A Certain Future

A Certain Future

Our culture is full of clamour for certainty… tell us the future? Why was your forecast wrong? (as a Radio4 presenter seem to berate The Bank of England this morning). Why didn’t you foresee such and such? It seems that we all want certainty – perhaps to affirm our own beliefs about life and people, or perhaps because deep down we know that life is anything but certain.

It appears this quest for certainty is intense at present, I say “seems” because I doubt that’s true, but we are bombarded with messages that would leave most rational folk with a deep sense of anxiety due to climate change, Brexit, technology, feckless politicians and a sense that perhaps, perhaps… the bullies are winning.

If only…

Investors are unsurprisingly startled by the normal behaviour of investment markets, when the “corrections” come. There is always anxiety over when is the best time to invest and when is a bad time to invest. None of us wishes to appear foolish.

Yet the basic law of investing (not speculating) is that markets are volatile, short term investing is unwise, long-term investing in a globally diverse portfolio is the best, most logical way to grow the value of money over time. In exchange you must live with seeing the “value” rise and fall rapidly and daily. If only we knew the future and had some certainty…

The Phlebotomist

I’m here to tell you that there is none. Yet we will search and research for it, developing theories to help us navigate the condition of life. This in mind, I was intrigued by a brief review of a new play “The Phlebotomist” by a young playwriter (Ella Road) which considers a not too distant dystopian future, where a blood test can reveal what illnesses you will suffer from, all rather like a credit score, but a health score.

I understand that this is explored in the context of a dating app, when people are forced to consider their choice of partner, given this pre-warning information. Sadly, I am not able to see the play at Hampstead Theatre which is sold out and runs until Saturday 19th May 2018. I hope that its success will lead to a wider, longer run. If you are going, please let me know your thoughts.

Life would be very dull if we knew what would happen. A sense of “Groundhog Day” is deeply unsatisfying. This fragile life, for all its faults is delightful (or potentially) precisely because of the lack of certainty.

Anyway, here’s a video from the cast of “The Phlebotomist” by Ella Road and directed by Sam Yates.

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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A Certain Future2018-05-11T10:41:16+01:00

Black Mirror – Nosedive

Black Mirror – Nosedive

The new series of Black Mirror has been released (21 October 2016) on Netflix and is a bit of a cross between Tales of the Unexpected and The Twilight Zone…. Remember them? If you do, then there is a fair chance that you will have had more than your fair share of adopting new technology over the years and Black Mirror is a small leap of the imagination into a future that is almost within our reach.

Nosedive, the first episode of the new series from the writer Charlie Brooker provides plenty of food for thought for those of us that use social media. Irrespective of who you are, there is something very satisfying about having a post or tweet “liked” or “retweeted” – a sense that you are being heard. Of course for small and large business, your social media marketing strategy is all about trying to engage people, both prospective clients and existing ones. This blog is no different.

Brooker draws out attention to the insatiable underlying desire for approval that underpins this and reflects a future society (not very much in the future) where “service with a smile” and the constant demand for ratings and feedback result in desperate collective anxiety and need to fake it in order to gain approval. Not only approval, but the point-scoring system acts as the new form of societal sorting and classification of us all.

image of Lacie, the lead character practicing her smile, current score 4.243image of Lacie, the lead character practicing her smile, current score 4.243image of Lacie, the lead character practicing her smile, current score 4.243

Are you getting feedback?

I thoroughly enjoyed his take on this rather dystopian future, of a world addicted to handsets and a numbing or removing of real experiences and interactions. I’m sure that if you shop online, you now get a request for some feedback. As with many things this was intended to be for our good – a chance to engage and improve services, yet it has become so widespread it now simply feels needy, like some spoiled child constantly asking for approval.

Here at Solomons are guilty of this too. We ask for feedback and comments – and for you to share posts, tweets and so on. This is now all part of helping spread the word about the business and how we help clients, how we bring value. That said, it can become very irritating (hence we try to limit our “neediness”).

Rage against the machine

I guess this reflects the changing nature of relationships between us all and the organisations that we use. Seeing people rant online, whether about Donald Trump, Hilary Clinton, Southern Rail or Brexit is at least raw and exposing, of course great care needs to be taken, but in Nosedive, we are faced with a “sanitized” society where genuine emotion, thought or comment is parked firmly out of sight, to the point where who you are seen to be and with are more important than who you are.

At least here in 2016 we continue to help our clients verbalise and express their true values, not simply those that are deemed “acceptable”. Its funny how often I ask people when they plan to retire and they invariably say 65 – which used to be the default State pension age, as though this is an appropriate “date”. The truth is that you can “retire” whenever you want – or not at all and why here at Solomons we prefer to use the term financial freedom day – when you choose to work, not because you have to, but because you want to.

