A Message From Matt – 29th June 2020

As it becomes clear that Coronavirus is not going away any time soon, we move from the initial panic phase of the crisis into the management and maintenance phase.

If we accept that the Coronavirus pandemic is going to be a marathon and not a sprint, you could use the analogy that we have started a little too fast, running the first 5 miles in record time, but that might come back to bite us later as we struggle to settle into a more consistent pace for the rest of what is still a very long race ahead.

It feels to me as if, in general (notable exceptions being New Zealand and Germany for example), governments were a little too late to lockdown and we have exited lockdown a little too early. Katherine and I were shouting at the news for Boris to lockdown around a week earlier than he actually did, and we also feel that the ‘unlocking’ is coming a bit too early as well.

Others will disagree and if anything is for certain at the moment, it is that Covid-19, just like Brexit before it, is proving to be a divisive issue with people’s opinions largely informed by how the crisis impacts them and their family.

Although this is a vast over-simplification, I would summarise the position as follows:

The more severe the economic pain people are going through, the less they seem concerned with the health implications of the crisis.

The more severe the health impact that people have suffered, the less they seem concerned with the economic implications of the crisis.

Of course, these issues are never binary and there will be a variety of different views on the matter. The other issue is that we will only know which view was ‘right’ (if there is such a thing in this kind of situation) with the benefit of hindsight. I certainly know that I don’t envy the impossible decisions the government is having to make at the moment.

What I would say that we could all do with is a little more understanding. No matter what angle you view the pandemic from, it has touched all of us in some way and caused some form of pain or suffering – sometimes severe, sometimes moderate.

Whatever your view though, I think it is important to remember that other people may have been impacted in different ways.

In my personal little family bubble, we have definitely been more focused on the health implications of the crisis, to the point where we have barely left the house in 3 months. Other members of my wider family are suffering financially and therefore can’t wait for the economy to re-open.

Regardless of your perspective, the one thing that binds us all together is that we are in this together. We have already seen the capacity for human kindness and generosity during this pandemic and hopefully this will continue as we enter what could well be an extended period of ‘tough times’ for certain people.

Above all – stay safe, stay sane and enjoy the sunshine!

 

 

Your Post-Lockdown Life

As we enter the month of June, we find ourselves in an interesting dichotomy.

The UK is beginning to relax lockdown measures as other countries are having to reimpose them, given that they are seeing a resurgence in the virus.

Japan and South Korea are this morning reporting an increase in case numbers and therefore are having to do a U-turn and reintroduce some measures which had previously been implemented.

This gives us some idea about the road ahead and shows that the path is probably not going to be a straight one, but rather a very bendy one with several U-turns along the way.

As we begin to open up though, I think we have also reached a point of maximum risk. Risk both to health, but also to our future’s. Not so much from a financial point of view, but more from a lifestyle perspective – how we choose to live our lives.

I have used this metaphor before, but I am going to go with it again.

At this moment – sitting here on 1st June 2020, picture your life as a mostly empty box. The elements of your life in the ‘old world’ have mostly been taken out of the box by force and are now sitting outside the box on the dining room table.

As the UK begins to ‘open up’. You, yes you, get to decide what to put back in. If the past few months have shown us anything, it is that the things currently outside the box are not necessities. You know the things – the frenetic activity, the perhaps slightly unhealthy lunches while in the city, the putting off things which we know are really important because we are ‘too busy’.

Now, please don’t get me wrong, in the ‘old world’ these things probably felt like necessities. They felt like we had to do them, but we have now been shown conclusively that this is not true.

So, this begs the question. What do you want to put back into your box?

Alongside all the elements of your old life now sitting on the table are the new things that have been added to your life since lockdown began. Some of these are good – perhaps weekly zoom calls with the family, more exercise, eating better quality food. Some not so good – too many biscuits in the home office, getting up late etc.

So, on the table, spread out for you to see are all of the elements of your old, pre-lockdown life and all the elements of your lockdown life. The question is which of these things do you want to keep in your life as lockdown eases?

I suspect for many of us, there will be elements of both that we would like to carry forward into the future.

I for one am desperate to get back to a restaurant for a meal out. This is something I enjoyed before but will truly savour in the future (although I certainly will not be rushing to do so when the doors open – wait and see is perhaps the best approach with something as unpredictable as the virus). I am also keen to get back to face-to-face meetings in the office, although I think we all acknowledge that may not be possible or practical for some time yet.

I am keen to maintain the now-every-day exercise routine I have implemented and continue to connect with friends and family more frequently as we move forward.

