This article was written by Jeff Prestridge, the Personal Finance Editor of The Mail On Sunday. It was originally published on The Financial Times Adviser website here, entitled ‘Bigger picture for financial planning’.
Sometimes, consumer personal finance journalism lets the public down. Not always (as I hear some of you say), just occasionally.
Mea culpa and all that.
It must also be said when we attempt to raise the levels of personal finance education (sadly lacking among both youngsters and adults), we on the whole do a mighty good job. We should do more of this nuts-and-bolts journalism.
But some of the time, our writing is a little lacking in imagination or appropriateness. For example, we write about investment opportunities in Japan when really few readers are that interested in such investment specifics.
More appropriate would be articles on whether people should be investing for the long term – an issue raised recently by Paul Lewis of Radio 4 Money Box fame, who believes cash – rather than equities – is often king. He is so convinced of his argument that he now uses his pension to hoard cash.
We as a profession, also tend to be a little too product-focused when we should be looking at the whole – the greater financial picture.
I raise these issues not because I want to beat myself up or self-flagellate in public. I do so because I have just taken time out to read a very interesting book on personal finance – and it has made me reflect on what I do for a living and whether I could do it better.
It is one of the best money books I have read in a long time – certainly, better than the rambling tome I wrote on personal finance in 2001 for the Mail on Sunday, although I was astonished recently to see that it is still available on Amazon for the princely sum of £32.78 (paperback edition).
A collector’s item – Jeff’s Lunchbox (1995) has not fared so well, and is still available at £6.99, although some used copies are on offer from £0.01.
The book in question is written by Chris Budd of Ovation Finance, a Bristol-based financial planner. It is called The Financial Wellbeing Book, and it is a gem (I do not use such a word lightly).
No jargon, lots of anecdotes and tips, and little focus on products, bar the odd mention of critical illness insurance, medical insurance and income protection. Written in plain English and, amazingly, it is a joy to read.
It will take you no more than an evening to finish, and I would be astonished if (as trusty financial planners) you do not already embrace the theme of the book in the work you do.
It is a must-read for those who practice the art of effective financial planning. It is also essential reading for anyone who wants to put their finances back on track and who wants to look at finance, not in a silo, but as part of a wider picture.
The issues Mr Budd raises in his book strike a chord. I often meet financial planners who tell me their role in professional life is not just about helping clients reach a state of financial nirvana.
It is also about impressing upon them (through the use of cash flow modelling) that they have more than enough to see out their days. Indeed, they spend a lot of time actively encouraging clients – usually in later life – to enjoy the fruits of their financial labours (go on the odd cruise, travel to Australia to see the grandchildren) rather than take it all to their grave.
Of course, the book is a bit of a plug for the value that a financial planner can bring to the party – although Mr Budd admits do-it-yourself investing suits some people. Indeed, I love the quote from Red Adair that he uses to introduce his chapter on taking advice or doing it yourself: “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.”
One of my colleagues at the Mail on Sunday who writes for the arts-oriented ‘Event’ pull-out stumbled on Mr Budd’s book by chance.
He was so taken by the book that he dropped me an email. He said: ‘‘Two aspects of the book I liked. First, the focus on placing your life goals ahead of your financial ones. This drew me into a book that, if I’m honest, I might not have read otherwise. And second, the tone. Not preachy or teachery. More like a good friend trying to help you out.
He added: “The book has given me confidence. I wish I’d read it when I was 20. And I’ll certainly try to get my kids to read it in their late teens.”
I implore you to read it (available on Amazon at £9.98). It is a great advert for financial planning – and should fill you with pride about what you do. I am the better for discovering it.