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changing the way you think about 
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

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

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.


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.

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.



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.

Standing in the queue at the Orchard Cafe I found myself staring longingly at the beautiful chocolate cake on the counter. Lost in reverie I turned to the lady standing next to me and said, “This is definitely a good day for chocolate cake.”

“Oh yes,” she replied, “I haven't had any chocolate for a whole month...”

I looked shocked.

“I was doing a sponsored 'no chocolate month' for the British Heart Foundation. I've raised seventy pounds”

I looked at this lovely lady in amazement.

It happened to be the anniversary of my father's death. He died of a massive heart attack.

As my emotion welled up at the extraordinary synchronicity of the moment,  I reached into my pocket and handed her a note.

“You've just raised a bit more,” I said with a smile.

It felt good to be able to make that small gesture, to have some money in my pocket to offer.

The joy of being able to give to a cause that is meaningful to us is priceless.

Regards,

Nicholas.

NicholasLee

As part of my Lenten journey this year I spent five days living in a Benedictine Monastery at Worth Abbey.  I have always been drawn to the simplicity of a monastic way of life and this was an opportunity to experience it. The rhythm of the day is determined by ‘offices’ or services beginning with Vigil at 6.20am, progressing through the day with Lauds (Morning Prayer) Midday Prayers, Vespers (Evening Prayer)  and finally Compline (Night Prayer) at 9.00pm.

Breakfast, lunch and supper are eaten in silence.

It occurred to me that the rhythm of the monastic day is a perfect metaphor for our lives. At the dawn of our lives, we emerge reluctantly from the darkness of the womb into the world. And so it is for the monks as they rise before dawn and make their way to church to begin chanting psalms and reciting prayers. As we grow and engage with the world, we find our way and lose our way and find it again. Each of us needs an anchor, a rhythm we can rely on as we are buffeted by the 'slings and arrows of outrageous fortune'.

The patience and commitment of the monks (several have been there for fifty years), their faith and sense of purpose are an example to us of how to build a life. By surrendering to a rhythm they move through their days with discipline, doing what's necessary and remaining steadfast in their purpose.

The monks pay little heed to the distractions of the outside world with its noise and chatter. Yet they remain intimately connected to their community and the care of individuals within it. With patience and charity they build schools, teach children and offer guidance and protection to all who need it. This is surely a metaphor for each of us with a family as we teach and guide our children.

Is not money our means of achieving this? Isn't financial discipline actually about understanding the underlying rhythm of our lives, the importance of providing and saving and caring for others? By committing ourselves to a plan we create a measure of certainty in a changing world and give ourselves the best chance of fulfilling our lives' purpose.

Regards, 

Nicholas.

You know all those daft things we do with money, all those seemingly innocent peccadillos that if left unchecked spell big trouble sometime down the line. All that money we spend satisfying our little wants (often describing them to ourselves as 'needs'): clothes, phones, coffees, pampering (I deserve it!), not to mention our spectacular lack of interest in saving, planning and budgeting. Well it's okay folks because it's not our fault. We were born that way!


Dr Stephen Siegel of the University of Washington writes in the Journal of Political Economy: “Each individual is borne with a genetic predisposition to a specific savings behaviour, an effect that is found not to disappear later in life.”
 

The evidence is compelling. Dr Siegel examined data from Sweden on 30,000 identical and fraternal twins. Using information from their tax returns he worked out how much they saved. Twins with identical DNA were found to share twice as much of their tendency to save (or not) as fraternal twins born from separate eggs.


How can this fascinating information help us? Well for those of us born with a spending genetic pre-disposition this is not a license to spend without compunction. That always ends in tears... believe me, I've seen it too many times. It means that we have to adopt some sensible strategies. One simple strategy is to automate our savings with standing orders and to spread it between short and longer term investments. To ensure we have an adequate emergency fund so that we're not taken by surprise when something inevitably goes wrong. Some of us may need to be a little more drastic and cut up our credit cards.
 

For most of us we need an 'outside' influence to help combat our natural tendency to spend. Someone who will hold our feet to the fire when it's needed, someone to whom we can be accountable for our behaviour. This can be a spouse or a friend as well as financial planner. We all need people around us whom we trust and who understand our weaknesses without being judgmental.
 

And for the savers, and you know who you are, keep up the good work and help your less fortunate friends. You were born to do this work.


Regards, 

Nicholas.




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

I just wanted to say thank you very much for watching my Baby Boomers series. I hope very much that you found it to be helpful in organising your thoughts about the sort of things you should be doing (or we should be doing!) now that we are in our sixties and seventies.

If you recall, we covered the five main areas of this age: the financial consequences of death, the financial consequences of dementia, debt, the importance of having a discussion between yourselves so that you know what’s going on with your finances, and we talked about downsizing, which I think is a very important part of everybody’s financial planning if you happen to own a house.

By definition all I can do is talk about this stuff in a very sort of simple way on a video.  If you have some more detailed questions or if you would like to have a conversation with me, then please do get in touch

To watch any of the videos again, you can click the titles below: 

Episode 1: Death
Episode 2: Dementia
Episode 3: Discussion
Episode 4: Downsizing
Episode 5: Debt

Thanks for watching,

Regards,

Nicholas.
 
Walking down a cobbled street with expensive looking shops on either side I can see a young man sitting on the pavement. There are a few coins in the bowl in front of him. I lean down and drop two coins into the bowl. He looks up. His face is pale, his eyes are dull and there is no expression in his voice as he says, “Thank you.”
 
