While December is a month of splurging, January is typically associated with cutting back – whether that’s on food, alcohol, or spending.
If one aim this year is to improve your financial situation, increasing income is just as important as reducing spending. One area often overlooked is finding ways to claim everything you’re entitled to. This is especially important if you’re one of more than 10 million people completing their self-assessment tax return ahead of the 31 January deadline.
Self-assessment is a system used by HMRC to collect tax. If you’re an employee, tax is usually collected automatically from your monthly salary and shows up on your payslip. But if you’re self employed, or have additional sources of income such as savings interest or rental income, you have to declare your income to HMRC and offset against that any expenses that attract tax relief. The more tax relievable expenses, the less tax you have to pay, which means more money in your pocket.
So when you’re completing your tax return it pays to make sure you’re claiming all the tax relief you’re entitled to.
Tax relief and Gift Aid
I’ve previously written about higher rate taxpayers missing out on tax relief following a conversation with a client who was unaware she could be losing out to the tune of £1,700 a year by not claiming full tax relief on payments into her pension.
A recent chat with another client brought up another form of tax relief people aren’t always aware of – tax relief on charitable donations.
It turned out my higher-rate-tax paying client was making regular donations to charity but had never declared this to the taxman as she was unaware she would be entitled to tax relief on her donations.
This raises the question: Do you know that if you’re a higher rate taxpayer, you can claim tax relief on charitable donations you’ve made through Gift Aid? Let me explain.
What is Gift Aid?
The Gift Aid scheme means that if you’re a UK taxpayer and you give money to charity, the charity can claim back the tax you’ve paid on this money.
This is because Gift Aid donations are treated as if they are paid from your income after basic rate tax of 20% has been deducted.
The charity claims this tax back direct from HMRC. So this boosts the amount you’ve given to charity but doesn’t cost you any extra.
So, for every £1 you give to charity, the charity can claim an extra 25p from HMRC.
Charities claim 25p on every pound given because basic rate tax of 20% is calculated on your gross (pre-tax) donation, not your net (after tax) donation. Here’s an example to explain:
- You donate £100 to charity – the charity claims Gift Aid (£100 x 25p) to make your gross donation £125.
- Your gross donation of £125 x basic rate tax of 20% = £100 after tax.
How does Gift Aid affect higher rate taxpayers?
Gift Aid allows charities to claim basic rate tax of 20% on your donation. But higher rate taxpayers pay 40% tax.
So, if you’re a higher rate taxpayer, you can claim, from HMRC, the difference between the basic rate of tax claimed by the charity on your donation and the higher rate of tax you actually pay. Here’s an example to help explain:
- Sue is a 40% taxpayer and donates £1,000 to charity.
- The charity claims back basic rate tax of 20% from HMRC. That’s 25p for every £1 donated so the charity claims £250, making Sue’s gross donation £1,250.
- Sue can claim the difference between her 40% rate of tax and the basic rate of tax of 20% claimed by the charity on her gross donation.
- That’s a 20% difference. So, Sue claims 20% of £1,250 – a total of £250 – from HMRC.
- If Sue was an additional rate taxpayer – paying 45% on her income – she would be able to claim the difference between her 45% rate of tax and the basic rate of tax at 20% claimed by the charity on her gross donation.
- That would be a 25% difference. So Sue would claim 25% of £1,250 – a total of £312.50 – from HMRC.
Are you eligible to claim tax relief on charitable donations?
Are you a higher or additional rate taxpayer?
The 40% higher rate of tax applies to anyone earning between £45,001 and £150,000 this current tax year. The 45% additional rate of tax applies to those earning more than £150,000. Find out more about income tax rates here.
Do you give to charity through Gift Aid?
Some 52% of those who donate money to charity said they used Gift Aid on their donation, according to the UK Giving 2017 report, by the Charities Aid Foundation. You'll need to complete a Gift Aid declaration form for each charity you wish to donate to.
Please note: if you donate to charity though a payroll giving scheme at work, donations are taken out of your gross pay – that’s your pay before tax is deducted. So there’s no tax relief to claim.
How do you claim tax relief?
Complete the charitable giving section on your annual self-assessment tax return or ask HMRC to amend your tax code which is used to calculate how much tax-free income you’re entitled to. You can reach HMRC on 0300 200 3300.
How long can you claim back for?
If you forget to – or were unaware you could – claim tax relief you have four years to submit a claim for tax ‘overpayment relief’ to HMRC. That’s four years after the end of the tax year your claim relates to.
For example, currently it’s the 2017/2018 tax year and it ends 5 April 2018, so you could claim as far back as the 2013/2014 tax year which ended 5 April 2014.
For more information on this topic
There was lots of talk before the Autumn Budget that higher rate tax relief on pensions would be abolished.
But, for now, pensions tax relief is safe.
So, just what does this mean to you?
When you contribute to a pension, some of the money that would have gone to the government as tax gets added to your pension pot instead. This is called tax relief.
If you’re a basic rate taxpayer the basic rate of tax is 20%. So for every £80 you contribute to your pension, the government will add £20 to your pension pot.
But if you’re a higher rate taxpayer, paying 40% tax on your earnings over £45,001, then you can get an additional £20 to add to your pension pot. This means that a £100 pension payment will only have cost you £60.
Following a recent conversation with one of my clients, though, I realised that lots of people may be failing to claim their higher rate tax relief, simply because they don’t know that this cashback system even exists!
Are you missing out on unclaimed money?
While celebrating the success with a client of her new job and impressive payrise, I suggested she ask some questions of her existing pension provider, and the pension provider at her new job, to explore her options.
During our discussion, I asked whether she was claiming higher rate tax relief on her pension contributions. She wasn’t aware that this was something she needed to do. She didn’t know she could claim, or that it was up to her to claim. Nor that by not claiming she could have been missing out on thousands of pounds.
She was earning £85,000 and paying 10% of this into her work pension. That’s £8,500 a year in pension contributions. With 20% of this automatically claimed by her pension provider as basic rate tax relief, that means it only costs her £6,800 to get £8,500 invested (£1,700 more than she had to pay out of her paycheck).
But this still leaves an additional £1,700 that she was failing to claim each year as a higher rate tax payer.
Research by Prudential in 2015 found that of higher rate taxpayers who contribute to a pension, 23% are unsure whether they reclaim the full tax relief on their pension contributions that they are entitled to.
So, how do you know if this is an issue that affects you or someone you know?
How do I know if I’m affected?
- Are you a higher rate taxpayer? That is currently (tax year 2017-18) anyone earning more than £45,001pa. You can find out more about income tax rates here.
- Are you a member of a ‘relief at source’ pension scheme? Here, your employer takes your pension contribution from your take home pay – this is after income tax has been deducted. Your pension provider then claims basic rate tax relief - 20% - from HMRC. HMRC sends this to your pension provider who adds this to your pension pot.
As a higher rate taxpayer, it’s then up to you to claim further tax relief (at your higher rate of tax less the basic rate of tax already claimed on your behalf) from HMRC.
‘Relief at source’ pension schemes are most likely if you’re a member of an individual or group personal pension, self-invested personal pension or stakeholder pension scheme.
If you’re unsure if you’re in a ‘relief at source’ pension scheme, it’s best to contact your pension scheme administrator.
How do you claim this extra tax relief?
Do note, the higher rate taxpayer pension relief you’re due won’t be added to your pension pot. You’ll receive the relief in one of three ways:
- Your tax code will be adjusted. (Your tax code is used by your employer or pension provider to work out how much income tax to take from your pay or pension.)
- A tax rebate (refund).
- A reduction in the tax you already owe to HMRC.
How long can you claim back for?
You can claim back up to four years after the end of the tax year your claim relates to.
So, for example, suppose you’ve just discovered you could have been claiming pension tax relief but haven’t done so. We’re currently in the 2017/2018 tax year, which ends 5 April 2018. This means, you could claim as far back as the 2013/2014 tax year which ended 5 April 2014.
For more information on this topic:
I'm just back from another incredible WOW event, this time for the first Women of the World Festival in Exeter.
It's such a privilege to be asked to run a workshop on my favourite topic at such a prestigious event. There's something quite magical about WOW - being part of a movement that both celebrates the incredible achievements of women and girls, as well as talking through some of the tough subjects that get in the way of our success or of achieving our full potential.
My workshop, 'Getting personal with finances', was one of six to choose from and I was so excited to have such an engaging audience to talk to, covering all ages and including some men too. We had a great Q&A session at the end where I answered questions about all kinds of topics from how to save to Equity Release. I created a special page on my website with information on topics that I thought would interest this audience. Feel free to look at the link yourself: http://www.financial-coaching.co.uk/WOW. I hope it's useful to you too.
This was my second WOW event in a week. The first was an early morning trip to London on Wednesday to speed-mentor young women on the @TheLondonEye celebrating #InternationalDayoftheGirl. The young women were amazing, and hearing their inspiring stories of what some of them are already achieving and campaigning for, was so incredibly moving and inspiring. Here's an article in the Evening Standard about the event.
Bring on the next WOW event!
It’s all well and good for me to tell you what my Financial Coaching Training course is like from my point of view, but the best person to give you a real insight is someone that has done it. I asked one of my trainees (who has just begun practicing as a Financial Coach) to tell her story.
What made you want to become a Financial Coach?
I wanted to help others with their financial journey. Training opportunities were limited but through my research I found Simonne’s website and did a bit of reading around her philosophy and her work. The turning point for me was when I listened to her podcast and I felt like I was listening to a kindred spirit and it was then that I decided to train with Wise Monkey Financial Coaching.
How did you feel when you arrived?
I was nervous when I turned up on that first day, I wasn’t really sure what to expect! Would it be all chalk and talk? Would I be able to keep up? Well, I needn’t have worried at all! Simonne was so warm and welcoming that all my fears and nerves just disappeared.
What was involved in the training days?
We covered so much in the few days. I learned a lot about different coaching techniques and how to incorporate these in different client scenarios. I learned about the different types of financial advice and how to ensure that I was falling within the guidelines. This was really surprising in a lot of scenarios and I feel a lot more confident going forward with what I can and cannot advise on. It was incredibly important to understand, in particular, the boundaries of generic financial advice.
We undertook role plays and coaching simulations in both the role of the coach and the client. This was so valuable as I was able to see just how Simonne would approach the client and demonstrate her techniques, as well as thinking about how I might approach a client and their situation. We also looked at genuine case studies, this was really useful because I felt like I was testing myself with the real-life scenarios that I may come across plus having the safety of the training to ask questions and revisit actions. There were many other interactive and experiential learning activities and discussions.
How did you feel afterwards?
I left the training feeling incredibly inspired and motivated! Not only did I get fantastic training, which was student-led as much as possible with lots of opportunity to work on particular elements I needed more practice or guidance with, but also an amazing pack of resources I was able to go away with.
In addition to the fantastic binder which I added all my notes to, plus all the training materials, there is an electronic folder that is shared. This has everything required to work with clients and gets updated when Simonne has new material to share or something is amended. I felt like I came away with everything I needed to be able to start coaching clients of my own.
What happened next?
I have already had the opportunity to start building up my own business as a Financial Coach and thank my training with Simonne for giving me the tools, knowledge and confidence to get out there and begin.
I can wholeheartedly recommend the course and would do it again in a heartbeat, I learned so much looking at the Wise Monkey Financial Coaching model. Not only did I learn just about money and coaching, but I learned about myself, my money story and about my own relationship with money. Although I knew my own journey and how I had come to be where I am, I was really surprised by what we uncovered through some of the coaching activities. For example, one of the activities involved looking at what money would look like if it came to tea. It led me to understand more about myself and my own relationship with money.
Any final thoughts?
Simonne is just so incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about her work and that shone through every minute of the training. She shared a wide range of skills, techniques, resources throughout as well as her own stories. The training was overflowing with content and materials and I loved that it covered a real mix of teaching methods.
Flic Everett, 46, is in debt, has no pension and does not own her own property, so she put her trust in me to help her get a grip on her finances, and to improve her relationship to money.
This article in the FeMail gives you Flic’s account of what she got out of our sessions and from the work she prepared in advance of us meeting. It also gives you insight into what goes on in a coaching session and some of the exercises I use.
Making goals a reality
I want to share with you the most profound and inspirational story about one of my clients. She first came to see me just over 3 years ago, having inherited money and wanting to experience self-empowerment. Her wish was to do something with the money which was meaningful to her. To extract purpose and meaning from the money that was not entangled in emotional connections to money in her family. She was aware that over time her relationship with the money had become tense and uncomfortable, sometimes tainted by shame and guilt - she wanted to heal this along the way.
I'm thrilled by the progress she's made. The way that her relationship with money has changed. How she has carefully and methodically selected the right investment approach, and advice, to have confidence that her money is working well for her and aligned to her goals and integrity. How she is gaining confidence in her understanding of the complex financial landscape. And is standing in her power in so many different ways.
Forward Bound Scholarship
But... I'm especially proud of the project she founded, and is sponsoring, in collaboration with the University of Brighton. The Forward Bound scholarship gives a one year Masters degree in Health Promotion to professionals from lower to lower-middle income countries with the idea that they will pass on their knowledge on their return to their country.
This video showcases the scholarship programme that was established with her ideas and funding.
I'm thrilled that this project came out of the work she and I did in my office in Brighton, as a result of financial life planning, and knowing what a difference it’s made in my client’s life as well as the students she’s supporting.
Making a difference
Virginia Mzunzu from Malawi was the first beneficiary of this scholarship (applications are now coming in for the third year of the programme). Virginia had completed her first degree in Malawi and was already working in malnutrition in her country. However, she was ambitious to learn more and to make more of an impact.
