Nocturnal Animals, skin-deep values

Nocturnal Animals

The stories we tell ourselves invariably shape our lives. The choices we make about a partner, a spouse or a career are born of our own life experiences, encouragements and admonishments.  In our culture, success, invariably translates as material wealth. Increasingly this is underlined by fame or notoriety, where maintaining an image is all. Nocturnal Animals explores these ideas.

Hungry 

Traditionally within financial services, we have all been encouraged to want rather more. More will make us happier. To define our success by the amount of our net worth.  When I began advising, over a quarter of a century ago, the mantra of the day by those leading and training new recruits was to encourage over-reach. To ensure that advisers were sufficiently motivated (hungry) to achieve sales.  We were encouraged to appear successful, to be the success we wanted, despite not yet possessing any. Many took this as instruction to buy and acquire the things that presented the appearance of success, getting into debt in the process. This created further imperative to sell. The world of the adviser was very much “eat what you kill” which in short meant, if you don’t sell, you don’t eat. Almost everyone was self-employed.

Pressured Living

The result of a commission only culture, was unsurprising. “Advisers” were under huge pressure to make a living – which involved selling policies. This resulted in high-pressured sales and of course the bigger the commission the better. Anyone that genuinely wanted to advise clients fairly (by which I mean, not to rip off) was generally derided and ridiculed for their paltry earnings and stance.

Stand up, get out, shake up

Those advisers and firms that wanted a more ethical, sustainable approach had to choose to go against the grain, charging fees in a world of “free advice”.  There were not many and it was only in 2013 that the regulation was put in place to make this the case, though it’s still half-baked now.

Predators and wild beasts

The stories we tell ourselves, to justify our actions are important and explored in the gripping, violent and intense drama of “Nocturnal Animals”. Exploring the base elemental instincts of desire, hunger and longing for success. Like animals on the prowl, laying traps for prey. The villain of the film, Ray Marcus, is utterly horrible and brought to life with a performance that will leave you sleepless by Aaron Taylor-Johnson.

Now you see me…

Today the entrapments are ever more subtle, though I’m sure Shakespeare and others would contend otherwise. Hiding a lie between two truths, disguising fact for fiction and vice versa (how Shakespearian right?). In the film, art dealer Susan (Amy Adams) is confronted with truths about her past that go some way to explaining her current malaise. The revelations are presented in a gripping, horrifying work of fiction. There are discomforting lessons for Susan and for us all. Who and what we choose to listen to and believe, has consequences, contrary to the narrative that implies otherwise.

Knowing not wanting

Whether you are a client, an adviser or just checking out our website, the key to knowing what we (all) really want and what we (all) value, requires understanding what and who we don’t want to be. As for Nocturnal Animals, it has both style and substance. As for the financial services industry, it still lives with the legacy of the past, as do many investors. Here is the trailer for Nocturnal Animals, an enthralling film by Tom Ford…

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

Nocturnal Animals, skin-deep values2017-02-17T10:13:23+00:00

Arrival in Time

Arrival in Time

“There are days that define your story beyond your life, like the day they arrived”. Arrival, tells the story of an alien arrival (I’m not giving anything away). The film itself will likely get your grey matter working hard grappling with the concept of time. This is a very different alien movie, unlike any other that I have seen as it challenges the concept of time…well ok Interstellar did this too… and perhaps a little like the HG Wells story, but different in that it proposes time as non-linear.

Time as an image

As a financial planner, we use cashflow modelling in a very linear application. The present, perhaps a nod to the past, but a plan for the future. The result is translated into an illuminating image, which clients find very helpful indeed. Yet it is linear, which is of course it’s limitation. A great financial planning meeting will attempt to address questions about whether some of the plans in the future can be brought further forward, perhaps much more into the present. Never-the-less it is still a linear experience.

Life is a journey… and some

The movie Arrival is not really about aliens. It’s about communication and about being able to develop the adage “life is a journey, not a destination”. One that we play with in this site. Many people find financial services jargon to be fairly alienating. Communication is not something that our sector has done terribly well in the past. The film seems to ask the question whether we would change the image, if our life was reduced to a single image, with all its joys, but with all its pains. One might argue that there is something almost deity-like in this understanding of time and it is rather different from our more linear rational explanation. This might be viewed by the fairly expected traditional male approach of binary thinking, as often displayed in our world, with the “if you aren’t for us, you must be against us” rationale. This is given character in the usual full military display and response to anything different or other worldly. It takes a female linguist (Louise, played by Amy Adams) to have the humility and wisdom to listen and comprehend the message provided by the Heptapods.

Lessons from Arrival

Financial planning looks at the future and adjusts the present to have a better chance of reaching the one you want. Arrival, is more accepting of what is, when it was, is or will be, but all at the same time. Time is not linear. So, from a financial planning perspective, the movie doesn’t teach us a lot other than to remind us to listen to what is being communicated and attempting to avoid the binary choice mentality that is rarely constructive. However, the idea of being able to visualise and create an image of your life for you to see, well that’s very much an aspect of proper cashflow modelling, which is all about conveying your choices about the future visually.

If you haven’t seen it yet, here is the trailer for Arrival. I enjoyed it a lot.

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

Arrival in Time2017-02-08T12:46:26+00:00

Faking It – Big Eyes

Faking It – Big Eyes

As you may have gathered, I enjoy stories, particularly those that seem to have something to say. As a financial planner, naturally I’m interested in money and how investors behave. However money is just a tool, what people really want are the choices that money offers. We all relate to money differently and history is littered with examples of good and not so good financial decisions.

The new Tim Burton film Big Eyes explores the true story of artist Margaret Ulbrich (Amy Adams). Primarily this is an intriguing story about how a struggling single mother, plying her skills as a street artist meets a fellow artist Walter Keane. He is charming and encouraging, enabling her to regain some sense of confidence in her own ability. Following their marriage Walter exhibits his work and includes some of his Margaret’s which she has effectively now signed as Mrs Keane.  It is mistaken for his and unwilling to correct the error for fear of losing the sale, so begins a sequence of events in which he passes off Margaret’s work as his.

Oversized

The deception does not come naturally to Margaret, and the severity of her “crime” is exaggerated by husband so as to ensure her silence. Largely due to his skills the work becomes commoditized, world-famous and naturally very lucrative. As the money flows in her fear about the magnitude of the crime multiplies, leading her to feel trapped, friendless in her studio, unable to take any credit for her work. One wonders whether this would have been a very different story had Walter Keane not been such a brilliant salesman and marketer. The sadness of the story is that Walter is unable to recognise the value of his own skills, preferring to deceive and take full credit for the work and is unable to acknowledge the deception.

Ultimately, Margaret finds the self-confidence to leave her increasingly belligerent husband and gains the confidence to reveal her “crime”, though in practice this is more of an unmasking of the truth. What is surprising is how it took so long and why his deception was not uncovered sooner. Therein lies an uncomfortable truth – much like the emperors new clothes, sometimes the obvious observation isn’t spoken for fear of appearing foolish, even the art critics (the experts) misinterpret the source of the work. It is only a judge who assesses the claims with the obvious solution…much like King Solomon’s wisdom when two women argue over a baby…. so when it comes to assessing a fraudster, you need eyes to see.

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

Faking It – Big Eyes2017-01-06T14:39:31+00:00
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