Trust, a non-judgemental approach and expertise

I read a great US based study this week that had to do with financial advice and found some bits of it really relevant. "The study cited several attributes that distinguish a remarkable adviser experience from just an acceptable one. “Someone I can fully trust to have my best interests at heart/not just out to sell product” emerged as the leading priority (57%). Other factors included:

  • “Not feeling judged on size of assets/financial decisions” (36%)

  • “Deep expertise across a wide range of financial solutions and strategies” (33%)"

Trust

In my opinion, trust is a process. Trust is earned over time by being reliable, timely in your responses, disciplined, professional and knowing your subject matter thoroughly. Your initial gut response is a good indicator of whether you want to continue your conversations, after meeting with an adviser for the first time. Every time, I have ignored my own intuition in choosing clients to work with, I have made a costly mistake- so it works both ways and as they say, the body never lies.

Not feeling judged

Different advisers do have different minimum asset size thresholds so best to ask this before the meeting, if it is a worry. I enjoy the diversity of working with younger clients who can have a lower asset size, unless they have an inheritance, so I am flexible in this area. Some of my favourite clients also started out with me when they were young and have gone on to be successful so asset size is not a deal breaker, if I really like the client and feel we have a good connection.

It is a fine balance to effectively challenge a client without judgements, review financial priorities at meetings and course correct over time as financial planning is a process. From anecdotal evidence, and conducting several money workshops, I would say it is a huge asset to have someone who offers a relaxed, non-judgemental space for you to talk about your past, present and future financial choices. You might also prefer an adviser who uses anecdotes, stories and light humour rather than technical arguments or factual information which leaves you feeling emotionally disconnected.

Deep expertise

Yes, this one is obvious too. And also, look for expertise in the specific area of financial advice you want - ex. ethical investing or pensions draw down, etc.

Further reading:

7 questions to ask your financial adviser

Discovering Nonviolent Communication helped me be a better Financial Adviser.

The podcast covers how Nonviolent Communication (NVC) has been invaluable to me being of greater contribution to my clients as a financial adviser. A focus on client needs In the podcast, I talk about how I believe it is important to a client (& humans in general) to feel seen, to be heard and hear for the deeper meaning behind words; a focus on the client's problems & potential solutions rather than on the adviser and their life stories.

NVC Consciousness I also talk about how the consciousness of NVC as a tool to aid understanding is more important than a tool to manage or communicate with. NVC supports us to see and be ourselves more authentically and this is invaluable in interacting with clients. Also, the practise and commitment to internalise the principles and commitments of NVC  over the years has led me to to be noticeably more present and be more relaxed physically, which is helpful in client meetings.

Moments of faltering I also talk about a client interaction when I have not been as successful at embodying these skills and lost my balance in a meeting.

Description and link to Podcast In this episode 2plan Wealth Management IFA Cleona Lira sits down with Ian Horne and Ollie Smith to explain how discovering non-violent communication enhanced her relationship with clients. The podcast is available on Itunes under 'Planning People'. Link to the podcast via SoundCloud.

Hope you enjoy listening- there are good sprinklings of humour throughout the podcast.

Women, Financial Power and Barriers to Investing

The good news first. Behavioural finance has found women perform well when they do invest. Research work carried out by Terrance Odean, Professor of Finance at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business shows that women tend to trade less actively than men which incurs lower trading costs; they behave more like ‘buy and hold’ investors sticking to their long term goals. The study stated that ‘virtually all of the gender-based difference in performance can be traced to the fact that men tend to trade more aggressively than women.’ Another earlier study talks about the human quality of overconfidence and notes the gender differences. “ Psychological research has established that men are more prone to overconfidence than women, particularly so in male-dominated realms such as Finance. Rational investors trade only if the expected gains exceed transactions costs. Overconfident investors overestimate the precision of their information and thereby the expected gains of trading.”

So, why are women still lagging behind in investing then?