The scholarship was a life-changing experience for Virginia: "The scholarship gave me an opportunity to grow and develop myself academically and has also exposed me to a different culture – I have cherished every bit of it … My gratitude to the donors who made this possible cannot be overemphasised – they made my dream come true."
Philanthropy packs a punch
Read more about the outcome of this first fully funded scholarship, made possible by my client's drive, passion and heart: http://blogs.brighton.ac.uk/alumni/2017/05/03/philanthropy-packs-a-punch
The University of Brighton offer a range of different philanthropic/sponsorship opportunities to those who would like to make a difference. Also a fabulous mentoring programme if you are able to mentor a Student.
If you'd like to change someone's life by setting up a new scholarship or student prize, email email@example.com or contact Sam Davies - the Director of Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement at the University of Brighton – on 01273 878382.
Click here if you'd like to understand how Financial Life Planning can help you.
Having worked with clients in a coaching capacity for over 15 years now, I know that Financial Coaching changes people’s lives for the better. Often the reason for someone’s money problems is rooted in their relationship with, and attitudes towards, money rather than their knowledge and understanding of finance.
What I also know is that unfortunately the vast majority of people still don’t know that financial support outside of traditional advice exists.
That’s why I was delighted when ELLE, the world’s best-selling fashion magazine, asked to come and experience a Financial Coaching session.
You can read Alex Holder’s full write-up here: Meet the money doctor who will change your life.
I want to address a few key things that came up in Alex’s session (and her article) that you may find helpful:
Your Financial Vocabulary
Notice the words that Alex uses in her piece and then think about the language you use when talking about money.
What we say has a profound effect on what we feel and the experience we have of the world around us. If, like Alex, you hear yourself saying things like ‘scared’, ‘anxious’ and ‘ashamed’ these are clear signals that your relationship with money might be in need of repair. The question to ask yourself is whether your language helps you feel that you're thriving financially and not just surviving.
I find it interesting how often we hold ourselves back. How often female clients, in particular, voice their concern over feeling like a fraud professionally despite sincere recognition from the outside world and extensive experience within their profession. Yet, despite that external acknowledgment, internally there's something else going on. Are you holding yourself back from financial success?
Mind over Money
Towards the end of the article, Alex discusses some of the techniques we worked on during our session.
Cognitive processes to challenge self limiting beliefs (glass walls that hold us back from believing that what we want is in our reach), and visualisation techniques, are powerful tools that I often use in sessions to help clients shift their finances and their lives.
Here’s an exercise you can do for yourself:
- Notice your internal beliefs about money and decide whether they support you or hold you back.
- If they hold you back, acknowledge the part you play in reinforcing those beliefs. Maybe it’s by not regularly checking your bank balance or shying away from anything to do with your finances.
- Consider what positive belief could replace the negative ones.
- Then decide what you could do to reinforce that message instead. If it helps, think about what someone with that positively framed message about money would do.
- Consciously do things that reinforce the positive money message. Maybe that’s checking bank statements or stretching yourself by asking for a payrise.
I would also suggest Doing Something Different.
It’s good to talk
One of the main focuses of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week was that we all need to talk more about our challenges and concerns. And this doesn’t just mean speaking to a professional. Conversations with friends and loved ones are just as, if not more important, when it comes to dealing with issues.
Alex, like all of my clients, found that simply getting her worries off her chest made her feel much better. My wish is that she takes this with her and encourages others to be more open about their financial worries too.
For more ideas and exercises to help you explore, and challenge, your relationship with money have a listen to my interview with Chris Budd as part of his “Financial Options in Life” series. We discuss emotions of money and self limiting beliefs and lots more.
If you’d like to learn more about financial coaching, there's a range of podcast interviews you could listen to or have a read of my 'How we can help' page. If you’re interested in exploring the idea of becoming a financial coach yourself, check out my recent blog on my journey from financial adviser to coach.
I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed for one of the NextGen Planners Podcasts.
If you haven’t heard of NextGen Planners, check it out here. It’s a community founded by young financial planners, focused on creating an informal way for young advisers to share ideas, best practice and develop skills outside of the profession. Adam Carolan, one of the founders, asked me about:
• My journey from financial advice to financial coaching
• How financial coaching differs from financial advice
• The way I work and types of clients I work with
• The training courses I offer
• My advice to younger financial planners
You can listen to the full podcast by clicking on the play button above, or just the part where I talk about my training. But, to save you time (it's a long one!), here are some of the key points of the interview:
My journey from financial advice to financial coaching
Soon into the start of my career I transitioned into the world of personal finance, training to become a financial adviser, which I immediately loved. Lots of client interaction, talking to people about their lives and goals, exploring different ideas with them, explaining the complex world of financial products and helping people make informed choices. But, as a young woman in a male dominated industry, I stood out. My career then took me from working for a large multinational organisation to working among a small team of female advisers, specialising in advising women.
Even in that culture, my financial advisory practice was different to that of my colleagues – I listened far more than I talked. I welcomed clients sharing their emotions, with a box of tissues at the ready. As I began to learn more about myself and what I could offer, I became disillusioned with the financial service industry and felt that there was something missing.
During this transition, and despite always working in a culture of fees rather than commission, I felt that the industry was moving further away from ordinary people wanting help with their finances. And moving more towards only working with a small percentage who had significant money to invest.
The birth of Wise Monkey
Following a period of personal development, I began to realise the key role our relationship with money and mind-set plays in our ability to manifest our goals. I realised that advice alone wasn’t sufficient. We also need to feel motivated and empowered. And for many - if not most - help and guidance with finances had nothing to do with buying products.
My journey had led me to pursue my dream to travel and, when I returned, I had complete clarity on the type of service I wanted to offer. I went in search of a company that matched my ethos and ideas, but soon discovered that what I was looking for didn’t exist. So I had to create it. That’s where the concept of financial coaching began to take shape. I started to create a unique offering that was a blend of my two passions: personal development and personal finance.
Starting with only pen, paper and calculator, I tested my theory that many people need help and support with their finances without wanting advice on financial products, and saw that there was a good level of demand. I went onto launch Wise Monkey Financial Coaching in March 2002, beginning with offering financial planning and support without products. I helped people with practical questions like: Can you help me understand the products I have? Will I be able to afford to retire when I want? How can I set up manage my finances so that I can quick my job and set up my own business venture? How can I stop myself from hijacking my finances and start to become more grown up when it comes to money?
The business really took off in October 2002 with my first big press article in Mail on Sunday. After that, clients came flooding in.
Pretty soon, it became clear that I also needed to help people tackle their emotional relationship with money. Practical solutions weren’t enough. What money means to us individually also determines how we interact with our finances and whether we’re able to meet our goals. So I trained in coaching, NLP and life planning to help me better serve the needs of my clients. I came to realise that helping people with their finances was a perfect vehicle for personal development and that the work I was doing could be transformational for a client.
I later went on to co-write a book, Sheconomics, aimed at women who would never ordinarily pick up a book about money. And this helped me reach a far wider audience.
Financial coaching today
Today I have a wide range of clients including individuals and couples in the South East and, with the aid of technology, in locations throughout the UK and around the world.
Using my background in the financial advice world, combined with the tools and techniques of personal development and coaching, I've created a unique offering which often transforms people's lives. I ask powerful - sometimes provocative and challenging - questions to help people gain insight into their relationship with money and facilitate them to create the changes they need or address their concerns.
It’s so much more than the financial advice model and such rewarding work.
Financial coaching training
But I can’t do all of this work alone. There’s a massive need for guidance and support for everyday people and my business has now reached a stage where the demand is too much for me to meet on my own. I’m also passionate about pioneering a style of working with clients that is more about empowerment and transformation, rather than limited to planning their finances. Especially now that industry fees have led to financial advice no longer being available to the masses. I’m more ready than ever to train more people to become financial coaches and join me on this mission.
I’m now 15 years into my Wise Monkey journey and seeking out people who want to learn from my experience. I've created tools, resources and methodology. And share these with the people I train. It’s not just financial advisors who attend my courses, but people with a good knowledge of personal finance who are equally inspired to empower people financially.
I run twice-yearly group training courses in Brighton where I equip my trainees with the skills to coach clients. We only take small groups to ensure that everyone has the best opportunity to practice, and receive coaching on, the skills and tools they learn during the week.
The next financial coaching training course runs 23 - 27 October 2017. Get in touch if you're interested in attending, would like to receive further information or would simply like to chat through the idea of becoming a financial coach or integrating this training into your existing practice.
I look forward to having more people join me on this journey!
Happy International Women's Day!
I'm getting really excited about taking part in the WOW Festival this weekend. I'll be there 3-4pm on Friday as part of a panel discussing risk, exposure and resilience. And also delivering a worksop 'Getting Personal with Finance' 3-4pm on Saturday, where I'll be taking women through the 7 Laws of Sheconomics and answering audience questions.
Passes for the festival are now sold out, but come and see me if you're there! @WOWtweetUK #WOWLDN
If you're the only director of your own company, you don't have what the regulators call 'auto-enrolment duties'. That means that you're not obligated to pay into a pension contribution for yourself. But this doesn't mean that you can ignore the letters that come through the post.
All you need to do is tell the Pensions Regulator that you're not an employer (that's only if you meet one of the following criteria):
- you’re a sole director company, with no other staff
- your company has a number of directors, none of whom has an employment contract, with no other staff
- your company has a number of directors, only one of whom has an employment contract, with no other staff
- your company has ceased trading
- your company has gone into liquidation
- your company has been dissolved
- you no longer employ people in your home (cleaners, nannies, personal care assistants, etc)
You then use the Pension Regulator's Duties checker to understand the specific steps you need to take. It's really quick and easy to do (just takes a few minutes), and it will feel great to no longer have that nag, so why not do it now?
If you don't meet one of the criteria, still use the Pension Regulator's Duties checker to understand what you need to do.
Our inboxes in January are overloaded with motivational messages, pinging at you like a hyperactive personal trainer: Lose weight! Get fit! Stop smoking! Start training! Write that book! Sort out your money!
However much we try to respond to them, it’s hard to make it through the month without suffering from Good Intention Overload. And by now, as we near the end of January, the best of intentions are already beginning to slip – and each time they do, a little bit of our belief in ourselves slips with them.
Narrow the gap
In my work I advocate a calmer, gentler approach to achievement: small, practical actions that create something real. The key is scaling down intentions to a manageable level and keeping intentions and actions close together.
One of my clients had grand plans for her garden. Every year, she would draw up diagrams and planting schemes, returning from the garden centre full of ideas and laden with packets of seeds… which never actually got planted. Last year, she decided to concentrate on the one thing she wanted most from her garden. She scaled it right down to a tub of rocket. This time she bought and planted the seeds, watered them every now and then and was rewarded with many months of rocket, and many moments of delight nipping out to pick fresh leaves as she made packed lunches in the morning. Those few real, peppery plants tasted a whole lot better than the produce of all the imaginary raised beds.
If you consistently don’t do what you say you’ll do, you’re drip-feeding yourself the message that you cannot keep your resolutions, that you’re not to be trusted. The wider the gap between your intentions and action, the greater the stress.
Try easing up on the intentions and jumping straight into the actions.
I’ve been working with the Do Something Different team for some years now, more recently helping them create one of their Do Something Different programmes (one all about money behaviours), and I’m convinced and inspired by the philosophy of changing behaviour through action.
There is, of course, a chicken and egg relationship between mindset and behaviour: a change in attitude or beliefs can result in very real behavioural changes. Yet all too often there’s a frustrating and bewildering gap when understanding and awareness take big leaps ahead, while behaviour lags behind.
There is an astonishing power to be harnessed by simply doing something different, rather than thinking or learning or reading about it. It gives you undeniable proof to yourself that you can do it: because you just did.
The start of a new year is an ideal time for sowing seeds: do something small and real, that will then carry on and keep growing by itself (with just a teeny bit of attention every now and then) to come to fruition. What’s one small thing you could do today that will reward you in future? What is your financial equivalent of that tub full of rocket?
Ideas for action
- Perhaps you could set up text alerts on your bank account? It only takes a few minutes to do this yet could mean not wasting your cash this year on unplanned overdraft fees.
- Or automate something such as overpaying your mortgage, or a paying into an ISA or pension?
- Maybe set up a direct debit into a smoothing account or a savings account for the thing you want most – a holiday this year?
- You could sow seeds of new habits by writing money meetings with your partner into this year’s diary.
- Or put your online banking before social media on your toolbar – encouraging you to check this first.
New habits take a bit more maintenance than once-off actions, but can grow and develop into feelings of control and capability around finance.
Whatever you do, the repercussions of constant small successes create an upward spiral of confidence that lead to growth and blossoming far beyond the particular goal or intention.
The process of divorce or separation forces you to make big financial decisions at a time of intense emotional upheaval. There is an urgent need for clarity, understanding and clear planning to ensure those decisions are made well, as they could have a big impact on your future.
The financial side of divorce can be a daunting process, especially as many of us struggle to understand where our money goes at the best of times. There may be financial issues – such as pensions, investments, debts or a family business – that you have never really understood, and now decisions need to be made about how to share these. Even apparently straightforward questions, such as ‘how much do you need to live on?’ are complex when on the cusp of a big life change.
Financial coaching provides support and guidance in understanding money, and so can be particularly helpful for navigating the financial aspects of divorce and facilitating discussions between couples.
I'm also part of a group of professionals including collaborative lawyers, mediators, counsellors and financial advisors who provide an integrative approach to aid couples and individuals during a separation or divorce. Together we are known as Sussex Family Solutions. Our approach is to provide support for every aspect of your separation, including legal, emotional and financial. I'm an affiliate member of Resolution and my Wise Monkey service abides by Resolution’s Code of Practice.
Think of it as Red Friday: just another trick to drive us into more debt.
Are you getting pulled in by all this Black Friday hype?
