Is your money an extension of your values?

Dominic Thomas
July 2023  •  12 min read

Is your money an extension of your values?

The financial services sector, like others, has been attempting to evolve over the years, moving with the times. I’m not talking about technology; but the people and culture. The regulator has had things to say about culture for some years, but usually too little too late and with no real weight behind it.

Sentry at your door

One of the things you may not be aware of is who we do not use. As your adviser and confidant, I take my role seriously. One aspect of the role is being a bit like a gatekeeper or ‘bouncer’. Some might say I possess the right thuggish look for this! What clients end up with is hopefully a well-screened experience, but you almost certainly don’t know how that is done and how much dross has been screened out, why should you?  It’s my job to do this and time is too limited to bore you with all the detail.

So, cutting to the chase – price, functionality, financial resilience, performance and philosophy are all perhaps obvious elements. Culture is much more subjective. Whilst this can include ‘greenwashing’, I also consider elements of what, who, why and how things are done. Rare is the day that you will ever hold a ‘Prima Donna’ investment. Stars are for astronomy not your investments.

Leadership

We are all familiar with the reality that the wrong people are generally leading the world rather badly. Good leadership is vital, sadly the culture within financial services is often intoxicated by its own sense of importance and ‘leadership’, which often gives way to belief of possessing better skills and a Midas-touch. Performance-fuelled and rewarded and then re-awarding itself like an ever-consuming sycophant.

Nobody is without failings, but some people seem to believe that they can behave with impunity. An error of judgement or mistake is one thing, but constant repetition is another. One of the many problems with success is that people tend to ignore details, yet it is the detail that is likely to be the undoing.

Money, power and sex … or rather abuse

Money and power tend to keep those benefitting from it quiet. Sometimes a lowly observer has to point out the Emperor’s predicament. We can all be fooled, but I am often surprised how easily this is achieved.

You could read the article by Marriage, Cundy and Caruana Galizia in the Financial Times on 8th June 2023 for detail about the behaviour of one of its members, (well several actually). However, the network will generally seek to protect and deflect blame, minimising any wrongdoing as ‘misunderstanding’.

Big fish, small pond

You can make the choice with your money to follow these people or not. However, I have no intention or interest in helping increase the personal fortunes of those whose behaviour privately, publicly and corporately appears self-serving. If you prefer to help these particular millionaires (or billionaires) become richer, that’s your choice, but it’s not mine. For me, money should be ‘used’ not ‘played with’ to impress parents who clearly gave up providing enough attention at the beginning.

Accomplished liars

Having been around the sector for over three decades, it won’t surprise you to learn that I do not believe regulation or legal action really makes a difference to characters who simply do not care about anyone else. They will of course utter feeble words about lessons being learned, seeking help, blah, blah … whilst standing beside a spouse who has yet to comprehend the depth of the offence … but this is all too predictable. They haven’t changed behaviour and its naïve to think they will.

They bullied or charmed their way into the spotlight. A lifetime of bluff and overconfidence has resulted in them becoming highly skilled liars. However, they are permitted to thrive by others pretending that everything is somehow OK, when it clearly is not. I don’t mean we should all pass judgement on each other’s choices, but ‘the network’ allows it to thrive. Of course, this is not simply within financial services, sadly most walks of life from the pulpit to the bull pit, the shop floor to the studio, the Boardroom to the changing room.

Another way

Your money is remarkably powerful – it endorses, promotes, approves and rewards. This is why I take great care in how it is invested and the philosophy behind it. As a client, you back our small firm that rewards its staff fairly and takes each person seriously, helping each to build their own lives on their own terms.

Click here for FT piece

Is your money an extension of your values?2023-12-01T12:12:31+00:00

Working in financial services … A calling?

TODAY’S BLOG

WORKING IN FINANCIAL SERVICES… A CALLING?

Normally when someone asks what I do for a living, my answer creates a knee-jerk reaction of eyes glazing over, hunching of the shoulders and the stifling of a yawn before the sarcastic comment “that sounds … thrilling” (or variations thereof!)

And I get it – to an outsider, financial services is Dull (with a capital D).  In fact, to many ‘insiders’ as well, financial services is pretty dull!  But I consider myself truly fortunate to be working in a firm like Solomon’s, with a great team of people, and a fabulous bunch of clients, doing the work that we do.

