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Mary Shelley – Design a Life

Mary Shelley – Design a Life

Most probably know something about Mary Shelley. A new film outlines pieces of her life that when reassembled, form the basis for the story of the neglected, forgotten creature. Whilst the acting is good enough (just about), I regret to say that the tale itself is too slow and stiff, much like the author’s creature. The film is wedded to the notion of historical accuracy, the passage of time is painfully laboured. We can marvel at the sheer determination of Mary as she faces challenge upon challenge, most of which are fabricated by society due to nothing more than how she was pieced together herself by way of her gender. A world in which men quickly scoff and take credit for all things good, detach, ignore or abscond from any sense of responsibility. The notion of giving birth to something loathsome is evident both within her gothic novel and life story, yet it forms the basis of many metaphors today.

There is a palpable sense of the position that money affords those that have it and it is also difficult to escape the notion of the fact that this is essentially a film about young, tempestuous love, which is fuelled with financial advantage – not from Mary, but certainly the men in her life. The loss of her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft (age 38 in 1797) something of a pioneering feminist a few days after her birth is not explored. We, like Mary are left to guess at such a legacy and the “well-read” men she encounters appear not to have heeded Wollstonecraft’s work “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman”.

The Escapist Poets

The poet, Percy Shelley (Douglas Booth) who Mary (Elle Fanning) meets at 16 when she is sent away to Scotland to avoid further fractions in her relationship with her step-mother. Percy, 21 at the time, falls for her and eventually follows her back to London, only revealing that he is already married, to someone who he now does not love. The bohemian free movement between relationships he presumes meets with Mary’s support. The men in Mary’s life are not good with numbers, both her father and Percy struggle financially and get out of their depth. A skill in one area of life does not include another. Percy eventually borrows against his future inheritance. All, it seems, because he has fantasies about how he should live.

One Night in Geneva

Lord Byron’s (Tom Sturridge) appearance merely provides yet further resources to alleviate the boredom through various traditional means of escape. I cannot recall quite where I heard it, but I remember someone telling me how they thought that the 1816 dinner-party in Geneva where both Frankenstein (Mary Shelley) and Vampires (John Polidori played by Ben Hardy) were created would be a marvellous night to be a guest at the table. Yet, the night passes damply without any real sense of occasion at all.

History has given credit to Byron as one of England’s greatest poets. What I suspect the film is trying to convey is the sense of his rather selfish sense of entitlement. At 28 he was the eldest of the group in 1816. Polidori being 21 Percy Shelley 24 and Mary just 19. The men, for all their indulgences did not live long afterwards.

Facebook – Victorian Style

Sadly, this film does not do justice to the more radical views of Mary Shelley, instead contorting the story into something that is more like a petulant teen romance. Her own children conspired to hide her feisty nature by doing something of an early Victorian PR work on her character. Mary Shelley was a woman with much to say about society, yet even today most mistake her creation’s very name.

Stories are important to me; your story is the one you tell and want retold (to some extent). Therefore, it seems logical to live by design – on your own terms, how you wish to, not dictated by others. Your finances need to be the architecture around your lifestyle, supporting and ensuring it can continue, but unless you reveal your story to your adviser, how on earth is that possible.

Here’s the trailer.

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

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Mary Shelley – Design a Life 2018-07-10T12:32:13+00:00

Monsters and Men: Jurassic World – Fallen Kingdom

Monsters and Men: Jurassic World – Fallen Kingdom

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is yet another version (the fifth) of the 1993 hit Jurassic Park. What was once, a milestone for special effects, now rather like the re-engineered dinosaurs is all too familiar. This may have something to do with the financial success of the immediate predecessor, which was the biggest in the series in terms of actual takings ($652m) and this latest film has already taken $333m since June 22nd. Hence the reason for hashing together the same story with minor alterations.

As predictable as the story is, there was a growing unease as I found asking myself “why have I paid to watch the same movie yet again?”. Perhaps that is precisely the point. Why on earth to we never learn from our mistakes of the past, or at least seem unable to.