Ant Bullock from Do Something Different - the company inspiring millions of people to do something different one Do at a time and creator of Do Money - interviewed me to ask why we're so likely to be pulled in by Back Friday and what we can do to resist. Here's an extract of our conversation:
Q: Why is something like Black Friday so powerful?
Simonne: “Sales and discounts are based on a behavioural economics concept called ‘anchoring’. The idea is that you see the price that it (apparently) used to be and your mind anchors that as the true value. Paying less is really attractive. And anything less than the anchor price is exciting.”
“Add a limited time period and a few really big headline discounts that only apply to one or two items, and you suddenly have a really compelling formula that makes us want to buy. As soon as you hear ‘Black Friday’, or ‘January Sale’, you have the idea of buying in your head. It’s almost like you’ve already spent before you shop. For some people, just reading this will put the “Buy” signal in their head.”
Q: Is it a bad thing to take part in Black Friday?
Simonne: “It’s fine if you genuinely need or want the things on offer and you can really afford them. But if you just get swept up in the ‘fear of missing out’ frenzy whipped up by advertising and promotion, it can be really damaging.”
Q: What can we do to resist?
Simonne: “If you feel yourself getting sucked in, think about it as Red Friday. A day piled high with debt. Imagine the clever marketing people who get paid to trick you into spending more than you meant to. We’re being manipulated by them to spend money to enhance our lifestyle, even though most of us have more than we need. Don’t be one of the ones fooled by this trick.
Q: Why is personal spending so difficult to control for some of us?
Simonne: “Most of us assume that when we buy things, we’re being driven by needs and rational choice. But behavioural economics proves that we’re conditioned to often make completely irrational decisions when it comes to dealing with our money. Our capacity to make the right decisions is heavily influenced by our emotional relationship with money.”
Q: Do we all have an emotional relationship with money?
Simonne: “The decisions we make about spending are often driven by our emotional needs, which can highjack our common sense. They are so unconscious that we rarely stop to reflect on them. People buy for all sort of reasons without realising it: to boost self-esteem; for status; to be part of the pack; to feel good; as a token of love; out of boredom; as a reward; as a form of control…”
“Compulsive shoppers describe getting a buzz from buying. Bargains provide a real endorphin hit. But it’s short lived – only temporarily filling an emotional void. By the time they’ve got home, the buzz has gone and is often replaced with a deep sense of guilt and regret.”
Q: Where does this relationship with money begin?
Simonne: “Much of how we spend is based on automatic beliefs and habits which were formed as we were growing up. Perhaps your friends had the latest toys that your parents didn’t buy you, so as an adult you’re determined to be the first with every gadget. Or your parents gave you expensive presents as compensation for not being around much, so you associate spending with love.”
“The tricky thing about money is that it’s one of the last remaining taboo subjects, yet we’re all affected by it. We rarely talk about it and our relationship with money is kept secret, even from ourselves.”
Q: OK, so how can we resist spending, particularly given that Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas and January Sales are all looming?
Simonne: “Let me stress again if you can afford it, you enjoy it and you really want or need those new shoes or that new computer, that’s fine. Go for it.
“But, If you know you’re the kind of person who is susceptible to the bargain hype, or you often end up with that awful credit card statement at the end of January – here are seven things I think can help you:
- Decide what else could you do instead of shopping this Friday. Turn the electronics off. Do something you really love. Treat yourself in a wholesome way by meeting friends, doing exercise, enjoying a brilliant film.
- Work out how many hours you had to work to buy something. Is that TV really worth a whole three weeks of hard graft?
- Rather than saying you can’t take advantage of a sale, set an affordable limit before you search for the bargains. Make that your anchor.
- Reframing your thoughts can be really powerful. So as we’ve said, think of it as ‘Red Friday’ not ‘Black Friday’. You have a ‘Debt Card’, not a ‘Credit Card’.
- If you’re shopping on the High Street, use cash instead of a card. It’s much harder to part with real money.
- Give yourself space before you respond and ask yourself: what’s the emotion that’s driving me to want to spend? “Fearful of missing out.” “Stops me focussing on what’s making me unhappy.”
- Connect with a goal in your life instead. Write yourself an affirming statement that can sit in your purse or wallet and serve as a reminder of what’s important.
“Remember, buying stuff just gives you a short term hit. Doing more meaningful things is much more powerful than buying more things.”
What’s your Money story?
Find out more about Do Money - Do Something Different's behaviour change programme that I had a small part in creating - designed to help you change your money habits.
Meaningful Money 30 minute interview (starts after about 6 mins)
I've been a great fan of Pete Matthew at Meaningful Money, who shares my passion in delivering financial education to the masses and helping people build a better financial future for themselves. I often suggest his podcasts or videos to clients to listen to, and would strongly recommend taking a look around his site and and, if you're interested in learning how to invest, signing up for his free 10 day email course.
This week, I was delighted to be inverviewed by Pete for his latest Meaningful Money podcast, as part of his season covering the subject of behavioural finance. In this interview I talk about the power of coaching and how we also need to address our emotional relationship with money to create a secure path towards our goals. I also share some tips and insights.
You can listen to it by clicking on the audio link above (the interview starts about 6 minutes into the recording) or via the Changing financial behaviour page on the Meaningful Money website. If you scroll down the page on the Meaningful Money website, there's also a transcribed version of the podcast and a list of resources that I mention during the interview. Please do take a look at Pete's website, as there's tons of valuable resources on there.
Simonne is a certified life coach, Master NLP practitioner and Registered Life Planner, who has a great deal of experience in helping her clients manage their finances.
She is also founder of Wise Monkey Financial Coaching and co-author of Sheconomics – a personal finance book which provides practical and actionable money tips for women to take charge of their finances. Using a non-traditional approach to financial planning, with a blend of skills and experience gained as an ex-independent financial adviser (IFA), Simonne has successfully motivated her clients to take control of their finances, take responsibility for their financial future and most importantly transform their relationship with money.
So what exactly does a financial coach do? And how can a financial coach help me overcome my money worries? Find out in our exclusive interview with Simonne.
1. You’re a financial coach. Can you tell us a little bit about what you do?
I originally came from a financial services background and was an independent financial advisor for 10 years. But I realised that there was a need for something else which supports everyday people with everyday needs, and I created financial coaching to fill that gap.
It’s guidance and support with money, but without the products. I help people take control over, and responsibility for, their financial lives.
We deal with practical issues, while also helping with the complexities of their emotions surrounding the subject of money. I don’t promote a particular opinion on any course of action, but rather help clients take action towards their goals, and work through decisions that have financial implications.
I tease the information out of them rather than telling them what to do. Financial coaching combines financial life planning and solutions focused coaching, with advice about strategies and tools, rather than financial products.
2. What is financial therapy?
Financial therapy is the name The Guardian gave to my financial coaching. I wouldn’t necessarily label it as that: it’s definitely therapeutic, but I’m not a therapist.
Unlike therapy, financial coaching is not about analysing your past; it’s about the here and now, and how you can go forward. But I do ask people questions that help reflect at a deeper level on their relationship with money.
Money is an emotive subject and I’m also trained to work on an emotional level too, which is especially important when I’m helping someone shift their behaviour or reduce their anxieties.
I’m a Master NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) practitioner, which helps clients untangle the emotional roots of their behaviour and shift their mindset.
I can help people challenge beliefs that don’t support them, and ultimately start taking action to reinforce positive beliefs that do serve them.
3. Tell us about Do Money and how it works
The Do Something Different team run simple, easy to do programmes, which cost only £25 and last six weeks.
They help people with subjects such as stress, finding happiness, and stopping smoking.
Their programmes are diagnostically driven, stretch your comfort zone, and are underpinned by over 30 years of scientific research.
I’ve worked with the team to develop the Do Money programme, which focuses on shaking up your money habits and changing your behaviour for the better.
Each week you have three simple tasks to do (called ‘Dos’). To give you a taste, one example of a ‘Do’ is “Spend 10 minutes today starting one financial job you’ve been putting off.
Play your favourite music as you work and tap along to the beat.” I trialled the programme before we launched it last year and found, even in my own life, that a couple of the Dos have made a significant difference to my own relationship with money.
We’ve had some great feedback so far, with comments such as: “a few tears but good insights”; “this conversation opened new doors in a friendship and we talked for ages about our relationship with money”; and “Massive weight off my back. I’d been putting this off for months.”
The purpose of Do Money is to increase your behavioural flexibility when it comes to dealing with money, which not only helps you take better control, but will also reduce your levels of stress.
4. Why don’t women like to talk about money?
I don’t think it’s just women.
Money is one of the last remaining taboo topics: we’re more likely to talk to other people about our sex lives than talk about money.
It’s deemed rude to ask someone what they earn. I think it’s especially a problem for the British, because we typically see money as something very private.
I’m personally trying to shake people up on that, and encourage people to talk about money with others.
That way, we’re more likely to be respectful of our own needs and financial limitations and not led by others. Plus we can learn from each other and become better informed and aware.
5. Do you think women are more affected by money worries than men?
Typically, women are more emotionally attuned to men.
That’s not to say that men don’t worry, but I think that when it comes to money, women are more willing to express their fears and anxieties.
Often our worries about money are disproportionate to the reality. When you look at the truth behind the fears, usually the problem no longer seems insurmountable.
The difficulty is that when we worry, we can get caught up in a particular narrative we tell ourselves, which then leads to more worry.
To get out of that situation, it’s helpful to talk through your concerns, to help you look at it objectively. I know this from personal, as well as client, experience.
I provide a sounding board to help people express their worries and concerns, while offering practical and emotional support to help them take action to improve things.
Being in control of your money provides freedom.
6. As a financial coach, what is your best financial advice for women?
First of all, don’t leave all the finances to one person. Clients often share with me their sense of financial immaturity.
You don’t have to do everything together if you have a partner, but make sure that you understand what you have got, what you need, where money is going, and make plans for the future.
Don’t leave that responsibility to someone else or cross your fingers and hope for the best.
Secondly, being more financially secure and confident is not always about earning more money, or getting a windfall.
It’s not about what you earn, it’s about what you keep. Managing your money well means you can get by with less, and more options may become available to you.
People often think that being careful with money impinges on their sense of freedom, whereas in reality it’s the opposite: being in control of your money provides freedom.
Managing your money well means you can get by with less, and more options may become available to you.
7. Where should women go for more information?
As a first stop, get a copy of Sheconomics. You can buy it on Kindle and it is also available in paperback. It gives you tips, strategies and case studies to take charge of your financial destiny.
For anyone looking to retrain and learn the skills of a financial coach, I’m delivering my next Financial Coach Practitioner Training Course in Brighton 3-7 October 2016. For more information about the training, visit this page of my website. You can also stay up to date with Simonne by following her on Twitter @simonnegnessen.
I transitioned from being a traditional financial adviser to a financial coach partly as a result of asking myself this question: 'Why don’t we do what we know we need to do?'. I became interested in opening my doors to people who had challenges and blocks when it comes to money. My research since then has been focussed on ways I can provide, not only practical solutions, but also address the obstacles that get in the way of financial success.
That was why I became interested in the ‘Do Something Different (DSD)’ approach. Professor Karen Pine, with whom I co-wrote Sheconomics, is one of the founders.
DSD have created a range of innovative online behaviour change programmes, designed by Psychology Professors and delivered by text and email. Each cost £14 for a 6 week programme. The principle behind it is that our brains are wired in a way that helps us create shortcuts to save us time and energy. We form habits that become familiar, automatic ways of responding to any given situation. But sometimes these habits aren't helpful and can limit our potential. We have a toolkit of useful behaviours, yet repeatedly carry on in autopilot doing the same things we’ve always done, and wonder why our results aren’t changing. By becoming more flexible in your behaviour you have the opportunity to choose how you behave, and do things differently.
I worked with the inspirational Do team to help them develop a new online programme to add to the successful range they’ve created so far. It’s called ‘Do Money’ and is fun, light and easy, encouraging behaviour change in tiny steps.
‘Do money’ is built on pillars, including things like the ability to talk about money or take responsibility for your finances, and helps you take action for your future while gently helping you overcome any emotional barriers you have to financial management.
As soon as you sign up, you’ll be asked a range of questions around each pillar to assess how you currently behave.
For instance, ‘How often do you…?’
‘…feel uncomfortable when the topic of money comes up in conversation?’
‘…find you’re faced with unexpected bills and expenditure?’
‘…get into debt?’
‘…buy something and regret it later?’
These diagnostics ensure that you have a unique programme tailored to your needs. You are then sent ‘Dos’, by text and/or email, 3 times a week for 6 weeks. Each Do is a small action to encourage a new behaviour. For example, ‘ Spend 10 minutes today starting one financial job you've been putting off. Play your favourite music as you work and tap along to the beat.’
That’s the beauty of the Do. It’s in the moment - something for you to do that day in response to the text message. There’s an immediacy about the action that’s such a contrast to lengthy discussing and planning and deliberating over change. You just do it – changing your behaviour without having to rely on willpower.
While you’re on the programme an online ‘Do zone’ gives a space to keep track of your activities and share experiences and encouragement with other ‘Do-ers’. You also get online diagnostics at the end of the programme to help you measure your progress over the 6 weeks.
Click here if you want to get back in control of your money, let go of some of your bad habits and develop some better ones
I was interviewed by a journalist recently who wanted to write an article about ‘financial therapy’ - a combination of financial advice and therapy for unhelpful money behaviours - that is currently popular in the US.
The article - Do you need financial therapy? – was published by The Guardian this week. While I don’t describe myself as a therapist, my work often involves helping clients address the emotions they experience surrounding the subject of money and helping shift unconscious patterns of behaviour around money.
