Diary of an IFA in London

In my diary of an IFA in London series, I write about my work week. While it gives you a perspective on an Independent Financial Adviser's (IFA) work life, it also creates some food for thought for myself while reflecting on my work week.

Being self-employed is enjoyable however I have to stay very conscious of my time and that is why I like to plan my week ahead. An important task each evening for me is to list down my ‘to-do’ things for the next day. It is like a ritual for me and I enjoy using a real ink pen for it. Helps me focus. When I think about what Brian Tracey says about “eating frogs” – tackling the biggest tasks of the day – and I follow it to the core, it makes me feel quite productive. This productive high lends energy to the rest of my day.

Monday is a relatively light day - just two meetings today. One of them is an annual review with a client who is dealing with major changes in her life. We talk about her investments and using her new ISA allowance by selling some of her existing non-ISA investments and moving it across. We also talk about her looking into buying another property in the UK. I believe that we’re in a property bubble presently and she might be better off waiting; especially since she already has a residential property and also a buy-to-let. Another property purchase now will leave her wealth pie quite exposed to one asset class – UK residential property. She is very open in listening to my views – the trust and honesty we have built over the number of years we have known each other is certainly a big help. I follow up our discussion with an email with a link to economist.com which has data on housing prices which clearly, and graphically, supports my opinion.

Summer is usually a time for a flurry of enquiries. However, August is unusually quiet. Don’t get me wrong – I am enjoying the small list of ‘to-do’s and being on top of things.

Tuesday is focused on flexible access drawdown research. My client does not have much choice with his provider as it is not an independent provider so he came to speak to me. Flexible access drawdown allows you to withdraw retirement income as and when you like while keeping your remaining pension savings invested. I enjoy the process of research and picking funds. The multiple steps to the research give a fine sense of accomplishment especially when it benefits the client. The client self manages his ISA account at the moment so he has some good inputs with funds that he enjoys investing in, and I take it into account in my research. Rest of the day flies away quickly with admin work.

Wednesday and Thursday are focused on presenting a recommendation to a client for an income portfolio and then setting it all up. The client likes the funds I have picked and the overall yield for the portfolio. I have focused on funds with potential of good capital growth. I have really enjoyed working with his client as we share some similar values. He is looking to cut back on work hours to spend more time with his family and also develop a second income by following his passion.

I see a general shift in culture where many individuals are looking to cut back on unnecessary expenses and corresponding working hours to do more activities that are life enriching or spending more time with family. A great blog on becoming minimalist that I follow, if you are interested. Also,if you are interested in being more conscious with money, you may enjoy reading my blog on it.

Friday is saw-sharpening day! You have to love Stephen Covey. I read his book in my early twenties and boy, am I glad to have read it early! Speaking of reading, I have been putting off studying for my IMC (Investment Management Certificate from the CFA) certification for months now. The tedious studying is necessary for my role, though, so I dust off my book, and make a study time table. It’s now or never!  Since my work is heavily focused on investments and pensions, it’s a great certification for me to get.

Post this renewed enthusiasm for study and now, a time-table to back it, I review my own investments, update my expense spreadsheets (hope you have one), and am pleased to have cut-back on my Amazon shopping (books!!!) quite a bit.

A cutback on book buying does not have to mean cutting back on reading. My visit to the British Library today is focused on reading books on the ‘psychology of money’. The librarian always surprises me with a huge stack of books he’s held up for me and I am glad for my speed reading skills.

Saturday morning begins with a Skype call at 10 with a lovely couple who want financial planning help – mainly retirement and savings, but we discuss life cover as well. They have a little baby, but an evening appointment (which I usually offer when there are young children) was not possible for them. They did not have any life insurance other than death-in-service so we talked about that being the foundation. I had several questions for them about their future – especially around retirement – and that gave them a lot of food for thought.

From there, I move to my Saturday ritual of spending time with my weekend FT along with a cup of “chai” and then I’m off to enjoy weekend festivities.