Fallen Kingdom might be a metaphor for the monsters that we tolerate within our midst. The stereotypes that seem intent on only advancing methods of ruining lives rather than improving them. Men paid to fulfil the orders of the rich, psychopathic and powerful and who never question loyalty to anything other than their own self-interests. That which was once thought long extinct has risen and is now marauding local communities whilst wearing a rosette. The monsters are amongst us, Pandora’s box is open.

Spoiler Alert… really?

As the movie is so much like any of its predecessors, the notion of a spoiler alert seems somewhat redundant, but here is one. There is a sequence in the movie where dinosaurs are auctioned to the usual crowd of despots, criminals and oligarchs. Some are merely using these for “big game hunting” but some to terrorise. The latest “newly improved” DNA adjusted monster is proclaimed to be the ultimate killing weapon. A dinosaur that can be controlled. The control is administered with a laser-sighted automatic weapon, pointed at the victim, dino locks on, and then the bug red button is depressed to release a sound that sends dino into a killing frenzy. This work of deadly genius fetches $28m. Now I have a couple of problems with this. Firstly, if you can point an automatic weapon at your intended target, why do you need a dinosaur? Secondly, if this is the ultimate soldier, a winning bid of $28m seems a few billion off the mark. Have they ever seen the “Defence” budget?

He’s Coming to Get You…

The closing sequences of the film are utterly daft, with said monster tracking small child through an American “mansion” (one cannot escape thinking that this is designed with a theme park ride in mind) in the pouring rain, locating her bedroom, like something more out of Monsters Inc. Second (friendlier monster called “Blue” saves the day, thrusting beast onto the magnificent ancient remains of triceratops skull. The ancient overcomes the new. Girl then exposed as being a work of genetic magic herself, then releases remaining captive dinosaurs into the local community, who we are now told will have to co-exist and live with the consequences. Well, its about as daft as some of the political waffle that we all see on “the news” in its various forms.

Behavioural Issues

The monsters are arguably within us all, some are more obvious – displaying their basic qualities and frenzied outbursts, be that on twitter, Question Time or perhaps in a local IKEA store, the local pub, the centre of London or lurking in the shadows quietly moving the pieces into place as less regard for life and communal harmony become evident. There are moments when I despair, yet continue to live in the hope that civility, fairness and peace will eventually triumph, which first has to start with my own behaviour.

So the financial lesson – investor behaviour will make or ruin you. Following the crowd, being led by the noise, “everyone is doing it” intoxicated by the illusion of not needing to think will be a quick and painful way to watch your money flee to a new home. Know what and who you are dealing with, don’t mess with the cages, just because you can, does not mean you should.

Here is the trailer for the movie Jurassic World – Fallen Kingdom.

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

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Monsters and Men: Jurassic World – Fallen Kingdom 2018-07-09T11:35:12+00:00

Ocean’s Eight

Ocean’s Eight

It is an odd thing that we have an affection for certain types of criminals. Those brought to life within a film invariably are the anti-hero. “The Italian Job” or the “Lavender Hill Mob” both hold an almost iconic cultural reference point. Ocean’s Eight is essentially a criminal gang of women, who steal. I’m not sure what the appeal really is, but it is undeniable. Perhaps there is something buried in childhood stories about Robin Hood, which leaves us marvelling the execution of a fantastic plan to outwit and outmanoeuvre authority.

The opening sequences of Oceans Eight may provide some insight. It is perhaps the force of brazen confidence that enable Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) to take advantage of the unsuspecting. Frankly, this sequence ought to be shown to every retail employee as an example of what to observe and I have to admit to being a little concerned that it gives thieves more ideas.

The Double Bluff

Perhaps there is the sense in these films that somehow a balance is being restored in a rather Robin Hood-esque way. I’m sure that there are many examples where this might be the case, but the darker reality is that perhaps, we are all a little enamoured by the criminal mind and but for the consequences, fancy ourselves as a mastermind of bluff and double bluff that has a payoff. Perhaps it intrigues, because we don’t live our lives that way and for good reason.