As well as interviewing me about my work, we did some work on the journalist’s relationship with money so that she could experience what I do. She’d never before given much thought to her relationship with money.
Developing a healthy relationship with money
Through the exercises and questions I asked, she came to realize that she had a bit of a warped sense of money. What she presented to me was a situation where she wasn’t struggling badly with money, but was never getting ahead. She’s not in trouble but not moving forward: stuck in a cycle where she sorts out debt, but soon gets back into it.
What was revealing was that she can get herself out of trouble but can’t maintain that forward momentum once it no longer feels like a problem. We did an exercise where I got her to personify her relationship with money, and what came to her was ambivalence, disinterest and discomfort about engaging with money. We realised that her focus was on survival: getting through the month, paying off debts, but not on thriving.
So we looked at the concept of thriving financially, not just surviving. For her it was looking into uncharted territory: the idea of stepping into a zone of abundance was unfamiliar, even uninviting. She hadn’t thought beyond the familiar cycle of having a bit of money for a short while, before then getting back into debt.
In terms of practical action the most significant thing we focused on was to help her commit to not accruing any more debt as a first step, to break the relentless pattern of paying off, accruing more, paying off, accruing more. So we needed to work to a plan with fixed monthly contributions and saving towards occasional costs.
A shift in attitude
Alongside this, we also worked on helping her shift her mind-set. We discussed her focus as if a centre line on a football field. She’s stuck on one side of the field like a team always playing defensively, safeguarding the goal but not able to push forward and score. If we talk about this in terms of motivation, she’s not working towards something she wants, she’s focusing on defending what she doesn’t want. Our minds can’t process double negatives (“Don’t think about a black cat” – you can’t not think about it, without first thinking about it). The more you try not to think about something, the more focus you’re giving the thing you don’t want to happen. And, as we know, the more focus you give something, the more it grows.
The power of focus
So, by her focusing on what she doesn’t want (i.e. debt) – thinking about it, worrying about it - she’s likely to get more of it. This is why yo yo dieting is so prevalent as it’s a classic ‘away from' motivated goal. The motivation only lasts as long as you experience the pain of being overweight. The minute you can fit back into the clothes that make you feel slimmer, or your weight has reached the target set, you’re no longer motivated to take action. This is exactly like the way many of us interact with money too, only motivated when there’s a problem.
The chances of maintaining consistent results are so much higher if you shift your focus from what you don’t want – the fear, anxiety, worry, not feeling good about yourself – towards what you do want. That way, your motivation doesn’t stop the moment you stop feeling bad. Instead, if you focus on a powerful representation of what you do want, and take action towards getting there, you’re far more likely to get positive results; consistently.
It’s all about awareness and understanding – changing language and internal dialogue and the focus of your thoughts and attention. I’m not a believer in ‘positive thinking’ alone - there needs to be positive action too - but I do believe that when your focus changes material things will start changing.
Which way is your motivation pointing?
So, my question to you is “Are you focused towards what you don’t want, or away from what you don’t want?” Start observing your own motivation and that of the people around you and notice how much time/energy/thought you’re putting towards the things you don’t want compared to the things that you do. Instead, shift your focus towards what (better control of) money can create for you in your life. Here’s a great exercise to help you focus on what you want.
The article – Do you need financial therapy? - talking about what financial therapy is, and featuring the session I had with the journalist - was published by The Guardian on 5th January 2016.
I always find it interesting how often we hold ourselves back. How often female clients, in particular, voice their concern over feeling like a fraud professionally despite sincere recognition from the outside world and extensive experience within their profession. Yet, despite that external acknowlegment, internally there's something else going on.
I've noticed that many of us experience an internal conflict. While a part of us knows who we are and what we're capable of, at some level, another part may believe the complete opposite. 'Who am I to achieve/desire/deserve that?’. Sometimes it feels like there’s a fight going on inside with both parts vying for attention and neither getting heard.
Fighting an internal Tug of War
I do a lot of work with this in relation to people’s behaviour around money. One part of you may not feel deserving of money, but another part of you knows you’re as deserving as anyone else. This kind of conflict plays out in money behaviour – and this internal tug-of-war can lead to sabotaging your financial success. Ultimately, though, it’s not about money. Talking to people about money reveals their hopes, dreams, desires but also their worries, fears and insecurities. And the blocks we experience when it comes to being responsible with money are often caused by the way we feel about ourselves.
It’s very hard to move forward when a part of you is pulling in the opposite direction by saying ‘I can’t!” or plaguing you with relentless ‘what-if’ scenarios. It’s easy to see the part of you that’s holding you back as a ‘baddy’ inside – an internal saboteur thwarting your attempts to create the life you want to lead.
But it’s not about good or bad, right or wrong – both parts have a voice and, though this may come as a surprise, both parts actually have good intentions. Sometimes all we hear is the ‘naysayer’. Perhaps the part that’s holding you back has a louder voice and it’s hard to see any good in it.
All behaviour has positive intentions
I believe that at some level most behaviour, however warped, is founded on good intentions. Your inner saboteur may have a funny way of meeting its objectives but ultimately it wants something good for you. Often this part is driven by fear – like an overprotective parent that won’t give a child enough freedom to flourish. That part really does want you to shine, but is just trying to protect you.
Understanding and appreciating that this message comes from a place of love helps you not only forgive yourself, but also take different action. I guide clients through a process that helps shift perspective at a very deep level by listening to the conflicting parts of internal dialogue and hearing the positive intention behind seemingly negative behaviour. This can lead to a profound change, as if looking at life through a new lens.
Once we’ve grasped the positive intention, the aim is to find the resources that each part can contribute and use them to get both sides moving forward together. For example, when I worked with Tina, she talked of the ‘weak’ part of her that felt fragile and frightened. The resources we drew from this was a recognition that we all need help and support so it’s ok to seek it when needed. We don’t have to do things alone, but are stronger and more successful together. She also talked of an ‘internal bully’ who was a perfectionist and felt her work was never good enough. The positive in this is striving for the very best and not compromising.
Pulling in the same direction
Bringing seemingly disparate parts together brings a fulfilling sense of wholeness and a powerful sense of purpose. And something more. When all internal players are on the same team, something seems to shift inside which changes the way you behave. And can sometimes create quite magical results.
See my April 2015 Psychologies article for an example of how I've used this in my work.
Spring has sprung and this April has brought us not only sunshine, but something even brighter - big changes in pensions!
Fundamental reforms, introduced in the 2014 Budget, come into effect this month. But if you don't have a clue what these changes are, you're not alone. To understand the implications, we need to take a step back and clarify some pension jargon. There are two main structures of pension provision:
The first is known as ‘defined contribution’, or ‘money purchase’ where you, the employer, or both, pay in a set amount each month. The fund grows and you end up with a pot of money at retirement. But the size of this pot isn’t fixed - it depends on how much is put in when, investment returns, charges etc. And the pension income you end up receiving is unknown until you start drawing from this pension pot.
The second structure is a ‘defined benefit scheme’, known as a ‘final salary pension’, which pays out a guaranteed level of pension income based on your income when you retire and the number of years you’ve been working.
Most people today are in a ‘defined contribution’ scheme, and the current reforms are mostly in relation to this. So what’s changed? In the past, from the age of 55 you could draw down 25% of your pension pot as cash, tax free, but the rest eventually had to be used to buy an annuity - a guaranteed income for the rest of your life that an insurance company pays out. So you could draw on your pension but only in a pre-determined way according to set parameters.
With the change in legislation there are no set parameters: you can draw as much as you like, when you like. There is no longer a requirement to buy an annuity, and so the only implication is tax. The 25% tax free lump sum stays but the rest is taxed as income as and when you draw it. Plus any bit of the unused pension pot can pass onto your beneficiaries in the event of death (tax-free for the under 75s, and taxed as income for the beneficiary for the over 75s).
Headlines in the press greeted this announcement with dire warnings of pensioners blowing pensions on Lamborghinis and leaving themselves destitute in their old age. I would give people more credit - if you’ve spent your life saving into this pot, you’re not likely to splash the lot and blow your pension.
People in a ‘defined benefit scheme’ will now also be able to transfer their pension to a ‘defined contribution scheme’ to take advantage of the same opportunity for flexibility, but this should only ever be done with extreme caution as you’d be giving up valuable benefits, which are otherwise guaranteed.
Overall I welcome the changes, but with some trepidation. It will mean more freedom and flexibility and many will use that well to enjoy their retirement. But I do have concerns that while the financially savvy will benefit, others could be very vulnerable. What may look like a lot of money as one ‘pot’ may not be if you then go on to live for 30 years or longer. Of course you can still buy an annuity, but they are currently at an all time low, and it’s a once in a lifetime decision that you’re then stuck with.
Having this level of choice about how to deal with your pension pot means having to continue making financial decisions, which means there will be a greater need for financial literacy into old age. To make money decisions you have to ‘stay in the game’, or get professional help, and making decisions on behalf of older people will become more complex. Money anxiety is something I deal with a lot in my work, and there is a risk of greater money anxiety as people get older. So while it will give more options, it also carries more risk.
For more information on this topic:
- I answered some readers queries on the pension changes in April’s Prima magazine
- The Money Advice Service pension calculator enables you to estimate the income you’ll get when you retire
- Pension wise is a free government service to help you understand and evaluate pension options. You can make an appointment to talk this through by phone
- Gov.uk explain the nine things you need to know about the new pension reforms
I was chatting to my hairdresser the other day, having the conversation we’re all having at this time of year: “You all set for Christmas? Done your shopping yet?” She said she was all ready, excited for her young children aged 7 and 10, and revealed that her budget was £500 per child.
I left the hairdresser reeling a bit from this figure, and the wider implications of that kind of spend. It set me thinking about what we’re actually giving our children at Christmas. Every parcel under the Christmas tree is wrapped not just in sparkly paper and ribbons, but in many layers of belief and attitudes and values. While the actual presents may soon be forgotten, these extra layers often stay with people for their whole lives – affecting how they deal with money, love and giving in adulthood.
It’s these beliefs and attitudes – and the emotions they evoke – that are central to my work. Often I'm helping clients to look back at those layers and see them clearly and explore how they may be blocking them from achieving their goals. One of the first questions I ask is what people have absorbed about the subject of money - consciously or unconsciously - throughout their life. And gift giving is one of the clearest ways to see this.
There are different ways of expressing and experiencing love; for instance spending quality time with someone, offering words of affirmation and providing acts of service. Giving gifts is just one way. I don’t think it’s healthy when love and money get tangled up and mistaken for each other. If we spend £500 on saying ‘I love you’ to a young child, what are we setting them up to expect for the future? What will we spend next year? And the next? What if that child grows up and forms a relationship with someone who doesn't give big gifts - will they then feel unloved? And I worry about the implications within the household - research shows that 90% of the UK population aren't putting enough money away for the future - when so much is spent on gifts.
There’s so much manic consumerism that goes on in the lead up to Christmas, and panic that we haven’t bought enough or that our gift or gifts won’t be ‘enough’. Black Friday showed us that we’re so caught up in this frenzy that we’re prepared to fight over consumer goods in public. What is that teaching our children and young people?
I coach clients in other ways of giving - like having a cap on spending, or a secret Santa system so you only have to buy for one person. The solution often involves simply making agreements in advance and managing expectations, and finding meaningful ways to express love and affection without breaking the bank.
Because I spend so much time exploring the money messages that people have grown up with and helping them reframe beliefs that don't serve them, I find it immensely rewarding to work directly with young people. I’ve been working in schools over the past couple of years, facilitating a learning day with 15/16 year olds, helping them to understand money issues they’ll soon face. I’ve also recently done some work for The Girls Network, an inspiring charity that matches disadvantaged girls with professional women as mentors. I’ve run a workshop for them helping the girls to identify their beliefs and behaviour around money, to explore the messages they grew up with and to think ahead to their priorities when they start part time work, and what they’ll spend, save and give away. It’s been some of the most challenging and rewarding work I’ve done.
So, my question to you is what do you want your children to understand about money and love? Let’s start spending and giving more consciously. Fast forward a few years from now and see these young people as adults looking back on the values and beliefs they received and how that has affected their lives. What beliefs and attitudes would you love to give them? Now, that’s a perfect gift.
The words ‘money’ and ‘worries’ go together so often they can seem inseparable. For many people, their relationship with money is fraught with anxiety. In Sheconomics we talk about ‘Money Anxiety Disorder’ (MAD) – a fixation with money worries and a persistent sensation of simply not having enough. I also come across something I call ‘net worth anxiety’ – where people assess themselves at a certain stage of life and compare themselves to friends or colleagues or to their own expectations, and feel that they’ve fallen behind.
Money worries can leave you trapped in a relentless cycle of anxiety. Some clients with ‘net worth anxiety’ come to me so focused on regrets that they waste all their mental energy going over what they should have done or achieved in the past. Others are so anxious about money that they can’t face actually dealing with it, so they refuse to look at the figures, leave envelopes unopened and worsen their financial situation through fines and late payment fees. (One client calls this behaviour ‘fruitbowling’ as she stashes unopened bills and bank statements under her fruit bowl!).
I’ve been working with a number of clients recently to help them minimise the power of anxiety over their thoughts and behaviour and to move towards where they want to be instead. The first step out of these traps is to put their theories to the test. One 46-year-old client was feeling anxious, out of control and totally behind where she felt she should be with her money. We examined whether this perception was actually true – assessing the figures for her finances, putting her pension, mortgage and investments into a spreadsheet. The resulting figures were nowhere near as dismal as she had thought. Her relief was palpable.
Another couple felt they were in a desperate position with the husband coming to the end of a work contract and they were worried about how they could manage their life. We tested this by going through bank statements and estimating their current spending compared to their income. We tested the numbers using lots of different scenarios for the future and discovered they could afford to spend significantly more than they had anticipated.