I walk away. A middle class man living in a 'prosperous' university city. My two coins have... what? Salved my conscience, helped him momentarily? Both perhaps...and they have made me feel okay for a moment because I was able to put those coins in his bowl without worrying. I could afford it. Today.
 
Tomorrow.. who knows?
 
I sit talking to my friend Peter Roper (www.thefamilybusinessman.co.uk). We are drinking expensive cups of coffee in a four star hotel. He tells me he is going home via the supermarket to fill up the boot with food and provisions. He can afford it. It was not always so – there was a time when there was no food in the fridge and no money to buy anything. He was broke, literally. His memory of that time is painful, so much so that he takes nothing for granted today. I too can easily remember a time when I struggled every month to make ends meet, relying on credit card debt to see us through.
 
We both know how near we came to being that young man on the street. How easily that can happen to any of us. Each of us daily negotiates our relationship with money. It grants us survival, status and, if we are lucky, peace of mind. For most of us though we continue the struggle closer than we think to sitting beside that young man on the street.
 
Some Facts
 
  • On average the UK has a 'deadline to the breadline' of 18 days before the money runs out to pay bills in the event of a financial disaster.
 
  • Most 25 -44 year olds have only enough money put by to survive 7 days in the event of a financial disaster.
 
  • 35 per cent of households have no strategy in place for dealing with financial hardship because they have no savings at all.
 
Source: Legal and General's Deadline to the Breadline Report.
 
We are blessed. We are lucky. Or maybe we've just worked hard and pushed ourselves to ensure that we have good jobs and incomes. Whatever our route to this place, isn't now the moment to take the steps to manage our money well, build financial protection around ourselves and those we hold most dear and plan for a future where we can feel safe and secure? Isn't now the moment to look at good financial planning, not simply financial advice but real planning? And isn't now the moment to look for the right financial planner to help you?
 
Because tomorrow ...........?

Regards,

Nicholas.
ME:    I’m a financial planner. I help people make sense of money.

PC:     Really...You’re a better man than me (smile). I’ve always found it to be confusing and boring. And, to be honest, I’m not sure you can trust anyone these days. So what do you actually do?

ME:    It’s kind of you to ask. Do you really want to know?

PC:     Yes I do.

ME:    Okay. I help people to articulate their goals and objectives, their aspirations if you like, and together we work out a way of making that happen for them. We start with the end in mind and work out what we need to do to get there. It can be very exciting.

PC:     That sounds pretty complicated to me, probably involves a lot of soul searching. I just tend to live from day to day, doing my best and taking my luck where I find it and rolling with the punches. It’s worked alright for us so far. Well...mostly alright. To be honest, and I don’t know why I’m telling you this, we lost a lot of money in the recession, the credit cards got a bit of a bashing and it’s been hard work pulling everything back together. Things are better now though and I know we should be making plans for the future, but where do you start...?

ME:    At the beginning. With the truth. You begin by understanding exactly where you are now – your assets, your income, your expenditure, your debts, your investments and pensions. The truth will set you free. And in my experience, it’s never as bad as you think. It will put you back in control of things.

PC:     Well, yes that does sound a bit better...and I know we should be doing it.

ME:    Would it be helpful to see where you are likely to be in 5, 10, 15 years time? A financial snapshot if you like of your future self. Do you think that would help you to make better decisions today?

PC:     Well, yes it might...it could also be pretty frightening. I thought you guys were just trying to get our money!

ME:    Of course we are! (Smiling). The truth is that a financial plan driven by your goals and objectives will always involve savings and investments. It also involves you getting what you want, by taking control of your future...instead of trusting to luck and good fortune.

PC:     You’re right. We really should be doing something like this.

ME:    Okay. Come and spend an hour with me at my expense and I’ll show you how it works. Have you got your diary handy?  
Sara Cutting was 47 when she was diagnosed with cancer. To raise £10,000 for Macmillan cancer support she has published a photograph of herself on Twitter every day since her diagnosis in October 2014 wearing something outrageous on her bald head. Head gear has included a vintage radio, a teapot, purple orchids donated by celebrity hatter Philip Treacy and a fascinator donated by her Mum. Cutting regularly exhorts her thousands of followers to, “now go check your tits.” (You can follow Sara - @fizzysnood)

There will be 2.5 million people living with cancer in UK in 2015 according to Macmillan Cancer Support. The majority of these people will survive five years. Most of these people will face significant financial hardship . Some will lose their homes and their businesses, many will never recover their financial equilibrium.

According to Robert Watkins of Macmillan, four in five (83%) of cancer patients are hit with an average cost of £570 per month as a result of their illness – comparable to a mortgage payment. Additionally one in three (33%) are losing an average of £860 per month in earnings because they are unable to work or have to cut down their hours.

Everyone of those 2.5 million people would benefit from having appropriate insurance to draw on in their hour of need. There is no doubt that financial worries contribute to the appalling stress and trauma that a cancer diagnosis brings. One patient says:

“I had everything ripped away from me. I lost my business, I lost my home – all because of my cancer diagnosis. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I spent sleepless nights alone worrying about where the money was going to come from for basic living. It was very scary.”

The hardest part of this is that there is very little a financial planner can do to protect people who have already been diagnosed with cancer, other than help them to minimise the damage to their finances. It is only those who are not yet affected who can truly protect themselves from these consequences.

But we don’t want to think about it... do we?

I’m pretty sure everyone of those 2.5 million people wish they had.

Protection from the financial consequence of serious illness and disability should always be the foundation of a financial plan. It’s so easy to arrange now, so difficult to find when it’s too late.

Regards,

Nicholas.