Where is the promised Cold Calling Ban?

The financial world is full of scams, often by clever people, sometimes just by the downright brazen. As a victim the consequences are very real, having identity stolen or pretty much all your life savings. These are the reasons why we have laws and regulation. Yet it occurs on a massive scale every day. We all need to be vigilant and I am angered by yet further delays to the introduction of the Cold Calling Ban by the Government. I appreciate that Brexit is currently taking resources, but meanwhile criminals are stealing from pension funds and so on. Whilst often we are told “it’s not personal” having your home, bank account or pension fund broken into by a thief feels very personal indeed.

We are complex beings, both victim and perpetrator, but mainly neither. The traditional financial services industry calls this fear and greed, aligning its material accordingly. The job of a fiduciary, such as a financial planner, is to help spot these incidents and to avoid them. There are often not obvious indications and often the best place to hide a lie is in plain sight, between two truths.

As for the new film, I really enjoyed it. I think it is because of the clever planning and skill on display, but actually it probably helps satisfy my darker side. Here is the trailer.

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

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Ocean’s Eight 2018-07-04T14:23:30+00:00

The Happy Prince

The Happy Prince

There is a new film about Oscar Wilde – The Happy Prince currently in cinemas. It is a wonderful portrayal of the literary genius, but desperately sad. Oscar is played by Rupert Everett, who extends the character he played not so long ago on stage in “Judas Kiss”. Wilde was an obvious genius whose fall from favour and grace was spectacular only in its indictment of Britain then.

As we all know Wilde was a married man, who was also homosexual. These days it is hard to fathom how this is either anyone else’s business (though of course our culture remains just as preoccupied with what happens out of sight) let alone how this detracts from his obvious literary accomplishments.

In this portrayal, Everett makes plain the self—destructive path of addiction. In this case Wilde’s frankly inexplicable addiction to the loathsome Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas (Colin Morgan). It is his inability to manage his feelings and actions which lead him to penniless ruin, living in the squalors of Paris.

Self-Destruction

Whilst much has changed in society since the life and times of Oscar Wilde, one cannot fail to realise that whatever the form an addiction takes, it has the capacity to lead to ruin. There are moments in the film in which Wilde’s friends Reggie Turner (Colin Firth) Robbie Ross (Edwin Thomas) and wife Constance (Emily Watson) all urge him to take a different path, to forget the selfish indulgence of Bosie. Yet knowing the consequences of being financially cut off, Wilde follows his self-destructive desires all the way to the grave.

Drama, Drama

We are all prone to addictions… how is that smartphone addiction? Or perhaps an addiction to the media? These may seem like rather innocuous addictions, with little apparent consequence, certainly unlikely to suffer illness or death, yet there is growing evidence that many are suffering from an overload of information, a sense of powerlessness and being overwhelmed in a world that appears outside of our control…

When it comes to investing, our addictions to the news and perhaps following the markets are likely to cause us to make poor decisions. Responding and reacting to “the news” yet this invariably has little to do with our own lives and financial plan. Chasing the illusive winning funds is a habit that many have developed. Yet the reality is that we can control very little, but what we can control, we do indeed need to focus on.

Don’t make a crisis out of a drama

Attempting to time the market, second guess the best performing funds or shares is nothing short of speculation, it is not a proper investment strategy. It is a very good way to run out of money and the FCA recently produced a report outlining the errors of holding too much cash in a pension fund. Presumably investors do so because they don’t trust pensions, the market, advisers or all of those them and simply attempting to time the opportune moment to invest. This, it has been found leads to dramatic underperformance and penury.

Here is the trailer for the film.

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

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The Happy Prince 2018-06-29T16:12:10+00:00

Picking Winners – Financial Myths

Picking Winners – Financial Myths

Most of the financial services industry thrives on inertia and misplaced trust. The investing world can be broadly broken down into two categories – active or passive management of money. The terms are not helpful but can broadly be best described as active management is where Fund Managers attempt to outperform the market by use of skill, philosophy and information. Passive management basically says this is possible, but impossible to do with any repeatable success, so invest into the entire market (or index) to obtain the market return.