Here’s a bit about Nosedive.

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

Black Mirror – Nosedive2017-01-27T11:12:38+00:00

More thoughts on Brexit

More thoughts on Brexit

I have spoken to a number of clients, all of whom expressed great sadness at the outcome of the EU referendum. I’m sure that some of our clients voted to leave for very good reasons (such as the EU being a huge bureaucracy that seems unwilling to change its ways). If you could cut through the bile of the media and politicians, then there was a debate to be had. Sadly, many are ill-informed about the actual issues, facts, experts, historical context and any sense of idea about what the impact really might be.

Many are still deeply distressed about the result, because it feels wrong. It feels as though something has been stolen from us all. Our nation, which is one of the most tolerant and safest places for anyone to live, has appeared to give the impression that we simply don’t care about others any more. We have had enough… “we want to take our country back”.

I am one of those that is deeply angry. At times, I have lost the internal conflict and said some things which probably doesn’t help. I apologise. I have been fed up that most of the commentary within my sector is written by white men, who are fairly wealthy and have little experience of racism in person and because they don’t see it, assume its not very bad.

Another stereotype – give me a badge

I am deeply concerned about the way that the far right appear to have been given permission to behave in a manner which feels like a threat to the core of this country, or what I think this country is. I have watched and read in dismay at stories and videos of some horrible incidents. There is an air of menace, interrogation and intimidation. As a large, bald, white male, sadly I appear to match the general stereotype of a thug. I feel the need to wear a badge that says the equivalent of “I didn’t vote for this, I don’t want you to leave, you are safe with me”. What I still fail to understand is why so few seem so unwilling to recognise that this was always the likely outcome. People that I respect and admire greatly, of all creeds and ethnicity.

I know full well that Westminster has condemned racist acts in the past, and did so again yesterday (Monday) but to be blunt, lots of white middle class men (largely) invariably move their lips to a soundtrack that seems at odds with their actions. However “good” a Prime Minister David Cameron has been (which is of course subjective) he was the one that agreed to run the referendum and its result has created this deep state of unease.

We have clients from all backgrounds. We have friends, colleagues and neighbours. Many are deeply worried for their future because of the newfound “courage” that fascists have been handed with a vote to “leave” for which they read – tell everyone to go (it seems). We have to stand up against this, not afterwards, but in the moment, during. If that is a frightening prospect, well that’s the practice of standing in another’s shoes and what it means to stand against racism.

Yes there is a reason…

I understand that most of these people are poor, often poorly educated, a product of their circumstances and if they are constantly told that they are worthless they tend to believe that lie until someone else, proclaiming nationalistic values, provides a form of antidote with a sense of identity. However this is no excuse, just an explanation.

So however you voted, the reasons why those of us that voted “remain” were invariably beyond the mere numbers of costs, economics and bureaucracy. We know that immigration needs careful controlling, we know that integration could and should be far better than it is. But we also know that we are all lucky to be born here, which is all it is, a random roll of the dice.

Business is more than money, its also community

Perhaps this is not the place to talk about “my feelings” after all, I run a business designed to serve you to make better financial decisions. However to be candid again, the financial planning I do, that works best is all about personal values – yours (and mine) and invariably the money is the least important bit. If my job is simply to protect your wealth, then frankly this is also a part of that.

and here is an oldie… The Power of One.

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

More thoughts on Brexit2017-01-06T14:39:15+00:00

Brexit – Some Thoughts

Brexit – Some Thoughts

I am conscious that this is a highly sensitive subject. I have to acknowledge that 52% of voters that voted, elected to leave the EU – at least that is what is being claimed. I am rather less inclined to believe this to be a thorough explanation.

I will declare that I voted to remain, not because I think the EU is perfect, but to use a metaphor, if I’m not entirely happy about what happens in my street, leaving it solves my experience but not the problem and should I want to discuss access to the road again, I don’t really expect much of a welcome, in fact they are likely to make it a toll road and my choice will forever be yes or no, but never “what if we did it this way…”

As we all know, there was and continues to be a lot of heated exchange. It is certainly possible that the UK can exist outside of the EU and trade as “normal”. However many seem to have forgotten that the UK, (if indeed it can still be called that within a few months) has a population problem, but not the one being discussed. The problem is longevity.

Thankfully due to our rather excellent health service, most of us are living longer. This is a good thing, reflecting our progress as a society. Of course this also means that more people are alive to draw a State pension and are alive longer to draw on support from family and State. The demographics of the nation by all calculations mean that there is more pressure on the State to find the money for this ongoing “support”. Unfortunately, the ratio of people in retirement to those not yet retired is shifting, considerably. The bulk of pensioners do not have high incomes and the State pension is effectively tax free due to the personal allowance.