It's great when I can put someone’s mind at ease by demonstrating that the anxiety is a feeling, not a response to a reality. But even when someone’s financial difficulties are as real as they fear, it’s important to move forward by asking how we can enhance their net worth and work towards their life goals, rather than draining energy going round in endless circles of anxiety and regret. Here I often work with the concept of the ‘slight edge’ based on the book by Jeff Olson – it’s a simple principle that demonstrates how small changes have a compound effect and make a big difference over time. We don’t often associate being in order and control with freedom, flexibility and fun, but facing up to finances, with small steps and sound planning, can put you back in charge of your life.
I’d suggest these five steps as a route out of anxiety:
1) Test the reality
Put your financial situation into actual figures, set them in a spreadsheet and create a projected cash flow. You may need outside help to do this as it’s hard to see the wood from the trees when you’re feeling emotionally charged. So seek help, whether from financially literate friends or family, or from a professional financial adviser or coach.
2) Focus on what you actually want
Focus on what you want, not what you don't want. Draw a picture of your future vision. Watch this inspiring TEDxTalk with Patti Dobrowolski, who offers an inspiring talk and a great template to help you do this.
3) Have gratitude
Focus on what is good and positive, and let go of regrets. Don’t beat yourself up if you perceive you’ve taken a wrong turning in the past.
4) Commit to action
What steps to you need to take to move towards your goals? Take small steps, embracing the ‘slight edge’ and knowing small actions will cumulate to make big changes.
5) Acknowledge and reward
Appreciate what you have done so far to get where you are. Maybe you haven’t made as much money as you’d hoped, but celebrate what you have gained in your life’s story – your net worth is not your whole worth. A life rich in experiences is another type of wealth.
Quote from a new client, highlighting the importance of checking bank statements...
I am so glad I carried out the exercise [monthly income & spending analysis] over the weekend because it transpires over £1,000 has gone missing which I have had to claim back! I don’t think I would have noticed (or I would have blamed it on my ridiculous spending patterns) had it not been for the homework you set!
Click here to download a spreadsheet I send out to my clients to help them analyse their income and spending. Have a go yourself and see where you can make savings.
Are you interested in creating a money breakthrough in your life or business?
I'm excited to be taking part in a fabulous FREE online event, run by my friend Helen Vandenberghe, alongside 19 other experts. My interview airs on Wednesday 27th August at 10am GMT, so register now to tune in! Register at http://www.getclientsfast.net. Or use this link to direct you straight to the teleseminar: http://instantteleseminar.com/?eventid=57994617.
My session will help you discover how to:
- Apply the 7 Laws of Sheconomics to your business
- Challenge your emotions and beliefs about money
- Embrace looking at the numbers
- Make your money fit with your life plan
- Break the taboo of talking
- about money
- Take action to secure your future
And there's a special offer for those who tune in on the day.
I set up text alerts on my current account (this is genius - how did I live without it?!) and cancelled a couple of direct debits for things I didn't need to pay for.
I value the things I buy now. I’ve stopped buying cheap clothes and only occasionally buy stuff. But when I do I only choose things I love.
I set out my prices etc with the clarity and confidence you coached me in. It feels like a landmark to me to get so clear about it and put it out there.
If I feel a twinge of resentment [over something relating to my work], I now recognise that it means that it that I’m undercharging or being taken advantage of. I now use this as a sign to do something different.
Understanding my financial position has given me the confidence to stand up to my partner and tell him I’m not happy. I could never have done this without feeling confident about my own financial independence. Our relationship is now so much better.
The new version of Individual savings Accounts (ISAs) came out today and are now, imaginatively, called New ISAs or NISAs.
What is a NISA?
ISAs have always been a tax-efficient way of investing money either regularly or as a lump sum. In the last tax year to 5th April 2014, you were allowed to invest up to £11,520 into an ISA, but only £5,760 (half of this) could be held as Cash and the combined amounts you could pay into your Cash and Stocks and Shares ISAs had to be less than £11,520.
Under the new rules, you're now able to save up to £15,000 per tax year per person (an increased allowance of £3,480) and the NISA will also offer you the option to save your whole NISA allowance of £15,000 in Cash, Stocks and Shares, or any combination of the two.
You are able to open one cash NISA and one stocks and shares NISA each tax-year with new money. But you can also open other NISAs to transfer old ISAs into. The Treasury is planning to launch a consultation shortly on how investors might gain access to the peer-to-peer lending market through NISAs, but this is unlikely to be available for a while yet.
What are Cash NISAs?
Cash NISAs are a way of saving up to a limited amount each tax year in a bank or building society account without having to pay any tax on the interest. You have the usual range of accounts available from ones offering instant access to ones offering fixed rates provided you lock your money away for a set time frame like 3 years.
What are Stocks & Shares NISAs?
Stocks and Shares (sometimes called Equity) NISAs is a way of investing money into ‘Funds’ which grow tax efficiently. You don’t have to pay tax on money you make in the fund, so if your £10,000 investment is worth £30,000 when you come to sell it, you won't have to pay any tax on the gains. And, apart from dividend income (paid with 10% tax already deducted which can’t be reclaimed), the rest of the income is tax-free. Money invested in Stocks and Shares carries risk so you would usually be advised to consider it committed for at least 5 years, although in practice the money isn't tied in for any set time frame.
Stocks and Shares NISAs are a popular alternative to pensions, especially to basic-rate taxpayers. Although you don’t get tax relief on your NISA contributions (as you would with a pension), they can provide a tax-free income. ISAs give you the freedom to gradually drawdown the investment tax-free any time you choose (not just after the age of 55 like pensions) and use the money any way you like. You may wish to pay off a mortgage, help towards the cost of education for the children or supplement your income when you stop work.
What are Funds?
A ‘Fund’ is a term used to describe an investment into a collective package of shares and/or Bonds. This allows you to combine your money with other investors, which spreads your investment risk across a range of different companies. Funds are usually managed by a Fund Manager who decides which companies to invest in and when to buy and sell the holdings. Unit trusts and Open Ended Investment Companies (OEICs) are both examples of ‘Funds’.
Behavioural economics explores why people sometimes make irrational decisions. Laurie's TED Talk shows how monkeys make the same mistakes as we do when it comes to money.
Read on for some other interesting TED talks on the topic of our relationship with money...
Laurie Santos: A monkey economy as irrational as ours
Laurie Santos looks for the roots of human irrationality by watching the way our primate relatives make decisions. A clever series of experiments in "monkeynomics" shows that some of the silly choices we make, monkeys make too.
Paul Piff: Does money make you mean?
It's amazing what a rigged game of Monopoly can reveal. In this entertaining but sobering talk, social psychologist Paul Piff shares his research into how people behave when they feel wealthy. (Hint: badly.) But while the problem of inequality is a complex and daunting challenge, there's good news too. (Filmed at TEDxMarin.)
Shlomo Benartzi: Saving for tomorrow, tomorrow
It's easy to imagine saving money next week, but how about right now? Generally, we want to spend it. Economist Shlomo Benartzi says this is one of the biggest obstacles to saving enough for retirement, and asks: How do we turn this behavioural challenge into a behavioural solution?
Dan Gilbert: Why we make bad decisions
Dan Gilbert presents research and data from his exploration of happiness — sharing some surprising tests and experiments that you can also try on yourself. Watch through to the end for a sparkling Q&A with some familiar TED faces.
Keith Chen: Could your language affect your ability to save money?
What can economists learn from linguists? Behavioral economist Keith Chen introduces a fascinating pattern from his research: that languages without a concept for the future — "It rain tomorrow," instead of "It will rain tomorrow" — correlate strongly with high savings rates.
I've had an exciting few months, which has caused me to be relatively quiet on the Wise Monkey social media front for a while. I took a bit of time out from tweeting and facebooking to take stock and plan my next direction. Some recent tasks and events - updating my website, creating a new video to succinctly explain what I do, regulatory issues and preparing a one-minute speech as well as a teleseminar - have required me to assess what I do and why, and to distill the essence of my work.
Rediscovering and re-invigorating my ‘what and why’ has been a wonderful process. Not that I’d ever lost sight of it, but I hadn’t stepped back for a while to see the whole picture. In going through that process myself, I felt a lot of resonance with the work I do with many of my clients – taking action to break the paralysis of indecision, while re-focusing on original goals.
Client cases as examples
I worked through more than a dozen recent client cases to assess what the common threads were and to assess what I was actually doing and I saw that my work was essentially about empowering people to stand on their own two feet and make their own decisions.
For example, one client had inherited wealth but a great sense of a lack of trust in the financial services industry. I helped her through the process of finding a suitable financial advisor, but I’m there on the sidelines helping her think through the pros and cons and what questions to ask, helping her re-frame her situation.
Another client was the beneficiary of a large trust fund but felt like a ‘little girl’ amidst the rest of her family, not understanding the financial terminology and feeling like no-one spoke her language. I’m here to help her make the right decision for her. After going through the Life Planning process she's now seeking to set up a foundation for a cause that is important to her, and in doing so has found a fulfilling way to make this money work for what mattered to her.
One more client had separated from her partner and had agreed a settlement where he got a share of the value of the house, but she hadn’t sold as she wanted to give their young children the stability of their home. Now the kids were older she was trying to decide whether she should sell or whether she could raise the finance to buy him out. She didn’t have a partner to talk this through with, and it can be difficult to talk to friends about such emotional money issues. I helped her think through the actual figures involved, to weigh up the pros and cons – both in financial and emotional terms. Within a 2-hour session she was able to come to a conclusion and feel confident with it.
Bringing it all together
All of this has made me fall in love with my work all over again. I'll be ready to launch my new website soon - details to follow - and will be tweeting and facebooking again with renewed clarity.
Meanwhile, take a look at my new video and let me know what you think:
I can highly recommend the services of of Megan Price who did a fantastic job creating the video: http://www.bethefox.co.uk. Thanks so much Meg and a big thanks too to my clients who contributed to the video!
By Marianne Curphey
Published: 15 April 2014
Think about the last time you went shopping for no particular reason. Perhaps it was a sunny Saturday afternoon, maybe just after hearing some excellent news. Or maybe it was a rainy, cold day, and you had just been through a breakup. Whether you're fuelling your good disposition or aiming to make yourself feel better, your mood has more impact on your spending than you may think. But there are ways to fight the urge to splurge.
Four out of five Brits questioned in a TopCashback study said mood affects their spending habits, and that they are more likely to spend when they are feeling happy. That doesn't mean we don't shop when we're sad, though - about half the respondents said they succumb to retail therapy when they are feeling low.
Other factors play a part too: if shop staff is friendly and the sun is shining then we are more likely to get our wallets out, according to the study. Boredom and location come into play, as well as self-esteem and impulsiveness.
Karen Pine, professor of developmental psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, says that feelings about money are tied deeply to mood and how people feel about themselves.
Simonne Gnessen, founder of Wise Monkey Financial Coaching, agrees.
"As humans, we need to maintain our mental and physical wellbeing, and shopping is one way that we can do that," she says.
Whether you're in good spirits -- perhaps celebrating the completion of a big project or a pay raise -- or a foul mood, shopping is often the outlet we use to express our emotions, she says.
"It provides momentary pleasure, which can cause us long-term financial pain," Gnessen says.
Spending more than usual on holiday is also a common psychological phenomenon.
"On holiday we adopt a different form of mental accounting," Gnessen explains. "It is a different country and a different state of mind, and we feel that the normal rules don't apply."
Question yourself before you spend
We need to find other ways to reward ourselves, says Gnessen. She suggests that you:
1. Be aware of the triggers that make you spend. Do you have an itch to buy something each payday or head to the shops when you fight with your spouse? Figure out the factors that lead you to pull out the plastic.
2. Ask yourself if you really need whatever you're buying. Are those shoes you're eyeing similar to a pair already in your closet? Do you really need a tablet if you already have a smartphone? Think about how practical your purchase is and how often you see yourself using it before you use your card.
3. Take only cash if you think you might be tempted to overspend. It's OK to reward yourself for getting a raise, as long as you don't go overboard. Leaving your cards at home will limit you to an appropriately priced reward.
4. Develop alternative hobbies to shopping, such as going for a run.
5. If you shop when you are bored, find something else to do that inspires you. Try learning a new skill or language instead of looking through the clothes racks.
6. Don't shop when you are angry, emotional, frustrated or hungry.
At the heart of my work is my tool kit: an ever-developing collection of methods, techniques, resources and ideas that I can draw upon to help people improve their relationship with money. Some of the tools are my own creations, others I have discovered elsewhere. I enjoy adapting different tools to suit a client’s particular needs or selecting a combination to suit a specific situation.
I was researching ideas for group workshops with adults when I came across Money Habitudes, a card game to help people talk about money. Right away I was intrigued - it looked like a fun and interactive tool that I could use with individuals as well as groups.
The cards were developed in the US by Sybil Solomon. She wanted to create an easy way to get people thinking honestly and openly about money and so used an activity with positive social connotations: playing cards. I felt an immediate resonance with my own work and so I got in touch with Sybil and discussed ways of bringing the cards into the UK as they were previously only available via the US.
The game consists of 54 cards representing specific attitudes or behaviour to do with money, such as ‘ I feel I should pay the bill when I eat out with others’ or ‘When I go shopping I have to buy something’. You work though the pack, sorting the cards into three piles: ‘that’s me’; ‘that’s not me’; and ‘sometimes’. You then take the ‘that’s me’ pile and turn over the cards to divide them into six categories: Planning, Carefree Security, Spontaneous, Status and Giving.
Everyone is a combination of different Habitudes but there is normally a majority in one or two categories in your ‘that’s me’ pile, so you can see at a glance where your dominant Habitudes lie – for example, if most of the cards are in ‘Status’ then that’s what’s most important, or if there’s nothing in ‘Security’ but plenty in ‘Carefree’, or vice versa.