As a relatively small company, we don’t have hard lines between our roles here, which means we all get some exposure to marketing, finance, report writing, admin, client liaison, writing content, editing, checking each other, creative processes, planning, business growth.  It’s a dynamic work environment for us and it’s the absolute opposite of the toxic workplaces that grace so many threads on social media at the moment.  The team works well together as we all like and respect one another (even when we disagree).

Financial planning is not known as a caring profession (that expression seems to be reserved for medical personnel) but at Solomon’s (as a firm and as a team of individuals) – we genuinely do care about our clients and the work we do with them and for them.  It is a great pleasure and an honour when a client realises they can retire earlier than they imagined; or that they can afford to do something that had seemed out of reach; or quite simply that they can ‘stop worrying’ about some of the ‘big stuff’ like “will I run out of money?” or “what would I do financially if I lost my spouse?”.

Most of our clients have been with Solomon’s for MANY years (some are counting in decades) and we know them very well … to a point of reading an article in the news or social media that reminds us of a client (a football team winning a big event, the sale of a very old and valuable stamp, or an interesting gardening fact – you catch my drift).  We are invested in our clients’ lives (not in a stalker-ish way!) quite simply because we care what happens to them.  We care that they are separating from their spouse, we care that they have been diagnosed with a critical illness, we care that they have lost a parent (or sadly a child).

We aren’t just about the money; we aren’t just about the work; we ARE about people; we are about empathy; we are about relationship.

We are a small firm with a big heart.

Debbie Harris
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

GET IN TOUCH

Solomon’s Independent Financial Advisers
The Old Bakery, 2D Edna Road, Raynes Park, London, SW20 8BT

Email – info@solomonsifa.co.uk 
Call – 020 8542 8084

7 QUESTIONS, NO WAFFLE

Are we a good fit for you?

GET IN TOUCH

Solomon’s Independent Financial Advisers
The Old Bakery, 2D Edna Road, Raynes Park, London, SW20 8BT

Email – info@solomonsifa.co.uk    Call – 020 8542 8084

7 QUESTIONS, NO WAFFLE

Are we a good fit for you?

Working in financial services … A calling?2023-12-01T12:12:52+00:00

Do You Need Financial Protection?

Solomons-financial-advisor-wimbledon-bloggerDo You Need Financial Protection?

A question I’m often asked is do I need financial protection? frankly this is rarely the question… most people are really asking if insurance is worthwhile. Given the scandal of PPI, and a general mistrust of financial services, it is little wonder. Add in the reality that there is a general assumption that such contracts are designed to favour the insurer and the lawyer involved, many question whether the insurers would ever pay out.LifeHappens

OK, there is little I am going to be able to say to convince anyone that is suspicious about “the system”. All I can do is point you to data about claims paid and also relate my own experience. In all the years I have been advising clients, I have unfortunately had a number of claims. All of them were accepted, only one was not paid out at the full amount (they paid 73% citing non-disclosure of material health matters). We are currently considering whether to contest this or not, I can see both sides of the argument – but obviously represent my client, so will represent his interests.

In essence there are really only three types of financial protection I deal with for individuals. So let’s cover what these are.

1. Life assurance – you die, it pays out. Price is everything, there is pretty much nothing between providers on terms and conditions, however there are a myriad of types of life assurance policy and enormous differences in cost.

2. Critical Illness Cover – this is much more contentious. Terms and conditions are everything, quality is upmost, price is secondary – you pay for what you get. However cost still varies enormously. This cover pays out if you are diagnosed with a serious medical condition – it pays you. The main conditions are cancer, heart attack and stroke….all stuff that most of us would prefer not to think about, but probably know several people (depending on your age) that have experienced this.

3. Income Protection – this  pays your income if you cannot work due to incapacity and an inability to return to work. Generally cover would pay until you are better and can return to work, or until the policy maturity date (invariably your retirement date). It isn’t so contentious, these days a lot of employers provide cover. Certainly terms are important – most basic being does it pay out if you cannot do your job or any job or any job for which you are suitably skilled/able.  Cover is always less than your total income, as this provides an incentive for the claimant to “make a recovery” and also reduces fraud. Cost varies considerably. Generally cover is a percentage of income, up to a maximum and starts typically after 3, 6 or 12 months of “being unwell”… the longer this “deferred” period, the cheaper the cover. This isn’t accurate… but gives you an idea.

Which job would you prefer?

