your experience of being in the sandwich?

Regards,
Nicholas.

NicholasLee

 

What about you? What's your experience of being in the sandwich?

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