There’s no right or wrong and that’s the beauty of it – it’s not about any judgment. There are advantages and challenges to all Habitudes and the game is really about getting a good balance that’s right for you and your goals. There’s a card to help you interpret each dominant Habitude, suggesting how you may see yourself and how others may see you, as well as actions you could take to create more balance if you identify with some of the challenges. It uses the ‘that’s me’ pile as way of gaining greater awareness, and then offers ideas to help you do something different to change behaviour if it is not serving you.
I played the cards with one client who had mostly ‘carefree’ and ‘giving’ cards and was very low on ‘planning’ and ‘security’. She was very uncomfortable with the financial side of her business and found it really difficult to quote fees for her work. When she did, she went out of her way to make sure she gave good value, which often meant she was out of pocket and wasn’t earning what she needed. We used the cards to help her see how unbalanced this was and to generate a discussion about where these automatic responses come from. She became aware of her self-limiting beliefs and we worked through some strategies to experiment with different behaviour. She’s now got some clear financial goals and is monitoring her spending regularly and has found a voluntary project which enables her to give but without confusing this with her commercial work.
It’s also a fantastic tool to use with couples, to help them align their goals and open a channel of communication regarding money. Our relationship with money can be so tangled up in shame or other negative emotions, using a game helps couples find a way to talk about money in an emotionally neutral way.
When I’m working with couples and one has most cards in ‘security’ and the other in ‘spontaneous’, it’s easy to see why there may be disagreements or tension between them and it gives each an awareness of the other’s perspective. It’s a powerful experience to enable people to look at their situation anew and to understand each other better.
The cards retail at £15.99 plus postage and packaging. Please get in touch if you’re interested in buying a pack(s).
If you desire a change in life, watch this inspiring TEDxTalks “Draw your future: Patti Dobrowolski @ TEDxRainier”. It shows you how to leverage your power of imagination and visualisation to actualise the desired vision of your future…
Spending can often fill a void and I’m always looking at ways to help clients lead more fulfilling lives, and use money in the most effective ways to create the lives they most desire.
At last scientists are starting to discover what really makes us happy. And now you can put it into action.
Do Something Different (the movement co-founded by Professor Karen Pine, co-author of Sheconomics) has teamed up with Action for Happiness to create Do Happiness. It’s all about less moaning and more appreciating.
And when you buy one happiness programme you automatically create a free one for someone who can’t afford it. So you’re spreading happiness right
from the start.
Do Happiness is a six-week programme of small personalised actions (Do’s) designed to supercharge your happiness levels - and spread happiness to others.
The programme is simple. You complete a quick online happiness questionnaire and then you get sent daily Do’s: powerful actions designed by psychologists, and picked especially for you, to act upon. And access to a Do Zone in which to log and share them.
Do Happiness costs £15 for a six-week programme – a total of 32 daily Do’s sent by email and/or text.
Find out more
I just came cross this poem, which I know will resonate for those of you reaching out to create something different in this world through your work:When things go wrong as they sometimes will;
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill;
When the funds are low, and the debts are high
And you want to smile, but have to sigh;
When care is pressing you down a bit-
Rest if you must, but do not quit.
Success is failure turned inside out;
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt;
And you can never tell how close you are
It may be near when it seems so far;
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit-
It’s when things go wrong that you must not quit.
“Don’t Quit” Author Unknown
I’m very excited about a trip to Guildford on Tuesday 19th November to speak at an event with the Hub Dot. It would be great if you could join us.
Connecting through Children
A coffee morning unlike anything you’ve seen before
Tuesday 19th November
9.30am PROMPT ‘til 11.30am at Anthropologie, 149 High Street Guildford, GU1 3AD
Tickets are £10 and must be purchased in advance.
I connected with Simona Barbieri, the founder of The Hub Dot through a client of mine and felt an immediate resonance with her and the refreshing approach of her concept. We felt a synergy - both of us coming from, what she described as, a ‘soulful business’ perspective.
Simona started the Hub Dot last year when she was looking for a new approach to networking where women could come together and support each
other and, most importantly, meet for real, rather than in an online environment. So she sent out an email to friends, family and colleagues inviting them to her house for an informal coffee morning.
To help people engage with each other, she created the concept of wearing coloured dots, denoting not who you are but how you would like to engage. For example, a red dot means “I’m established – whether in business, career or motherhood – please feel free to ask more”; a yellow dot means “I have an idea, can anyone help”. By wearing any combination of five coloured dots, participants had an easy way in to conversations without anyone labeled or categorised.
The first event was a phenomenal success and since then Hub Dot has snowballed into an international community of inspiring businesswomen, with regular events in London and Naples and more planned for other major cities. Events are of very different shapes and sizes, but all use the same formula of the coloured dots and a range of speakers, who speak for just a few minutes – not selling their brand but sharing their stories with honesty and integrity and a great sense of fun.
I’m delighted to be able to be a part of it, and if you’re in the Guildford area next Tuesday please register to join us:
Tickets are £10 and must be purchased in advance.
If you’re not, do check out the films on the Hub Dot website for a taste of these upbeat and uplifting occasions.
Need a boost to get your business moving?
I would love you to join me for the Expert Tele-summit on Improving Your Business. This is a FREE conference held over the phone over September 17 – 19. So you can dial in from the comfort of your home or office, and download the recordings if you can’t make the call. I am speaking on Thursday 19th September at 3pm BST about How to Improve your Relationship with Money and your Business using the 7 Laws of Sheconomics.
The tele-summit is hosted by Wendy Kerr, of Corporate Crossovers, and as well as me, she has joined forces with the leading women entrepreneurial experts to help you and your business succeed! 12 experts over 3 days – all calls will be filled with actionable advice you can apply to your business immediately. You will learn about whether your website is legal, how to price for profit and making social media really work for you. And other topics essential for your business.
Life Planning Teleconference July 2013
Once a month the Life Planning community get together in what they call a “Town Hall Teleconference” (originated in the US as you no doubt guessed) where practitioners from all over the world discuss their experience of Financial Life Planning. People share questions, client experiences and insights and support each other to build a vibrant Life Planning community.
I was privileged to be invited to be a guest speaker at the Town Hall teleconference in July 2013 to talk about how I’ve integrated Financial Life Planning into my work as I’m renowned to providing a different service to all the other practitioners both in the UK and overseas.
The recording is a bit shaky in parts, but have a listen through to the end as I share how Life Planning has changed my life on a personal basis.
Money and emotions
My interview with Wired For Success TV, talking about my pioneering approach to helping people deal with their finances and tackle their relationship with money. Boy, do I blink a lot!
You have the choice of watching a videoed recording or listening to a podcast of the interview.
It’s fantastic to hear about how people’s lives change through working on their relationship with money. An inspiring review on Amazon recently told how reading Sheconomics, combined with some one-to-one financial coaching, transformed one woman’s life. She cleared her debts and is hugely excited about being back in control financially.
Often clients call me when they’re in crisis. It’s wonderful to work with them to plan an escape route and support them on the necessary steps to move towards all that they want in life. Their ‘debt free day’ becomes an inspiring light to aim for, and it’s an exhilarating moment when that day arrives and they suddenly look out at the expansive horizon and new possibilities.
But the next stage is even more exciting - doing some financial planning to help clients achieve their big dream. Here’s three steps to get you started:
Step 1) Build a contingency fund When money is no longer going into debt repayments it can be all too tempting to rush out and spend it. Start to build an emergency reserve now so you don’t plunge back into debt. Enough to live off for three months is ideal, saved somewhere accessible (e.g. in a cash ISA).
Build this fund by arranging a monthly direct debit to go out soon after you get paid.Then the money is automatically saved each month, before you can
get your hands on it and spend it.
Step 2) Take a long view
Next look to that horizon and see how your financial future looks.
If you have an employee’s pension scheme review it regularly, especially the contribution rate. Sometimes the employer will match contributions up to a maximum limit. I often come across clients who are paying 1% of their salary into a pension pot, and the employer likewise, could get matched funding up to 8%. So by finding that extra 7% (as little as 4.2% after tax for higher rate taxpayers), they could be putting 14% more into their future.
In fact, with one client we worked out that a cost of £60 per month would result in having £238 per month invested (counting in the added contributions from her employer and top-ups from tax/national insurance savings)! Fortunately all companies are being forced to pay into pension schemes for their staff over the next few years through auto-enrolment. So check this out if you’re eligible.
Some people reduce their contributions during an expensive period in life, like buying a house or having a baby, then simply forget to increase them again. And self-employed people, under the current rules, have to finance more of their future for themselves. Many of the self-employed hope their business will be their pension, but that can be risky. Starting to make small amounts of savings, with the power of compound interest, can make a big difference.
It’s all about having a strategy and not necessarily at any extra cost. With some careful strategic planning now you can make a massive difference to your
Step 3) Mind the gap
Most people’s financial strategy is to drift along, put a bit of money aside when they can and hope for the best. But doing some simple maths could take your future planning a step further:
A = Assess where you’ll be a a future date. Maybe the mortgage will be paid off and the kids might even be off your hands? Work out how much income you’ll need per month in today’s terms.
B = Then simply check out what state pension you’ll get, and any company pension. And add in any other income, or circumstances, such as a property downgrade for instance.
Calculate A – B and you’ve got your shortfall
Once you know your shortfall online pension calculators show you what you would need to be saving to generate enough to provide the income you identified at A.
Pensions are boring and the future’s a long way off, right? If that’s how you feel, think of it instead as a gift to your future self.
‘Know tomorrow comes’ is the 7th Law of Sheconomics. That needn’t be all doom and gloom. See it as a gift to the woman you’ll be in 10, 20, 30 years
time. Look after her, make sure she’s ok, and she’ll be immensely grateful to you. The steps you take now could dramatically effect whether her life is a dream .... or a nightmare.
What can be more exciting than knowing the dream life you want in the future ... and planning how to get there?
I’ve made a short video to show you a step by step approach which helped me personally save over £100 a year on my gas and electricity bills, while avoiding future price rises for another 18 months. It’s easy and effortless - I promise!
For more help, check out the services I offer or read my book, Sheconomics.
I’m still buzzing from our training last week, taking six trainees through our five-day Financial Coach Practitioner Certificate programme. We had a great mix of participants - including one who travelled from Mozambique to join us – and from different professional disciplines.
It was wonderful to work with Jude Kutner again, our training consultant who helped me turn my methodology, tools, resources and experience into a powerful experiential training that was interactive and fun. Everyone received focused feedback to enable them to build and consolidate their skills throughout the week. The feedback we’ve received has been incredible and I felt such immense pride seeing the transformation in each of the trainees as their confidence and skills expanded.
I’m very excited to welcome them into the Wise Monkey network and look forward to providing more support as they embark on their journeys to develop their financial coaching practices.
Last night, I delivered a workshop in Brighton where I got everyone talking about their relationship with money. It was playful and fun – not what people would expect from a workshop about money!
It involved lots of exercises including one where I drew a tea pot and asked: ‘If money came to tea how would it behave? What would it wear? What would it say?’ This revealed some of their unconscious thoughts and messages about money.
Everyone loved playing the ‘Money Habitudes’ cards, a game that reveals your habits and attitudes around money in a fun and non-threatening way. There’s no judgement, no right or wrong - it’s all about understanding yourself and driving forward action to achieve a better balance.
I’ve been working with groups of therapists using these cards as well, as one of many tools for themselves and their clients. This is a sector I really want to work with more. Therapists go through extensive training but no-one teaches them about money issues, even though money is a great cause of unhappiness and stress among their own clients. My work helps them find ways to broach the subject and to help people think about, and challenge, their relationship to money.
I’m hoping to do more of these workshops. All this work is gaining momentum and I’m excited to see where it will lead. Watch this space for details of further training and workshops. If you’re interested in attending or hosting a workshop, please get in touch.
I’m still buzzing from the Financial Life Planning conference, which took place in London at the end of January. The minute I walked into the conference room it felt like a family gathering. There was a sense of familiarity, warmth and openness there, and I felt a sense of belonging that’s not usual in the world of financial services!
I was also excited about having a chance to participate in a panel discussion covering how I’ve integrated Life Planning into my work to meet the needs of the mass-market.
Life Planning is a new approach to financial advice, developed by the US-based Kinder Institute. It offers a radically different perspective, with a focus on the client as a person rather than financial products. The process involves working together through a series of exercises and questions to get to the heart of what is really most profoundly important in someone’s life, and only then assessing what financial architecture is needed to make it happen. So money is put in its rightful place – as the means, where the end is a fulfilling life, rather than treating money as the end in itself.
I came away from the conference full of ideas, and inspired by the many stories that had been shared about the impact of Life Planning on client’s lives. It made me think about my own story and the process I went through in discovering who I was and what I had to offer.
Back in 1999 I was living in London and working as an Independent Financial Advisor. Superficially I had it all: good earnings and lifestyle, lovely flat, great circle of close friends, yet I felt that something was missing. What followed was a bit of a journey of personal development. I began to understand myself more and uncovered some of the blocks to my own self limitations. Six months later I decided to quit my job to fulfill a life-long dream of travelling the world. I declined the offer of a sabatical, so that I could take a clean break and be free of any ties.
I returned after a year away and had a different perspective about my work. I didn't want to compromise in any way and created my own unique definition of success. What evolved for me, amongst other things, was a clear vision that I wanted to use my financial knowledge and skills to help people in a different way. It was no longer especially about helping people increase their wealth, it was much more about helping people use money to help them live their dreams and overcome barriers that got in the way.