There are skills, systems and processes needed within passive management if truth be told, particularly when an index is forced to alter its constituents (much like the end of season promotions and relegations). However, costs are generally much lower – unless you are unfortunate enough to own a Virgin Money Index tracker. Generally active funds are more expensive – considerably. This it is argued, is due to better performance.

Anyhow, research from American Dimensional Fund Advisers, who rather pride themselves of academic research and evidence, recently concluded their study of US funds available to US investors. OK, its America not the UK, but given that the US is roughly 8 times the size of the UK stock market, let’s use it as a better sample.

Coldplay - A Rush of Blood to the Head No.1 Album in 2002Atomic Kitten - The Tide is High No.1 single in 2002

The Unvarnished Truth

The evidence looked at equity funds and Fixed Interest Funds over 5, 10 and 15 years (2002-2017). Given that most people are investing for their lifetime, though behave as though they do so for about 12 months, these are sensible starting timeframes for such research. For the sake of brevity, I will discuss their equity fund findings (the results were much the same for both asset classes).

Of all the funds available, only 14% to 26% outperformed their Morningstar category index. The longer the time frame the lower the number that outperformed. So, in simple terms about 1 in 4 outperform over 5 years, 1 in 5 over 10 years and about 1 in 7 over 15 years.

Survival of the Fittest

However, even if it was as simple as simply picking funds on that basis, you are more likely to have picked a fund that closed. Over 5 years 18% of the funds did not survive (about 1 in 5). At 10 years this rose to 42% failing to survive (1 in 4). At 15 years, well just 51% of the funds you could have chosen from survived. That’s 1 in 2.

Top of the Pops Investing

As many advisers and most online sites promote and select “top performing funds” it may interest you to know that a Fund Managers historic performance does not ensure a decent future performance. The data revealed that top quartile performance for consecutive 3-year periods occurred on average between 17% and 33% of the time. In short, not many sustained even a short-run, or strong track records failed to persist. Coldplay and Atomic Kitten both had good years in 2002 (when the data range begins). Who remains “successful”?

As stated, an often-cited argument is that active funds cost more because they perform better (we have established that some do – 14% of them over 15 years). Higher costs mean better results, right? Well not according to the evidence. Those with high charges (fund manager costs) with an average expense ratio (AER) of 1.93% almost entirely underperformed (94% of them). Those with the lowest costs (AER of 0.83%) delivered better results, with 25% of them outperforming.

The research also found that trading costs also impacted results (unsurprisingly). Some Fund Managers changed their portfolios almost entirely, the more they did and the longer the timeframe, the fewer that beat their benchmark. Yet this is typically claimed to be their true skill. Only 9% of high turnover funds beat their index over 15 years.

Hey Big Spender…

I have been in this game for quite some time, but it doesn’t need much experience to learn that those with more money have more money to spend…. On their version of reality (marketing) which is why many advisers, Product Providers and media swallow the myth that active management costs more because it delivers more. It can, but only in a very small number of cases and the chances of selecting such funds is virtually non-existent when most look at 3-year top quartile performance data.

There is another way, a better, cheaper way. We call it low-cost investment techniques rather than passive investing, because there is nothing passive about it. High costs and excessive turnover are likely to contribute to underperformance. You can avoid this completely, if you want to.

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

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Picking Winners – Financial Myths 2018-06-21T16:30:43+00:00

Book Club

Book Club

Book Club is a present-day check-in of life as an older woman in 2018. Four female friends of “retirement age” meet regularly at their own private book club, taking turns to select a book for discussion. Vivian (Jane Fonda) encourages them to study “Fifty Shades of Grey”. Thus, begins a diet of mixed reactions to the book which inspires or encourages each of them to rediscover their “mojo”. This movie had the potential to explore and expose this apparently mysterious type of individual, the media invisible sixty-plus (some may argue forty-plus) female of the species. It also had the potential to be very funny.