A recent Fidelity UK based study states ‘the majority of women don’t invest in the stock market’,’ ‘women favour the perceived caution of cash.’ Women face penalties that affect their career progression and earning potential titled in the study as ‘The Motherhood Penalty’, ‘The Childcare Penalty’ and ‘The Good Daughter Penalty’ - namely, opting out of careers to have children, paying for childcare and caring for elderly relatives. The word 'penalties' is cringe worthy to hear as it implies being punished for contributing to caring for life itself. And yet the reality is that our economic system does not recognize women (or men) or for making choices for ‘unpaid’ yet hard work.

A lack of understanding about what investments can offer is also a significant barrier. What was disturbing (although not shocking in my experience as a financial adviser) to read was that more than half of the women invested had no idea where their pension fund was invested and over a third didn’t know how much their pensions were worth.

So, opting out of the workforce for legitimate reasons, then having gaps in earnings and living longer result in a real problem - a pension gap. Women are also short-changed by the gender pay gap which contributes to lower pension and investment contributions. Women have a smaller pension pot size than men at all ages, tend to have more money in cash ISAs and less money in Stocks & Share ISAs overall. This worries me and at the same time, also galvanizes me into wanting to educate more and more women about how we can empower ourselves financially.

One of the actions suggested by the study is to increase pension contributions by 1%. To me, this seems too little. I would suggest really working out for yourself based on when you wish to achieve financial independence and what is sustainable as an annual income for you, what would be most appropriate. Make sure you reassess this regularly, at least once or twice a year. The 4% rule is an easy way to work out what you need for retirement.

Another action I recommend is empowering yourself with financial literacy skills. Read your pension valuation statements, Google any terms you don’t understand, fill your feedly with interesting personal finance reading material, call the pension providers help-desk and ask them to explain or help you with reading material to help you understand what you are reading- be persistent with this. And google Trustnet and the names of the funds you are invested in and train your eyes to visually read the information- information is so easily available and you can train yourself to read this if you are willing to persist through some initial discomfort if you feel incompetent. You could also speak to someone you know who is financially more literate than you and willing to help or mentor you. I encourage you to advocate for your own needs - for financial literacy and healthy financial choices. There are so many resources available, you don’t always need a financial adviser necessarily to understand what you are invested in and what the overall value of your pension pot is. And by the way, even highly intelligent, competent finance professionals that I have worked with as clients tend not to look at their pension statements or necessarily take the time to understand them. So, I really want to reassure you that if you have a clear intention and follow through with an action, you can easily overcome this hurdle.

A study from the other side of the pond titled ‘Women & Financial Wellness: Beyond the Bottom Line’ by Merrill Lynch illustrates the issue of the ‘gender wealth gap’ which is the difference between men’s and women’s accumulated assets.

Some of the actions suggested in this study which I liked are:

Break the taboo around money talk-Have you heard of Conversation Cafes? Nothing stops you from hosting one with about 6-8 people; here are some guidelines to follow to help you get going. Apparently 61% of women would rather talk about death than money. I offer you a gentle challenge to break this social conditioning we have and move towards feeling comfortable and confident speaking about money.

Start early- compounding & longevity can work in your favour. If you spend time out of the workforce, remember to catch up with contributions into your pension once you start working again or brainstorm strategies on how you could take care of your children and also take care of your future self financially.

I hope you will take some action to support women investing more, regardless of your gender. As for me, I intend to host a few Conversation Cafes around the topic of money both online and in London; if you want to support this work and get involved, please drop me a line.

Happy Financial Future and if you want to attend one of my webinars about feeling more confident about investing and retirement planning, sign up to my Newsletter. I intend to follow through on doing more to help educate women (and include men) on investing.

The Power of Money

I subscribe to Fr. Richard Rohr's Daily Meditations, from the Center for Action and Contemplation. This one was beautiful and so I want to share here, as exploring our relationship with money is the central theme of many of my blogs. "In her book The Soul of Money, Lynne Twist explains the power we’ve given our image of money and reminds us of our true longings and needs.

