How things change

I bumped in to an old school friend of mine in town the other day and we arranged to meet for lunch. I hadn’t seen him in ages, so it was great to catch up.  He had started working life an apprentice Carpenter. We had lost touch when we were in our early twenties and I hadn’t seen him since.

I arrived early at Caesars Arms in Creigiau as it’s only a few minutes from the offices near Cardiff and the food is always good. When John (yes, another John) pulled up in a brand new Lotus I began to wonder what he was doing now. I guess I’d always thought of him as just John the Carpenter.

He walked in spotted me and greeted me with a warm but iron-like handshake and the offer of a drink. We sat down.

“How’s the carpentry going? I asked, smiling, and guessing he may have a story to tell.

As it turns out, John now owns and runs a multi-discipline building firm and employs about 15 people.  He made his money and reputation long before the recession and he’s weathered the storm since and describes himself as“Successful but jaded.”

Lifestyle Financial Advisor?

John asks about me. I tell him that I am Lifestyle Financial Advisor. He raises an eyebrow in cynicism, realises he has made a social gaff and quickly presses me to explain what a Lifestyle Financial Advisor is.  Even as an old friend I can see he has an inherent distrust of Financial Advisors, so I feel compelled to explain.

“ I bet you think we just flog insurance policies and pensions” I ventured. He looked a little embarrassed so I laughed, to lighten the mood. He laughed too.

“ Things have moved on, John. A good financial advisor now uses lifestyle modelling. We look at who you want to be in retirement. We ask questions like:  Where are you going to live? How often will you go on holiday? How many times a week will you play golf?  How generous will you be with your children?

John nodded, as if to say that it made sense. I continued:

“ So, having plotted how much you’ll need to do the things you want to do, we look at your income and your assets. Then we calculate how to match the two, using a predictive tool that allows for growth of assets, inflation and other factors.By doing all of this, not only can we put plans in place early to plot a course to the lifestyle someone wants but – and this is the bit everyone likes – we can tell them what date they can retire. And that’s just one of many things it can do.”

“Impressive.” says John, genuinely surprised and clearly mulling this over.

I change the subject, not wanting to talk business. The food comes, we talk about foreign holidays, old friends and school days and generally laugh a lot.  Over coffee, John asks me if I would be prepared to take him on as a client.

“I was interested in what you had to say. I’ll be honest, I’ve never trusted Financial Advisors, so I have tended to do things myself or I’ve asked my accountant.” he says.

I grimace. Then I grin.

“I’d be happy to help, John.” I thought for a few seconds and decided to tell him something amusing. I continued…

“It’s funny though, John.  I came here thinking you’d be able to help me. We need some new doors hanging in the house.“ I say, laughing “I figured that would be nice work for you as a carpenter! Guess I hadn’t imagined that things might have moved on and you’d be Managing Director of a building company!”

“Ha – well it’s the same for me.” He replied. “The world of financial planning has clearly moved on too. So I guess we’ve both learned something!” he added wisely.

We paid the bill and said goodbye having enjoyed a really decent lunch and a catch up. I’m seeing him again in a few weeks to go through the lifestyle tool with him and he’s sending one of his team around next week to hang my doors!