Job A: £60,000 per annum

Job B: £59,500 per annum plus £38,675 per annum until 65 if you have a long term illness.

As I say, its not accurate, lots of if’s but’s and maybe’s…. but hopefully I am conveying the concept.

So how much cover do you need?

That depends entirely on your circumstances, the cost of your lifestyle, your age and your level of debt and if you have anyone that is relying on you. It is generally true that the more you need cover, the less you can afford it… think of a young family who have a tight budget…precisely because they have a tight budget they need cover. Some people don’t need any cover (because they have ample resources). In essence they are self-insuring, however some of these people would prefer to pay for insurance so that they pass the risk to the insurer rather than bear it themselves, so using funds for other, more enjoyable purposes.

Reviewing Cover

So you have a load of old policies. You have some cover. Sometimes it isn’t a good idea to change the cover –  the policies where terms and conditions matter generally are weaker and more vague these days than they once were. However some can be reviewed. Don’t forget on the whole your debt should be reducing and you and your family, if you have one are older, less dependent.

FT FAAwards2015

Financial Times (FT) Financial Adviser Awards 2015

Yesterday I attended the FT Financial Adviser Awards – having been nominated for “Protection Adviser of the Year”. I’m pleased to say that it was a podium finish (2nd)… which isn’t bad (the winner is a thoroughly good adviser that I respect – genuine congratulations). Of course I would have preferred to win – but hey, out of 24,000 advisers in the UK… I, like Nico Rosberg need to keep improving. However I don’t really know the exact reason why I came second (unlike F1 there isn’t a final lap chequered flag. I assume it cannot be based on the amount of protection business I arranged over the last year (consider the big networks of advisers or Bank employees), so I presume it is the quality of the advice process, perhaps also because I have always removed commission from protection policies (reducing the cost for clients) which is still unusual and not a regulatory requirement of “adviser charging rules”. Perhaps it was the case study, business model or interview that revealed the quality rather than the quantity of our protection advice. At this stage I don’t know, but what I do know is that if you find yourself in a nightmare scenario – the inability to earn, or life threatening illness or worse – suddenly bereaved, having cover in place that removes financial stress makes all the difference in the world. Because sometimes in life stuff happens that we don’t like.

Dominic Thomas

 

Do You Need Financial Protection?2023-12-01T12:40:06+00:00

Professional Adviser Awards 2015

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Professional Adviser Awards 2015

Last week I attended the Professional Adviser Awards held in London a stone’s throw from the Barbican. We had been short-listed, for the second time in succession for “Firm of the Year” for London. Given our size it is highly unlikely that we will ever win when competing with much larger firms in the financial capital, frankly it is a a bit of a coup that we get short-listed. However on the back of our submitted work and the judges having a look at the firm I’m delighted to say that whilst we didn’t win, we were a close second with a “highly commended”.

Professional-Advisor-Awards-FinalistThose that know me will appreciate that I am constantly seeking ways to improve what we do for our clients. I am all too aware of short-comings and work hard to reduce or remove them wherever possible. So not winning, in this instance, feels absolutely right and yet still highly satisfying.

As it is awards season, it is customary to thank various people. So I would like to thank our clients, the staff, those within the industry that have assisted us to provide a great service, various peers that inspire and encourage me, friends and family that have been hugely supportive over the years and my wife and daughters for their support and understanding.

So in the spirit of improvement…. I’m more than willing to listen to ways that we can convey concepts to clients, produce easy to understand high quality material and promote independent financial advice within a proper financial planning context. Please get in touch if you have suggestions about how we may improve.

IMG_0381IMG_0386

Dominic Thomas

Professional Adviser Awards 20152023-12-01T12:39:59+00:00

Retail Therapy

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Retail TherapyWho Pays the ferryman

Most of us have probably at some point dabbled in a bit of retail therapy, bought something nice to make us feel a bit better. Invariably the feeling is all too fleeting, which most of us observe and move on, however some, much like addicts, seek out another high or buzz, returning to the shops. Unfortunately most western economies are based upon this reality to a greater or lessor extent.

However, whatever your economy is based on, the cold reality of life will eventually be something that cannot be avoided. You may have seen the rather sad tale of Louise Gray, a widow of the 7/7 London bombings. Mrs Gray received a substantial sum from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority and awards were also made to her son and daughter, which were placed into Trust (presumably a Bare Trust) as the son gained access to the funds at 18. However, he simply took funds out and entrusted them to his mother, who it seems had spent her funds and then spent his. Sadly this resulted in her son Adam taking his mother to court to return the money to him, which she couldn’t so was recently sentenced to imprisonment for 2 years and 8 months.