There has been a welcome increase in the number of films released and aimed at the more mature market. Whilst it is possible to find many examples of films that include people over the age of 55, there are not that many by comparison. Hollywood and the world media at large are enchanted by youthful looks. A more healthy and realistic approach to representation in all forms is a welcome relief to a diet of heroes, fast cars and bullets. Perhaps I am too reductionist, but you know what I mean.

Pleasantville 1998 (had more to say 20 years ago)

Granted there are some funny moments, but the movie fell short, still concluding that fulfilment is only found through a man. Whilst I might agree that a form of fulfilment comes through a deep relatonship (for billions of people) it is not true for all. It is evidently not the case that only a man can make anyone else “fulfilled”. Neither do most women have the economic advantages that certainly three of these four have. The character of Diane is arguably the most perplexing, her husband died relatively recently and her overly concerned daughters Jill (Silverstone) and Adrianne (Aselton) want to move her out of  her beautiful Santa Monica and into their own renovated slip-free basement in “Pleasantville” because they fear she is too frail.. which stretches belief for many reasons. It is Diane that is swept off her feet by the alluring, just happens to be fabulously wealthy, Mitchell…. The portrayal of such neurotic daughters and their incredulity about their mother do not aid the female cause and are utterly unnecessary within the story.

LA LA Land

It’s not simply women that are stereo-typed. Most of us men don’t own a plane, don’t look like Don Johnson (Arthur) or Andy Garcia (Mitchell) either, and most of us cannot compensate by being half-decent mechanics or even vaguely passable dancers. Perhaps its my gender bias the felt that the male story-line crisis was more thoughtful. That said, I frankly did not understand the plot purpose of Federal Judge Sharon’s ex-husband Tom (Ed Begley who is 69) announcing his engagement to Cheryl (Mircea Monroe who is 36) whilst celebrating their son’s engagement.  Surely this was a set up for comedic gags that never materialised.

The truth is that this is a very LA centric group of women. There are 4 good actresses – Diane Keaton (72) plays Diane, Jane Fonda (Vivian) is 80, Candice Bergen (Sharon) is 72 and Mary Steenburgen (Carol) is 65. Yet all still must conform to the Hollywood image in a way that their male counterparts simply do not. This movie did nothing other than play it safe.

Every Stage

What on earth can we apply to financial planning? … well, for starters, life is for living and anything alive changes, be that through personal growth, death, sickness, divorce or any number of reasons. We can plan so much, hopefully few clients reach retirement and have a crisis of identity, but there is no sugar-coating the reality that this is a major life adjustment. In practice, most would be wise to consider the transition into retirement is likely to take adjustment – a 2 year adjustment would not seem unreasonable.

We can certainly help and plan for financial independence and the maintenance of dignity, by having sufficient resources or sufficient adjustments to lifestyle. These are hard truths, we are all aging, no amount of cosmetic surgery can alter the reality, merely the appearance of it. The greatest value is surely ensuring that you are living life on your own terms whenever possible. A great financial plan will provide you with the structure and financial architecture to ensure yours come to fruition. Money can offer freedom, but some will never live it.

Its fine as a “Rom-com” but falls way short of an address to Hollywood in the age of #MeToo, which is a pity. Here’s the trailer, but be warned – if you watch it, you have seen the film.

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

Email me to get in touch
Book Club 2018-06-21T14:54:08+00:00

Julie – a matter of trust

Julie

I noted in social media last week that a fight broke out in the balcony of the Lyttleton Theatre between two male members of the audience at the end of a performance of Julie. I already had a ticket booked, but of course wondered, whether it was something about the play…

I can report that the acting was rather good, (Vanessa Kirby and Eric Kofi Abrefa to name two key performances) but to be blunt, this was a play that I simply did not care for. The dialogue was awful and reminded me of various unpleasant characters. It was meant to be reworking of August Strindberg’s play Miss Julie, but it felt dated and done before, many times before, but rather better.