Its not enough…

In practice those pensions are paid for by current taxation, not historic taxation, which was merely the “membership fee”. The bulk of tax is paid from income tax raised each year. We need more people to earn money to pay tax to provide for the “system”. Indeed HMRC collected £533bn in taxes of all types for 2015/16. The highest amount ever, yet still not enough. For the record about 54% is from income tax, 19% from VAT (that nasty European idea) and 11% from corporation. In short 84% from direct taxes. If you wish to see the latest HMRC report spanning back to 1980 click here.

Not enough being born

The UK birth rate is in decline. It has fallen from 2.93 per woman in 1963 to about 1.90. This is historically how we have sustained the nation. Tracking this forwards, combined with people living longer merely confirms what I have stated. There are fewer people of working age to provide for those that are not. (click here for evidence).

Not enough jobs, yet low unemployment…

Those wanting jobs now have to compete in an increasingly global economy, unless of course it is something very bespoke or crafted locally. The technological revolution has barely started, more service and manufacturing jobs are being “automated”… whether it’s the booking of flights, paying for your groceries, renewing your tax disc, banking or calling to complain. Certainly there are new jobs and roles, but in a world where tax rates and regimes vary, we clearly value convenience and low prices over jobs and “fair” (please let’s just call it “appropriate”) taxes – I’m thinking Amazon. Ironically, the UK has just recorded its lowest level of unemployment for some time at 5.1%, the lowest since the credit crunch, which in turn was the lowest since about 1977. Click here for evidence.

All creatures great and small…

On Thursday the UK voted to end its relationship with its main and nearest trading partner. The equivalent of all those market towns that used to have an exchange, now amalgamated in London. The world is a big place, but just as we like the convenience of Amazon, so do nations like the certainty of trade agreements and low prices. The advantage of the EU is that trade prices are thought of collectively, negotiating as a block for a better deal, not the cheapest deal.

You may disagree with me, you may find many faults with the EU (who doesn’t) but what is clear is that few people really voted from a position of knowledge, but rather prejudice (anti- big brother) or simply feeling disconnected with the establishment, on the wrong end of every “good deal” and clearly do not believe that we are all in it together. I understand this to be more of a protest vote against cuts and austerity, which I fear politicians will continue to ignore the cries of people that have become so desperate that they voted for the equivalent of selling your home, buying another without first reading the contract or having a survey done – let alone agreeing the mortgage. Buyer’s remorse is inevitable.

A problem aired is a problem shared?

Yes we could simply “get on with it” but as yet nobody wishes to be remembered as the person that took the action that is likely to result in not simply the severance from the EU but also the end of the United Kingdom. There is another alternative – that of acknowledging that both sides are actually “right” or at least make some fair points. So perhaps, there is an opportunity to get all these frustrations (not just British ones) out on the table, to properly reform, thoughtfully and respectfully. I admit this is a more unlikely scenario as I attempt to find a silver-lining and a ray of hopefulness.

Of course the EU isn’t perfect – neither is Westminster

I’m sure there are lots of examples of bad EU laws, but I am not informed enough to know them all – are you?  I, like many others did sign up for and support Hugh’s Fish Fight. I do know there are plenty of sensible ones. I do know that simply counting laws is no fair or sensible way to assess them. The House of Commons Library attempted to do so and found that between 1993 and 2014 about 13% of laws relate to EU obligations or implementation of them. Again, unclear about whether they are good or “bad”.

I can’t see you….. really?

Yet here we are. A nation now blaming each other and looking terribly unfriendly to anyone that isn’t white “or from these parts”. Yes I know not all Brexit voters are racist, I doubt many are, (not all are white either) but whether you like it or not, we need “new blood” to help our economy by running services, building businesses, creating jobs and paying taxes.  Sadly, no, alarmingly the result of this vote has emboldened those with racist views, which we must now all face down in person, not merely in words. The degree of tension is palpable and this is not the Britain that any of us wanted. I hope.

Lasting security is not a high wire fence

However, all these problems are not exclusive to the UK. Indeed most of the EU has precisely the same problems of longevity and poor levels of saving with high dependence on the State. Arguably they have worse problems and likely to merely exaggerate problems. However the way to reduce envy and create greater security is to help your neighbour prosper, not collapse.

Of course, Mr Shakespeare would have seen this as very good material….. oh he did.

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

Brexit – Some Thoughts2017-01-06T14:39:15+00:00
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