I suspect that I will also be spending more time on Zoom and other online conferencing tools as we move into the brave new world – I just hope it is not the whole time.

What we keep and what we leave behind can be conscious choices, but these choices can also so easily be made for us. Made for us by the world outside, by external forces, by our bosses, by our friends and family.

My hope is that we don’t sleepwalk into this new world which we are going to find ourselves. That we don’t just wake up one day and wonder what happened to all of the ‘good bits’ of lockdown.

There is a real risk of that happening over the next few weeks as the economy starts to re-open in many cases with little to no notice.

Dentists are a great example of a profession which might be catapulted from zero to 100 in very little time indeed. Having had little information on the re-opening of practices for months, there is now an expectation that they will be ready to open a week on Monday.

So, as our activity, both vocational and social, starts to ramp up over the coming weeks, I just hope that we can choose the best bits to carry forward into our ‘new lives’.

This is perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us to re-invest how we live and work. I just hope we make the most of that opportunity.

Top Rated Adviser’s 2020

This month two Buckingham Gate Chartered Financial Planners have made it into VouchedFor’s Top Rated Adviser Guide for 2020.

The guide is distributed nationally in The Times and digitally through the Telegraph’s website and so this is a great achievement that Buckingham Gate are tremendously proud of.

Congratulations Matthew Smith and Peter Ditchburn for receiving such well-deserved recognition for the fantastic advice you provide to your clients.

What makes their inclusion in the guide so much more special, is knowing that it was thanks to their lovely clients for leaving such powerful reviews on VouchedFor.

VouchedFor is a leading review site for Financial Advisers and helps those looking for advice, find the right adviser for them.

Our unique combination of expertise, makes us a one stop shop for your retirement, investment and estate planning needs.

Matthew and Peter would like to say a huge thank you to their clients for taking the time to leave a review, it really means a lot to them.

If you’re looking for financial advice, you would definitely be in good hands with these two!

The 4 Ps of Retirement Planning

I was having a conversation with my father over the weekend about his retirement and it occurred to me that there are 4 things that you must have to live a successful and happy retirement. All of them beginning with the letter P:

Purpose

People

Places

Projects

The first is arguably the most important and drives the other 3, so what better place to begin than:

Purpose

Those clients that go onto live happy retirements often enter retirement with a sense of purpose. They don’t feel that this is ‘it’, there is usually ‘something more’, ‘something next’ that is driving them forward.

There is no right or wrong answer here. Your purpose is just that – yours. It could be that you wish to write a book to change how people view the roman empire, perhaps you wish to play in a band and perform in front of 50,000 people. Maybe you want to visit each country on the planet, or it could be that you wish to provide the best support to your children and grandchildren.

It doesn’t matter what your purpose is, more that you have one.

Mitch Anthony, a US retirement expert says, “To have a wonderful retirement you only need two things: enough purpose to get up in the morning and enough money to sleep at night”.

I think this is quite true. Although it can be tricky, it is important that you figure out your purpose before you go into retirement to give yourself a sense of direction and meaning. Once this is clear, the other 3 p’s then fall into place.

People

The next thing most people will think about is people. Who do you want to spend more time with now that you have more of it?

It could be children and grandchildren. Perhaps you wish to spend more time with friends and family. It can also help to think about what you wish to do with those people. Is it simply spending more time with them that counts or is there something specific you need to work on or achieve together?

We have clients who have had slightly rocky relationships with their loved ones that have been repaired as they have gone into retirement. Perhaps it is simply the addition of more time that makes the difference.

Places

Where you do wish to go and see? What do you wish to do while you are there? For some people there will be grand plans to see the world (perhaps the whole of it), for others, their travel plans will be more modest.

However, it is important to decide in which places you wish to spend your retirement as this will very much drive the cost of your desired lifestyle.

Projects

Finally, it is useful to think about projects. Some projects could be short term and arise because you simply haven’t had the time to tackle them before. Clean the garage out, tidy that draw full of papers – that type of thing.

Other projects are far wider reaching and could transcend years or even decades. Learn to play the guitar, influence government policy, save the rain forest. All examples of projects that clients have wanted to undertake which could very well be works in progress forever!

Summing Up

From my own experience (and there is now a lot of research and science backing this up as well), the people who enjoy their retirement the most, are the ones that have really thought about the 4 P’s before they retire. In doing so, some people realise that they don’t really want to retire at all. Others will decide that their retirement might not really be ‘retirement’, more a new chapter in life.

If you would like any help on your own retirement journey, we would be delighted to assist. Please contact us now for your discovery meeting, provided at our own expense.