The basic background premise is one of a sense of being trapped by circumstance. In this case rich it-girl with the traumatic experience of being the first to find her mother following her suicide. We can only guess why, but mine is that the mother also felt trapped in a life of luxury, lacking any meaning or any significant connection with her obviously wealthy, materially successful but invariably absent husband. The resulting wealth used as the justification for a lack of presence. The price of “success” and the excesses are its ongoing punishment.

Held in Trust

Julie, who has no money of her own, because it is held in Trust “because she is irresponsible with it”. She certainly is irresponsible, but whether this came before or after the Trust fund is one of the few talking points. I’m not a fan of Trusts (a bit odd for a financial planner to admit) but living from someone else’s money rarely has a good outcome and to put it bluntly, those that do best are the legal advisors, all (mainly) to avoid the clutches of a divorcing spouse, which from my point of view merely sets up the prospect of not living with the consequences of actions. A Trust might be a suitable metaphor for many elements of the play, the lack of trust between parent and adult child, the lack of trust between a self-serving man and a woman. The lack of real trust between a socialite and her maid… I could go on. Trust is quickly sacrificed for pleasure, or perhaps relief from the trappings of situation.

Do You Trust the Trustee Savings Bank?

So, who to trust? What is the price of trust and should you ever trust anyone? The truth is that we all must, being human we will be failed, but not trusting makes for miserable existence, albeit possibly right in a few instances.  Trusting any adviser is hard, trusting someone else with your money is one of the most difficult realities. Consider the recent muck up at TSB – Trustee Savings Bank, an utter fiasco. Advisers and the financial services industry must do an awful lot to shift the default setting of “mistrust”. Yet when it comes to your financial planning, this is what you need to remove. Any decent adviser will build trust over the years, by keeping promises, doing what they said they would do, looking after all your financial “stuff” and communicating in plain words.

A Problem of Wealth

One of the natural problems of having a significant amount of wealth, is that it tends to attract the wrong people, like bees to a honeypot. The opening scene of Julie reveals a birthday party composed of people that she neither knows nor likes, friends they are not. We can all probably think of people that have been parted from their money by their acquaintances.

Never underestimate the positive power of a proper financial fiduciary. Its not simply what we do, its also what we do not do, which includes not putting a hand in the till – or in this case the blender.

Here’s a promotional video from the National Theatre for Julie.

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

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Julie – a matter of trust 2018-06-14T17:48:20+00:00

First Reformed

First Reformed – a Phone Call from God

One of the benefits of being in London is that there is a lot going on. As you probably know, I love the arts and so attending the London Sundance Film Festival is something that I now do when possible. On Friday evening I had the good fortune to see First Reformed, it was a special screening with Ethan Hawke, (who most will remember as Todd from 1989 Dead Poets Society) introducing and discussing the film by Paul Schrader who turns 72 in July and continues to make movies.

Schrader is a writer and Director, somewhat controversial with scripts from Taxi Driver, Obsession, Raging Bull, The Last Temptation of Christ and Mosquito Coast to name a few. This new film is a powerful story about a former soldier, now clergyman coming to terms with some very difficult truths within a complex world.

The Activist Struggle

On the one hand it is a response to the feelings around the collective denial about the scale of the environmental problem that we all face. The story centres around May (Amanda Seyfried) and Michael (Philip Ettinger) who are expecting their first child. As environmental activists Michael despairs at the prospect of bringing a child into a doomed world. Toller (Ethan Hawke) provides counsel and comforts them as they struggle.

Toller has his own struggles, his own family military traditions resulted in him encouraging his own son to enlist, who was subsequently killed, resulting in his own marriage collapsing. This appears to have thrown him into church life and he is given a tiny, historic church with a congregation to match, in stark contrast to the business-like operation “Abundant Life” who have all the advantages that size brings in the form of resources but lack the one meaningful element of intimate connection.

Tradition, Honour, Discpline your Excellence..