Slowly the Wise Monkey concept took shape. The financial advisory world was never quite me – I can now see that I always offered more of a coaching service alongside the advice I provided. Shaping my vision was like putting a jigsaw together and one of the final pieces was the word ‘coach’. What I wanted to do didn’t exist so I had to create it, developing the language, tools and processes to fit the way I work with clients. I then trained in areas that would best support my clients – including coaching and NLP.
I became interested in Life Planning through the work of the founder, George Kinder. His interpretation of people’s journey with money really resonated with what I was doing - there was a synergy there so we met to explore how we could work together. I took part in one of his workshops and seeing the power of the questions and exercises, I decided to undertake the training myself.
I completed the training in 2011, including a six-month mentorship programme, and I’m now one of 37 Registered Life Planners® (RLPs®) in the UK. I love feeling part of a team with the common aim of helping people live fulfilling lives, and the depth of trust and friendship that develops with clients through sharing their hopes, dreams, fears and pain. For me the life planning process is one new tool in my tool kit, and a very powerful one. I use the techniques in my own way, integrating them into my financial coaching practice. Because I take a flexible approach, I’m able to be open to new developments in the field and use them to respond to the needs of my clients, so my work is constantly evolving.
Click here for more information on Financial Life Planning.
We’re all for setting realistic, achievable goals so here’s a simple springtime challenge for you.
Pick one of these 10 suggestions and decide to do it. If it helps find a friend or partner, pick a task you both need to do and do it together. Sit down one evening, open a bottle of Rioja and browse price comparison websites together. Or take turns to help sort each other’s paper mountains over a packet of chocolate biscuits.
Do whatever you need to do to make the tasks more palatable and then decide on one action - one small sweet step at a time. Never underestimate the power of doing what you say you’ll do…we guarantee it will put a spring in your step. So, are you ready ...?
1) Get your paperwork in order
You can’t beat the feelgood factor of having your paperwork in order. Piles of paper can make overwhelming mountains out of administrative molehills. Sorting it out is often just a question of getting a good system in place – it’s the dithering and agonising over where to put something that often makes us put off the whole task. So think what small steps could help make filing a doddle of a daily habit. One idea is to create clearly labelled, separate files in transparent wallets for each account and keep them somewhere safe and accessible. All this is especially important if you have your own business. This is the time to organise receipts and gather your paperwork for the end of the tax year. If you get your return done now you’ll have plenty of time to plan for the next big tax bill (in January 2013) and you may save on accounting fees – some accountants charge less if you get your returns in early.
2) Start saving
If you’re not already a regular saver it’s time to get the saving habit. Set up a system, whether it’s £50 a month transferred to a savings account, or even a tenner in a tin! The important thing is to save by default rather than waiting until you feel you have enough to save, as that feeling may never happen.
3) Check your interest
It’s in your interest to keep up to speed with interest rates on savings accounts or cash ISAs. The new tax year (6 April 2012 to 5 April 2013) has brought a fresh allowance for cash ISAs – you can now save up to £5,640 per person tax free. If you’ve got old savings accounts that pay low rates it’s well worth transferring your money to an account that gives you more. Many accounts lure you in with an introductory bonus rates that only last for 12 months, so don’t fall into the trap of sitting tight on old accounts.
4) Deal with debts
If you have any debts, now’s a great time to sit down and work out a payment plan to clear them. Make a list of everyone you owe money to, how much you owe, the minimum payments you’re currently making to each and the rate of interest you’re being charged. With that information ready, Most people who take out a loan to repay their debt end up accumulating further debt within the year. So we’re all for snowballing it. We show you on the video above some great tools to help you work out a plan to become debt-free.
5) Review your mortgage
It’s time to review your options – maybe arranging an appointment with a mortgage broker to assess whether your current mortgage arrangements are still right for you. For example if you’re on a standard variable rate deal, would now be a good time to switch to a fixed or tracker rate mortgage? Or if your mortgage is interest only, could you now switch to repayment? If you’re struggling to afford to meet the extra repayments, find out if your mortgage lender will allow you to overpay the loan without penalty, so that way you could at least build up funds towards the cost of the mortgage itself and not just the interest. This can be a good half way house if you don’t feel able to make the monthly commitment of a repayment mortgage. The important thing is to do something towards eventually repaying your mortgage, even if that is building up savings or arranging an investment that could build to a lump sum to repay the loan.
6) Review your net worth
Your net worth is like a financial report card, enabling you to take stock of the complete picture of your finances rather than just seeing one aspect. It gives you a figure that is the total value of your property, pensions, savings and investments, minus any mortgages, loans, credit cards or other debt – and you can calculate it using our ‘What’s your Net Worth’ worksheet, which you can download from the downloads page on our Sheconomics site. This figure gives a valuable perspective to check in with yourself, comparing where you stand from one year to the next and to make, and keep track of, your financial goals.
7) Review your energy and phone supplies
They’re banking on the fact that few of us do this. We’re often put off by thinking it’s going to be a daunting, time-consuming and complex task, but there are plenty of websites and online tools that make comparisons easy. Sometimes it’s just about negotiating the best tariffs with your current suppliers. Compare deals for utility bills by visiting www.uswitch.com.
Compare the latest mobile phone bills via moneysupermarket.com/mobile-phones and ensure you understand your phone tariff so you’ll be less likely to go over your allowance. Take a look at Martin Lewis’ website to review whether you’re on the best home phone package.
8) Check your credit rating
It’s good to do this once a year so that you know for sure that everything is ok on your record. Don’t wait until you have to borrow money as you may then not have time to address any mistakes or problems. It is possible to check this without being charged through a 30 day free trial with an online credit reference agency such as Experian (Credit Check), but be sure to read the small print and beware of the trap - it’s easy to sign up for the free trial and then forget to cancel it within the 30 days (and they don’t make it easy, it’s not a direct debit and you have to phone or email to cancel it).
If you think you’re unlikely to cancel, it could make more sense just to do things the old fashioned way and complete a form and send it off by post with a cheque for £2.
9) Gem up on the 2012 Budget
Are you up to speed with the 2012 Budget and how the changes may affect you in terms of tax credits, child benefits, personal allowances and more? Savvywoman’s Sarah Pennells has a good summary of the key points and information on the Budget changes to benefits, especially to working and child tax credits. We’d also suggest using this online calculator from the Guardian to assess the implications for you. You may need to review your personal spending and household budget in the light of any changes.
10) Find time for your finances
Last but most definitely not least, schedule some time each week or each month to devote to your financial housekeeping. Just like the physical housework, it’s the compound effect of small, regular efforts that can make a massive difference. With money, achieving your goals is normally not about how much you earn but how you control your cash and this regular attention could mean the difference between a comfortable retirement or trying to live on a State pension. So give it a regular slot in your diary, to check your bank balances, review, diarise, prioritise, and decide when you’ll do the rest of these spring cleaning tips…!
The end of the tax year is fast approaching. There’s some last minute planning you can do to make full use of your allowances. If you haven’t yet used up your Cash ISA allowance, and want to do so before the tax year end this week, watch this video to find out how…
I’ve found myself mentioning Maria Nemeth’s work quite a bit to clients recently. She wrote a compassionate and empowering book in 1997 called ‘The Energy of Money’ and she talks about success being ‘doing what you say you’re going to do in life, with clarity, ease, focus, and grace’.
The same goes for financial success. In other words, it’s not about how much money you have in the bank, or invested in property, pensions and ISAs. Or anything to do with where you go on holiday, whether your kids are privately educated and whether or not you can afford a cleaner or shop in Waitrose. It’s about moment by moment decisions where you do what you said you were going to do with money, with clarity, focus, ease and grace.
If you’re in debt with no assets to your name, you can still choose to be grateful and to apply these principles to your life, to provide you with financial success.
You can learn more about Maria’s work, from her website: http://marianemeth.com.
Suddenly it’s December again and Christmas is coming hurtling towards us in a blur of sparkly lights and parties and last minute shopping, making excessive demands on our budgets. That’s how it often feels – to have come suddenly at us, even though December follows November each and every year.
One of my clients, Anna, is taking Advanced Driving lessons and her instructor had said that the most common word in accident reports was ‘suddenly’: ‘suddenly the van came hurtling round the corner’; ‘the car ahead braked suddenly’. Anna was learning that Advanced driving skills are all about anticipation - looking well ahead, adjusting your behaviour to ensure a smooth ride. Things rarely happen ‘suddenly’ if you’re anticipating well. She realised that she was making the same mistakes with her finances as she was with her driving: not looking far enough ahead and not seeing things coming until they were too close. And this resulted in a bumpy financial ride – often lurching, sometimes swerving and occasionally crashing.
So while you’re filling in your shiny new diary for 2012, it’s worth taking the time to think about the costs that are coming in the year ahead – smoothing out your expenditure will ensure a safer and far more comfortable ride through the year. Download our simple chart and fill in all the occasional spends that you can see coming through the year: birthdays, holidays, car costs, Christmas etc. Then, you can estimate the total amount you need to save each month towards these costs.
In our experience people get into money trouble because they haven’t anticipated these occasional costs. You can plan more than you think you can and anticipate what is coming to avoid ‘sudden’ financial shocks. Think through the different spheres of your life - any computer equipment? House repairs or maintenance? Home or garden improvements? Replacement of electrical goods? Some will be personal to you – mooring costs, for example, if you live on a boat!
When you have filled in the chart, the aim is to spread the costs as evenly as possible through the year. Explore the options to pay costs such as insurances monthly if you can to avoid an annual lump sum causing a pot hole in your purse. Car insurance may be more costly to pay monthly but if it helps smooth your cash flow it could make sense for you. Once you’ve anticipated your costs you can set aside a monthly equivalent, it will help you on a much more relaxed journey through the new year.
Are you someone who doesn’t live up to your earning potential? Try our Sheconomics quiz to find out.
Women in particular often undervalue their worth and dread asking for pay rises or increasing their rates. We happily give away our time and skills at bargain prices because we don’t trust that we’re worth more.
If you can identify with this, here’s a trick to help you convince yourself that you’re worth whatever you want to earn:
Take yourself off into a room alone for five minutes. Then, say out loud the amount you want to earn. It’s important to actually speak, rather than just think. Shout out your ideal annual salary, your anticipated profits or your daily or hourly rate.
Maybe you’re aiming for a daily rate of £600 per day. Start by saying ‘I earn £600 a day’. Then double it and say, ‘I earn £1,200 a day’. Then keep doubling it again and again, until you reach a ridiculous day rate that even David Beckham wouldn’t expect.
When you reach that silly figure, practice saying aloud that you are bringing in this whopping amount. Keep it up until you can say it in a neutral way, just as you’d reel off your own phone number. This tricks your subconscious mind into believing what you’re saying. Then, when you quote that higher daily rate, it’ll seem like peanuts and you’ll come across with real conviction.
Try it – it works!
The government’s just announced that parents who are higher rate tax payers (currently those earning more than £43,875 a year) will have their child benefit axed from 2013. The benefit will be stopped even if only one parent falls into that tax bracket. This will affect families with only one parent working the most. Hmm… I can see this affecting lots of women.
But… wait for it, there’s some good news.
These higher rate tax bands are based on the amount of income you pay tax on and there are ways to reduce your taxable income. One brilliant way is to make a contribution into a private, or company, pension scheme. So, let’s say you earn £46,000, and you pay £300 a month (or £3,600 a year) into a pension plan before tax, your taxable income would be treated as £42,400 (£46,000 less £3,600) which is below the higher rate tax limit. So, hey presto you still qualify for child benefit. The other great thing is that you’ll be putting away money as a gift for your future self (another way of saying saving for retirement!). Even better, the pension company would only actually collect £240 a month (£2,880 a year) because you automatically receive 20% tax relief on any pension contributions you make.
While we’re in back to school mode and thinking about financial education how would you like your kids to teach you about the stockmarket?
Or to see them getting enthused by the idea of building wealth when they get older?
Well, thanks to an episode of Radio 4’s Moneybox, I came across this fantastic site where kids can play at trading the stockmarket via a fantasy stock market game . It’s run through an organisation called OINK! – a business newspaper for kids aged 7 to 12 teaching money matters to kids in a fun, off the wall, way.
The game gives them the experience of buying and selling shares, keeping track of all their trades as well as the chance to win prizes.
Another great online game for teenage kids is 56 Sage Street. This gives teens the experience of making good financial decisions, using money wisely and avoiding temptations. Having arrived in the city with only £4, their mission is to progress through the game proving to the self-made millionaire owner of 56 Sage Street that they’re worthy of taking over his Empire! They have to make choices too, for example between a job that pays well or one that boosts their reputation. Great lessons for life- and ones that aren’t taught in schools.
This article was created by Joanne Wallen from Complinet (firstname.lastname@example.org) and is reproduced here with her permission.
While some financial advisers are still fretting about the impact of the Retail Distribution Review on their business, two women are fired up by new business models to suit both ends of the financial spectrum. At the higher end, for those with at least some money to invest, Financial Life Planning is rapidly gaining momentum, while at the other end of the spectrum, financial coaching offers people who may have nothing but debt or a bad spending habit some tips for relieving money-related stress.
Tina Weeks, a financial planner who runs Serenity Financial Planning, has just qualified as the first female Registered Life Planner in the UK. The RLP designation is awarded by the Kinder Institute of Life Planning in the US and means that Weeks has completed a two-day workshop, a five-day advanced life planning training and six months of "intensive personal mentoring". Weeks has become one of only seven RLPs in the UK, but the Kinder Institute expects this number to rise rapidly this year.
Life planning was developed by Kinder Institute founders George Kinder and Richard Wagner. It offers a structured methodology for delving deeper into clients' lives, and trying to establish their goals and passions and what they want to achieve with their lives. This then feeds in to the more traditional financial planning to produce a financial plan that enables clients to work toward fulfilling their goals. As well as introducing life planning to her own financial planning business, Weeks has been instrumental in running workshops around the UK to introduce financial advisers to the concepts of life planning. The workshops are run in conjunction with the IFA Life web site. Founder Philip Calvert described life planning as: "The most significant opportunity the financial planning industry has ever seen".