Of course, I know nothing of the detail of this case, but I imagine that Mrs Gray has found it very hard to adjust to life following the loss of her husband and rather than seeking professional help and support sought comfort in things. Of course, she may have sought and even found some counselling, but even if she did, her behaviour suggests that she was avoiding confronting some very harsh realities, which I imagine would be a difficult process for most people. war bonds

It would be easy to dismiss her actions as foolish, yet it is plain that it is far easier to avoid reality than face it. The Greek election vote is something of a vote for denial of reality, but then, aren’t our own politicians in a rush to make promises that in reality delay the unyielding inevitability of collective need to get our finances in order? Whether its tax cuts, tax breaks, spending increases, decreases… it all boils down to some basic sums… you cannot continue to spend what you don’t have, without a day of reckoning. Talk of finally paying off the FIRST World War debt (some £1.9billion is still owed) is somewhat flawed… the debt hasn’t been repaid, its been repackaged… much like switching a credit card balance to a cheaper one isn’t clearing debt. Perhaps you thought that the country would have paid for WW1 by now, some 100 years later…war is expensive in every possible sense! How much better off our Nation would be if we had found the courage to repay debt rather than simply maintain it. The truth can be pretty painful can’t it…..

Dominic Thomas

Retail Therapy2023-12-01T12:39:55+00:00

Pensioners Broke the Website

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Pensioners Broke the Website

Today is the launch of the NS&I Pensioner Bonds and the demand has been so great for them, that pensioners broke the website for NS&I… or more accurately, the site has had a significant amount of technical problems today coping with the rush to buy pensioner bonds.NS&I Pensioner Bonds

As mentioned before the rates are very good by comparison, whether you want to tie up cash in a Bond for these periods is another matter, but if you do and you are seeking very low risk (not no risk) then this can be suitable (note I did not say that it is suitable – as ever context and your circumstances are everything).

The one year bond is 2.8% and the 3 year bond is 4%. Details can be found here at NS&I.

Dominic Thomas

Pensioners Broke the Website2023-12-01T12:39:52+00:00

Has War Just Changed?

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Has War Just Changed?

As is often the case, out of something that seemed trivial, we may have witnessed a “significant moment” in history without grasping the implications. In short, we are asked to wonder if war has just changed. It seems to me that war is invariably about an inability to cope with or live with difference. Often this is expressed as a conflict of ideology but of course theology too. Some regard war as a battle over land, which perhaps is the case, but I’d suggest that this is merely the physically binding frame of reference used to galvanise support along lines of difference and to physically represent the boundaries of control. This week we learned that the boundaries shifted. The vast majority of the media missed the story, selecting to reflect the inane rather than the insane.Good Night and Good Luck

The story? this is about a executives at a film company bad-mouthing movie stars and being caught. The real story is that national boundaries have just been obliterated by hackers, who acted to squash something they didn’t like… but not just squash, threaten. Of course, some countries operate on the basis of a few bullies oppressing the masses – this is sadly nothing new and will probably never cease. I found myself looking at an image in a magazine recently, wondering how on earth so few, odd looking irrelevant men can control an entire nation, yet it happens all over the world.

The sadness is that film-makers and journalists are meant to be the ones that keep our focus on the truth, revealing darkness and oppression, helping to inform and change. Sadly many in Hollywood shirked this responsibility for fear of reprisal and financial cost. George Clooney couldn’t get anyone to sign his petition – ANYONE. So why should we be concerned if others aren’t? – after all haven’t Sony executives themselves to blame for expressing personal opinion and hitting that send button? Well, certainly some wisdom is needed in expressing opinion in a digital age, but the truth is that I doubt anyone has not said something about someone at some point in their life of which they are now not terribly proud. However, this isn’t really the point – the point is where does this lead? Can hackers now be hired by anyone, any nation to bully another into compliance? How does this impact our free speech? and surely this isn’t simply the domaine of terrified, narrow-minded tyrants, but also enters the arena of corporations who don’t like stories about their leadership or activities. Surely this has the potential to influence how we perceive and from a financial services perspective, appearance can be everything – just ask Tesco or BP.