The story explores ideas about authority, leadership and tradition set against a backdrop that requires much more thoughtful responses and integration of ethics. Money, greed and avoiding seeing what is discomforting all posed as the “proper” way. There are deep challenges to the American way of life within this film, as there are in Taxi Driver and other Schrader movies. A deep sense of injustice and a desperation to restore the balance of power reside at the heart of this dark tale.

We all have out blind spots. Sometimes these are helpful, they may even enable us to function. However, on occasion we must address difficult subjects and make some changes – hopefully, changes in our actions that are harming our own and only environment can be made in time to spare us from our folly. There are lots of reasons to he hopeful in life, but this movie reminds us of the challenge and perhaps a nagging feeling that there, but for the grace of God…

I did not like the ending at all. It was evidently written by a man, there is a bit when May, a heavily pregnant woman, finds a form of bliss in that awful Terrence Malick kind of way. I will not spoil it for you, but it didn’t work for me, the rest of the film was rather good until that last moment, but then, perhaps that is entirely the point. We all get to make choices each day about our behaviour – whether to recycle or to pollute. In a similar way, each day we get to choose, whether to plan for our future or ignore it yet again. Time waits for no one and ultimately, we will have to live with the consequences of our actions.

First Reformed is due to be released in the UK later this year. Here is the trailer and it may well be one of Hawke’s best to date.

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

Email me to get in touch
First Reformed 2018-06-04T15:50:43+00:00

On Chesil Beach

On Chesil Beach

The new film On Chesil Beach of the book by Ian McEwan is now in cinemas. It will perhaps bring back some memories for anyone that married in the 1960s, with the period captured wonderfully. Set primarily in 1962, it is the story of a newly-wed couple Edward (Billy Howle) and Florence (Saoirse Ronan) who discover that they are unprepared for the intimacy of marriage.

At the time of the story, the “sexual revolution” of the 1960s had barely begun, indeed Penguin Books had only recently (November 1960) won their case to publish Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Despite the reality of millions of daily lives, Britain was generally rather poor at sex education. Edward and Florence lack any real understanding of each other intimately. The church would of course argue that a lifetime of marriage would gradually facilitate intimacy, whilst such an answer for many is workable, where trauma and intimacy collide, there is little comfort in glib answers. Florence offers a different option, one that Edward simply cannot face.

Sweet Sorrow?

Spoiler alert – the marriage does not last the day and is annulled. Unlike the book, we do not follow the characters much beyond the moment of decision on Chesil Beach. Decisions are made, tempers are lost, and parting was not a sweet sorrow.

In our contemporary society, relationships now take various forms, it was not until 1973 that the Matrimonial Causes Act made the case for divorce clear (beyond annulment). This despite all our somewhat hypocritical history about personal conduct in aspects of sexual intimacy and marriage. Henry VIII managed to get what he wanted and created the Church of England as a consequence. The law is flexible for those with power, as perhaps you noticed in the recent BBC dramatization about Jeremy Thorpe (A Very English Scandal).

Life can be Messy

The problem with most financial planning is that real life tends to get in the way and muck things up. Life is not nice, neat straight lines, well not for most. We might wish that everything was very each to model, but the truth is that it is of course complex, nuanced and on occasion vexing. One of the most significant aspects that will impact your financial planning will be your marital status. Any change in this will create an obvious need to review your plans, yet many don’t see past the Form E (financial statement required for a divorce) and to be blunt, I’m always surprised that lawyers do not wish all sides to undergo some basic (or complex) financial assessment with proper cashflow modelling for their new scenarios. Perhaps few have experienced the benefit of this.

In any event, life is messy. Sometimes we all need to make changes that we did not expect. This might be marriage, divorce, redundancy, addictions, debt… and so on, a plethora of possibilities that were not expected. So, I tend to get a little, well, dismissive of advisers who think that a cashflow plan is the done deal – the future is mapped out, life is now a beach…. I would be quick to point out the massive advantage of cashflow planning, we use it for all our clients, but it does have its short-comings and like anything else, garbage in, garbage out, but reading a forecasted future as anything other than an option would be unwise at best. We may all crave certainty, but there is none when it comes to living life. I advise all clients that the plan is not set in stone, it will be wrong, but it is today a very good guess about he future, based upon sensible assumptions that need regular reviewing.