Weeks told Complinet that life planning as an adjunct to financial planning played absolutely to the concepts of increased professionalism and treating customers fairly that the RDR was trying to achieve. "Life planning helps create a practical solution that is so client-focused and client-centric that the client doesn't mind paying for it. When you connect life and financial planning there is a symbiosis. One cannot work without the other."
The recent RDR policy statement confirmed among other things that anyone offering financial "advice" post 2012 would need to have a minimum qualification level of QCF level four, equivalent to a diploma or the first year of a bachelor's degree. Many existing financial advisers have been unhappy about being forced to sit further examinations and estimates of how many are likely to leave the industry or change roles after 2012 vary from about 10 per cent to up to 30 per cent. The Financial Services Authority and supporters of the RDR maintain that the industry needs to raise its levels of professionalism and to be seen as a profession alongside accountancy and law.
Weeks said: "The importance of professionalism through examination has never been more important, but so too are a financial planner's inter-personal skills. I, like many IFAs, thought I was already life planning, but it was only when I started on the Kinder training that I realised there was very much more to it."
There have also been many concerns voiced about how the RDR would drive advisers higher up the social spectrum to service high-net-worth individuals, which would leave the majority of consumers without access to good financial advice.
After two years of fun writing, we're excited to say that Sheconomics, is finally on the bookshelves! We were lucky enough to get a double page spread in The Times about the book, written by Carol Midgley.
If you don't subscribe to The Times you won't be able to read the article in full, so here it is...
Women must wise up about money, says Sheconomics, a new book about personal finance
Pensions. Equity. Compound interest. Yawn. Yes, financial stuff is all a bit tedious but since there will be no escaping it this year we may as well start getting our heads around it. Ah, but that’s just the problem, see. One half of the population apparently finds that easier to do than the other. Women frequently have a mental “off” switch when it comes to financial jargon. They tend to be more frightened of and embarrassed by money, making them less likely to ask for a pay rise. Sometimes they are positively babyish, happily letting men take charge. Their attitude to spending is much more emotionally driven than men’s, which is why so many females shop to cheer themselves up. Theirs is a world of illogical priorities where they will happily spend hundreds of pounds on a dress that they will wear once, yet won’t buy a small pension.
This is according to Sheconomics, a new book written by Karen Pine, a psychologist, and Simonne Gnessen, a financial coach. If it all sounds a bit patronising or sexist - and, frankly, parts of the book do - the authors, both women, say they know that there are many women who are brilliant with money. But they are acknowledging what research and years of experience bears out: that in general women struggle more to plan for their economic futures than men and the very language of the financial world tends to alienate them.
When Andrea Dworkin said: “Money speaks but it speaks with a male voice”, she probably didn’t mean it literally, but Pine, a professor of Developmental Psychology at Hertfordshire University, says that
most financial advice is indeed written by men for men; it is very dry, very boring and doesn’t use a language that speaks to women.
While parts of this book sound fluffy (things such as “interest rates change more often than the fashion for skinny jeans”), the underlying message is not: if women don’t grow up about money and start behaving more like men then financially they could be looking forward to a bleak old age. Especially since many will be divorced and facing retirement single.
Women generally earn less than men and live for longer yet, says Sheconomics, though they can often, say, “plan a wedding with military precision” they cannot order their own economic lives. This can sometimes stem from “low self-efficacy”. The term self-efficacy was coined by the psychologist Albert Bandura and means having a positive belief in your capability to cope with whatever life throws at you. I certainly recognise some of the phemonena, such as being able to spend £50 on a meal out with friends and not batting an eyelid but feeling guiltily extravagant if I spend the same amount on a top. Such varying value systems around money are called “mental accounting”.
Pine and Gnessen began writing Sheconomics two years ago. Then, the recession wasn’t even on the horizon but they were already exasperated by the way in which financial advice is so one-dimensional, focusing purely on the practical and taking no account of the behavourial difficulties and emotional obstacles that human beings have around money - problems that seem to affect women more than men. The psychological aspect of spending is a hugely neglected area, they say. Now with the credit crunch biting harder, the book might prove to be one of the best-sellers of the year.
Research shows that when women shop, it is not necessarily related to how much money they have to spend but what is going on in their minds, says Pine.
They shop to cheer themselves up, when their boyfriends have dumped them, when they are not getting on with their husbands, when they’ve had a bad day.
The thinking is ‘I work damned hard, I deserve a reward’.” And Gnessen says that these emotional triggers are exploited to sell unsuitable products that waste their money. “A lot of financial advice plays on the emotions,” she says. “The selling of critical illness policies and life insurance is often on the basis that you have to do this, otherwise you are not looking after your loved ones properly. And women are more susceptible to this.”
She has met many single, childless women, for instance, who were sold life insurance policies by slick salesmen. “If you have a mortgage they might play on ‘well, if you die you don’t want to leave the debt to your parents’,” says Gnessen, “when actually your debt dies with you. It is playing on fear. It’s not that women are stupid, but they are more likely to be susceptible.” Indeed, Gnessen used to be a traditional financial adviser but seven years she ago switched to being a financial coach because she felt that her old job ignored some of the key issues around people’s money difficulties. “It soon became obvious to me that most women’s financial problems were either the result of or complicated by their underlying attitude to money, alongside a variety of personal issues or self-limiting beliefs,” she says.
It is annoying when the phrase “retail therapy” is used by TV and women’s magazines in an upbeat, even sisterly way as though it is a cosy force for good without so much as a nod to the misery and bad credit ratings that astronomical credit card bills can bring.
But Sheconomics is not merely about credit card abusers. It is about the reluctance that even high-achieving women feel about finance. Pine and Gnessen admit they were worried about the book seeming sexist. But Pine says: “We have met a lot of highly paid professional women who admit ‘I am a financial disaster’. Yet in every other area of their life they are sorted. They might be running multi-million pound companies, or managing huge budgets on behalf of their companies, but when it comes to their own financial situation it all goes to pot. There was even a financial controller who couldn’t manage her own finances.” Indeed, there is a sense that it isn’t sexy or fun or feminine to be sharp about money. Some women readily infantilise themselves around household bills, letting male partners take charge. The image of a Carrie Bradshaw-- ooh! - just not being able to resist another pair of Manolos might be cute on TV but there’s nothing attractive about appearing on credit blacklists and not being able to get a mortgage. The authors acknowledge that this modern creature, the female financial airhead, is far removed from that of the household matriarch of the first half of the 20th century who masterfully managed household budgets and made every penny count. The spanner in the works, they say, has been the availability of instant credit and the fistfuls of store credit cards that many women carry.
Instant credit has completely changed our relationship with money, says Gnessen. “It used to be that when you got married you had grandma’s old sofa but now you go to Dfs for a new one and don’t pay anything for three years.
Money is now invisible. When we used to keep the money we had in a pot, the system worked beautifully, but now it is much easier to spend money you can’t see.” Pine adds: “You detach. You get the buzz but you don’t feel the pain.” One woman was divorced and in a poor financial state but had remortgaged to pay for her half of her daughter’s wedding. She didn’t want her ex husband to outdo her. “There are people who are remortgaging every three to five years, thinking ‘Oh it doesn’t matter, it’s going up in value’,” says Gnessen. “But property prices aren’t going up anymore. I have clients so badly into debt that they have had to sell their houses and are now in rented accommodation.”
Their message is that women should take action now. They recommend trying to live on the state pension for a week to shock themselves - though they know that for a generation raised on instant gratification, the thought of spending on something they won’t see for 30 years is not appealing. Pine is also concerned that the tough times ahead might even cause mental health problems for those women who have used their plastic as Prozac. “The emotional drivers are not going to go away. “I’m worried that there might be a rise in mental health problems such as depression.” Gnessen says: “Once they start to feel bad about overspending, then from the research that Karen [Pine] has done, the shame and the guilt are negative emotions that are likely to perpetuate the same behaviour.”
But if the credit crunch shakes us out of our torpor and makes us take responsibility for our futures instead of living in the present, then maybe it will have done us a favour. As Pine and Gnessen say: “Money is such an important part of life. It affects everything. And yet it’s the one thing we don’t really talk about.” A bit like death then, except more taboo.
Sheconomics: Karen Pine and Simonne Gnessen. Headline, £7.99.
Change your mind, change your fortunes
1. Take emotional control. Be aware of how much your emotions affect your behaviour with money.
2. Go beyond beliefs. Know that your financial beliefs can become a reality.
3. Think rationally. Make sure that all your spending decisions are made for the right reasons
4. Have goals. Make your money fit your life plan.
5. Look debt in the face. Face up to what you owe and decide how to pay it back.
6. Share financial intimacies. Talk honestly and openly about money.
7. Know tomorrow comes. Take action now for a secure future.
Five tips to future-proof yourself
1. Save automatically. Divert an amount directly into a savings account each month. Make this a priority even if it’s just £50. Start with something such as a cash ISA. Once you’ve built up enough of an emergency cushion, start diverting money every month into a pension or investment plan.
2. Join a pension scheme. If you get the chance to join a company pension scheme, jump at it. Turning it down is like refusing free money because most companies will match or better your contributions. If you don’t have that option you will need to make your own arrangements quickly - every year that you put it off costs you dear.
3. Start paying attention to money. Begin to learn just a little bit today. Talk about it. Sign up to newsletters. Read the money pages in the weekend newspapers. Hire a coach, get a mentor or teach yourself.
4. Build your net worth. Your net worth is the difference between what you owe and what you own. Look at ways to shrink your debt and boost your assets. Check your net worth year on year with the aim of increasing it annually.
5. Make money work hard for you. Wise up to the best returns on savings or investments. A 1 per cent difference in interest rates can add up to a huge sum with compounding (explained overleaf).
Things to avoid
1. Remortgaging to pay debts can feel like a good idea because the payments are affordable and spread so far into the future. But it’s very expensive in the long run, and you are devaluing your biggest asset.
2. An interest-only mortgage may get your foot on the property ladder, but if you do it without a long-term investment plan running alongside to replay the balance, it’s bad debt.
3. Making only the minimum repayments on credit and store cards means you pay back almost nothing. It can take 40 years to pay off a card this way. If you can’t clear the balance, just pay off £10 a month extra to make a huge difference.
4. Missing the payment date on credit or store cards. You are fined, and get a black mark on your credit rating.
5. Using a debt consolidation company. Don’t be seduced by those TV ads. How do you think they afford peak-time ad slots?
6. Accepting a store card. Unless you can pay off the whole amount, say no. The interest is often hideous. Take the 10 per cent discount, then cut up the card straight away.
7. Using your credit card to withdraw cash, or writing a credit-card cheque. Interest starts as soon as you make the withdrawal. Then there’s a fee of up to 3 per cent.
The Miracle and Misery of Compounding
Compounding is quite miraculous when it’s working for you; but not when it’s against you. Here’s a quick teaser: if you put a penny into a jar on the first of January and then doubled the amount you put in every day for a month (2p on the second, 4p on the third, 8p on the fourth, etc) how much do you think you’d have at the end of the month?
The correct answer is c) - more than £10million pounds.
Think about it in terms of a loan. The amount attracts interest which is charged on the original amount plus the interest and then interest is charged on that and so on. The longer it continues the more you are paying back. When borrowing, always go for the lowest rate and the shortest repayment period. Financial planner Matthew Cuthbert worked out that if 35-year-olds put the £1.80 a day they spent on a cup of coffee into their pensions, by 65 they’d get £3,843 more every year for the rest of their lives.
Are you an under earner?
Here are some questions (adapted from Barbara Stanny’s book Overcoming Underearning) to help you to spot whether you are an under-earner.
Answer yes or no:
1. Do you avoid asking for a pay rise or putting up your prices?
2. Do you work very hard for little money?
3. Would you think it unfair for you to earn a high income if other people work harder for less money?
4. Do you often give away your time for free, do jobs for people or put in extra time at work for no extra pay?
5. do you find it hard to think of ideas to make money?
6. Are you often in debet with no idea how you’ll achieve financial success?
7. Are you proud of the fact that you can manage on less money than most?
8. Does the idea of having lots of money make you feel uncomfortable or fearful?
9. Do you live in financial chaos, with little or no idea of what you earn, spend and what debt you have?
10. Do you think that people who seek wealth are greedy?
If you answered yes to three or more of these questions, you are likely to be an under-earner. Your pay simply doesn’t match your potential. Maybe you justify it by telling yourself that you don’t deserve more. Perhaps you take pride in rejecting the trappings of weatlth. At some level you may be pushing money away from you.
Learn to love your pension
The thing is that we’re all living longer. And we, the women, are outliving the men. A hundred years ago when the Government introduced the state pension, it made perfectly good sense. Because most people died long before they could get their hands on a pension book. Men died at an average age of 49 and women at 53. Now many of us are living into our eighties and nineties. That means, not only will most of us draw a pension, but we’ll be drawing it for a long time, maybe 30 years or more.
Yes, the future of the state pension in the UK is uncertain. And, quite frankl,y it is deluded to think that the State will provide for you when you retire. So we’ve got to act quickly to make amends.
You’re going to learn to love your pension. To see it as a gorgeous big cake that you’ll start baking early, watch rise and feast on in your dotage. You may be feeling comfortable now - perhaps you’re on a reasonable salary, perhaps you can even boost your income with extra earnings - the trouble is that spending has a sneaky way of keeping pace with earnings. And somehow saving gets sacrified along the way.
Or we forget that we might simply outlive our savings. But when your earning days are over, what then?