Money is not a product of nature. Money doesn’t grow on trees. . . . Money is an invention . . . a fabrication. . . . Money still facilitates the sharing and exchange of goods and services, but somewhere along the way the power we gave money outstripped its original utilitarian role. 

We have made money more important than we are, given it more meaning than human life. Humans have done and will do terrible things in the name of money. They have killed for it, enslaved other people for it, and enslaved themselves to joyless lives in pursuit of it. . 

For most of us, this relationship with money is a deeply conflicted one, and our behavior with and around money is often at odds with our most deeply held values, commitments, and ideals—what I call our soul. . . . I believe that under it all . . . what deeply matters to human beings, our most universal soulful commitments and core values, is the well-being of the people we love, ourselves, and the world in which we live.

We really do want a world that works for everyone. We don’t want children to go hungry. We don’t want violence and war to plague the planet. . . . We don’t want torture and revenge and retribution to be instruments of government and leadership. Everyone wants a safe, secure, loving, nourishing life for themselves and the ones they love and really for everyone. . . . I also believe that under their fears and upsets, even the deepest ones, everyone wants to love and be loved, and make a difference with their lives. . . . I believe people also want an experience of their own divinity, their own connectedness with all life and the mystery of something greater than we comprehend.

Each of us experiences a lifelong tug-of-war between our money interests and the calling of our soul. When we’re in the domain of soul, we act with integrity. We are thoughtful and generous, allowing, courageous, and committed. . . . We are open, vulnerable, and heartful. . . . We are trustworthy and trusting of others. . . . We feel at peace within ourselves and confident that we are an integral part of a larger, more universal experience, something greater than ourselves."

Lynne Twist, The Soul of Money: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Life (W. W. Norton & Company: 2017, ©2003), 8-9, 11-12, 17.

Source: The Power of Money by Fr. Richard Rohr

The 4 books I read this summer vacation

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This year, on our annual holiday, we travelled to Provence, France. I packed 4 physical books with me in one suitcase. We did quite a bit of cycling on electric bicycles in the hilly villages around Ménerbes, the scenery was stunning; with patchy wifi and very little distractions, books became my main refuge, after conversation of course.

As much as I try to read everyday, it is so much easier on holiday when one can devote 1-2 hours a day uninterrupted to a good book. I also planned to go running daily. I hate running so I don’t know why I even planned that.

Here are the four and oh, I only read non-fiction:

  1. Red Notice : How I Became Putin's No. 1 Enemy

This book gave me sleepless nights on holiday, I got really involved with it. I highly, highly recommend reading it - it's well written even if you aren’t all that interested in finance.It is not for the faint hearted, especially the chapter about Sergei Magnitsky, his lawyer being harmed in a Russian prison. What I loved about the author is that he’s moved on from investing in Eastern European & Russian equities (and he was very talented at that) to lobbying for human rights, in a big way. In my excitement, I tweeted about this book and then because Bill Browder liked the actual post, I got a lot more attention on Twitter than I usually get.

  1. Family Constellations Revealed: Hellinger's Family and other Constellations Revealed

A friend shared attending a money constellations workshop and greatly benefiting from it. I have experienced family constellation work before but never delved deeply into it. Hearing about the money impact, I rushed to buy everything I could on the topic. I really enjoyed the book -interesting stories, great insights and leads to the understanding that there is a lot we don’t know that is “hidden” stuff and so useful to uncover.

  1. The Elements of Investing, Updated Edition: Easy Lessons for Every Investor

I tried reading this and just couldn’t get into it. It may be that I have become that jaded investment adviser that has read too many books on this topic. Or that I just needed a break from investment speak on holiday. I will try again especially as I spent £18 on it.

  1. The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America's Banana King

A book about a banana trader. I learnt so much about the yellow fruit and the facts were written in such a fascinating style that I couldn’t get enough of it. An engrossing tale of the life of Sam Zemurray, the ‘banana king’ who found a gap in the market and began selling this fruit to areas of the United States that had never seen them before. A well told story, worth reading.

I am always looking for book suggestions. Feel free to leave me a comment if you have any.