The Unvarnished Truth

It is not a crime to admit things need to be changed. That your plans must alter, that is normal. What is a crime (in a sense) is pretending that everything is ok when it isn’t. You may never have a Chesil Beach moment, but may I propose that a relationship with a financial planner, requires honesty and the ability to listen, discuss and think together.

On Chesil Beach is now in cinemas, here is the trailer. I enjoyed the film, beautifully shot and poignant storytelling 7/10.

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

Email me to get in touch
On Chesil Beach 2018-06-04T14:45:19+00:00

How The Light Gets In

How the Light Gets In

My Bank Holiday weekend was spent in Hay on Wye, not for the literary festival, but for the parallel festival – How the Light Gets In. It’s a festival run by the Institute of Arts and Ideas, primarily discussing and debating philosophy, economics, power and art. This year the agenda was packed with some excellent speakers, many of whom should ruffle feathers and rattle cages. In essence to inspire thoughtfulness.

One of the talks that has remained with me most was from Kwame Anthony Appiah, who delivered the 2016 Reith lectures. He is a professor of Philosophy and Law. He made the case against meritocracy, something that I had previously imagined and understood to be a fairer system, whereby effort is rewarded in life, rather than where and to whom you are born. He fairly quickly dismantled my perhaps, lazy views with sound argument. In particular the way that parents, at least most of them, are prone to a natural tendency to give their own children every advantage possible (understandably).

Fairness and Merit

If we are to have a fairer society, (I am not naïve enough to believe we are likely to achieve a fair one) then these issues need consideration. The suggestion that money is earned and deserved for hard work is fairly common, but of course it is commonly inaccurate. No doubt many work hard and are rewarded well, financially. However, many work very hard (provision of labour) perhaps working 3 jobs and this is of course, not rewarded in anything like the same measure. We know this, yet ignore it, basically telling ourselves that this is life, perhaps we are smarter and able to employ our minds rather than our bodies, or that we are rewarded for the value we add, not the functions we do. In practice it is of little comfort as an explanation and does nothing to redress imbalance.

Natural Bias

Inheritance tax is arguably one way to test if you believe in meritocracy. If you were unable to pass on wealth, your offspring would not have the advantage of a capital sum to help them. Yet hardly anyone likes inheritance tax, it feels very much like the last kick to the stomach from a system that has already taken what feels like more than its share of tax, without suffering the indignity of further taxes for dying. Yet any sense of meritocracy surely dies upon receipt of legacy. Note I am not arguing for 100% inheritance tax, merely pointing out that most of us have a sense of fair play, that is perhaps not as fair as we may wish to think… which of course is a matter of opinion.

Appiah was not suggesting we introduce such taxes, indeed he pointed to the reality of luck, chance and time. Mozart’s gifts would have been useless in a society that only possessed a drum. Einstein would have failed in a culture of wall paintings. The point, perhaps is that we forget our great good fortune, genetic, historical, familial and financial, all of which have a significant effect on our own “success” which may have relatively little to do with who we really are. There are countless other possible lives we could have lived had circumstances been rather different, something captured rather well in a recent episode of Legion.

Versions of You

As I build a financial plan for a client, we consider many possible versions of the future, goals, dreams, desires, hopes… whatever, but essentially yours. The reality we must all face is that when it comes to the future, we have to start with where we are, we have options (many) whatever our chosen course, which may well alter, we have to actually start the journey, not wait for it to arrive.

Oh, if you are interested, How the Light Gets In announced a London event on 22-23 September, to be held at Kenwood House, should you wish to check it out for yourself…. click here for more.

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

Email me to get in touch
How The Light Gets In 2018-06-04T15:58:41+00:00