Educating The Next Generation Of Clients

Perhaps it is because my children are coming to the end of their primary school education, but I’ve become increasing aware of my responsibility as a parent to provide them with responsible attitudes towards money to help them through life. While they are beginning to understand the concept that things cost money, they are gradually realising that there isn’t a bottomless pit of cash buried in the back garden to pay for everything! Getting them to understand that saving the weekly pocket money to buy something that they really want is much better than blowing it all on a comic and sweets each week, is an important first step in encouraging them to adopt a lifelong saving mentality.

The Personal Finance Society is the professional body for the financial planning profession in the UK and they have recognised the importance of educating tomorrows savers, with the launch of the My Personal Finance Skills – a pro bono initiative to deliver financial education workshops to secondary schools and colleges across the UK. These workshops include topics such as helping students understand the value of everyday expenses, staying safe from financial scams and understanding the concepts of income tax and National Insurance once they leave school.

I volunteered to be an Education Champion, and despite a little bit of trepidation (there’s a reason why I decided to become a financial adviser rather than a teacher!) I took the plunge to deliver a workshop at a local secondary school just before Christmas. I have to say that it was a really enjoyable experience and was fascinating to see how fourteen and fifteen year old’s think about money – more than one were shocked about the cost of things such as household expenses and rent, especially when they were also informed about the difference between net and gross salary!!

This generation of children are fully immersed in social media and there is no doubt that they are heavily influenced by the lavish lifestyles portrayed by some celebrities. One of the objectives of the workshop was to make the participants aware of the income needed to maintain such as lifestyle, and the dangers of using easy borrowing in an attempt to live the “Instagram lifestyle”.

A number of clients have expressed their concerns over the years about the ability of their children to manage large amounts of inherited wealth, and last year we sought to set up a next generation workshop to provide financial education for young adults. While we didn’t have the level of response that we had hoped for, I’m sure that this will be a topic that we will revisit in the future.

The Only Constant Is Change

If you are anything like me, you will have been fascinated by the seemingly never-ending political surprises over the past few days, not least Boris Johnson’s decision to prorogue parliament.
All of this would make for fantastic watching if it were a political TV drama, but unfortunately it is real life.
In some people’s minds, Mr Johnson’s actions have made a general election more likely and by extension the prospect of a labour government more likely as well.
Many will use these potential changes on the horizon as an excuse not to take action on something. Not to invest. Not to get that updated will drawn up. No to [insert any other thing you might want to do here].
Although potential changes are always unsettling, it is important not to use them as an excuse for inaction. Because, the thing is, once one change has happened, there will always be another one on the horizon.
If we have a general election this year, who’s to say that there wont be one next year? (and in the current political climate, I wouldn’t bet against it). Once we have had this years budget, there will be the Spring statement and then next years budget.
There will always be changes on the horizon, but at some point we must act if we want to achieve anything.
I always say to clients that we must plan based on what we know today and then adapt and change the plan in the future when the inevitable changes happen!

The Balance of Life

“Life is what happens when your busy making other plans” – John Lennon

“I’m busy.”

“Work’s good thanks, it’s busy at the moment.”

“Sorry, we’re busy.”

As human beings we seem to be busy with our busyness and often, if it’s not managed properly, we get out of balance. We’re working too hard. We’re not seeing friends and family as much as we would like. We’re not enjoying the activities that give our lives fulfilment and energise us. We have no time to think – to think about what really matters most.

Achieving balance is a constant push and pull, and deep down you can feel when it is out of kilter. We must constantly reevaluate whether we have the right balance, if we’ve moved too far in one direction, or if we’ve given up on an element completely.

Every single person has a different definition of what they would consider balance. This evolves over different stages of life and as it evolves, so must the individual. My balance will not be the same as anyone else’s, although it may be similar. What constitutes as balance to me may be boredom to you. What I consider a balanced weekend – seeing friends, going to the gym, swimming with the kids, walking to a cafe, popping into my sister’s may be perceived as “too much going on” to someone else.

Friends, pastimes, family, work – when we get them in balance, we enjoy life. It is said that when you’re having fun in life, then you have struck some kind of balance. How many people do you know that have worked so hard for retirement that when they get there they don’t know what to do because working is all they’ve ever done? How many people do you know that are so busy supporting their family that they never actually see them?

Society has got better at addressing these issues and employers and employees are far more aware of work life balance than they were even 10 years ago.

At Buckingham Gate we’re in the business of having our clients reach the right balance.

We hope you have a lovely balanced week.