This story has implications for you and I, our use of social media and the freedoms we enjoy. Obviously it isn’t wise to hurl insults and the adage, if you wouldn’t say it to their face, don’t say it at all seems pretty pertinent. But we surely cannot live in a world where we are terrified of legal action or reprisal. This is a “tipping point” for the double-edged sword of the internet, offering the prospect of genuine freedom of information to all (which we take rather for granted in the comfort of the West). As for me, I have never liked bullies, whether they come in the guise of a big kid in the playground, a teacher, boss, an investment bank, politician, pseudo military general, bigot, racist, rabid fundamentalist or of course my own tendency to think lazily and turn to petulant expression in frustration, which certainly in my “madder moments” it is a very good thing that weapons are not within easy reach…and sadly my own temper is easily fuelled driving, cycling or walking these very streets all too easily… which is of course the advantage of a society that doesn’t permit liberal gun ownership, encourages thought, education, tolerance and self-reflection, but unfortunately often seems more obsessed with narcissistic reflection in the eye of… well the media.

Dominic Thomas

Has War Just Changed?2023-12-01T12:39:48+00:00

Walking With Dinosaurs

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Walking with Dinosaurs

You may remember the programme “Walking With Dinosaurs” which was first broadcast on the BBC in 1999. It was a ground-breaking award winning series due to the technical special effects that some clever people at Framestore achieved. One of my clients worked on the series and has since had  a succesful career in Hollywood doing similar things with monsters in movies. Anyway, interest in dinosaurs seems to have been re-kindled ever since, despite the efforts of the character Ross the palaeontologist from “Friends” who attempted to bore everyone to death.central-hall-dippy-pink-200-110574-1

It was only a few days ago that I was blogging about a video suggesting that IFAs will become extinct in 2014 much like the dinosaur. So it was some degree of irony that on Thursday night I was at an award ceremony run by the Financial Times Financial Adviser magazine held, you guessed it, in the Hintze Hall of the Natural History museum in Kensington. If you’ve been there, you will know features a huge Diplodocus. I’d been invited along (noted in our inducement register) by a company that we have used successfully with a number of our clients, very much a new world technology focused company, a company of tomorrow – or at least as far as we can see ahead. I hadn’t been to this annual event before and to be honest, probably wouldn’t hurry to return again.

FA Service Awards 2014This was a night for service awards, which frankly I thought might have extended beyond “Product Providers” the majority of whom were life and pension companies or mortgage lenders, but it didn’t.

The awards are voted for by advisers, the results were very surprising and seemed to contradict my own experience of dealing with some of the organisations over the years. I have to admit that we don’t arrange mortgages, so I have no idea today who is a good lender when it comes to service, though I have my suspicions.

Whilst I wouldn’t wish to pour cold water on the achievements of those that won, (seriously – congratulations!) it did make me pause to wonder, why advisers voted in a such a way, suggesting that many are still rather trapped in the old world and the old ways of doing things, in fact being advisers that arrange stuff rather than holistically plan, perhaps I’m wrong on this (it wouldn’t be the first time) but the results and event itself were rather… enlightening. I left wondering how many might find themselves in trophy cabinets rather than those that they clutched…. there weren’t any awards for advisers, so its not that I’m a sore loser… its just that I genuinely think the days of the giants within the life and pension industry are seriously numbered. The news on Friday that one giant (Aviva) is seeking to swallow another (Friends Life) for an initial £5.6 billion merely adds weight to my assertion that cannibalism within the financial services industry is still the main diet. Still, it was a fun evening and the people I was with, who were good company, certainly echoed similar feelings to mine.

Dominic Thomas

Walking With Dinosaurs2023-12-01T12:39:38+00:00

Uncertainty is Normal

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Uncertainty is Normal

There is much in the news to concern even the most stoic of people, however without ignoring the considerable challenges that the world faces, perhaps we could take some comfort from the past, which reveals that uncertainty is normal.

I think I may have fallen for Eleanor Roosevelt (who would be 130 today). If you follow me on twitter you will have gathered that I’ve not made time of late to blog as I would like to and have taken to more tweets to remind myself and perhaps others that time…and life is short. Of course I had heard of Eleanor Roosevelt, but in truth didn’t know that much about her. I knew that she was the wife of President F.D Roosevelt and that he was a something of a Lothario. The image to the right is the movie poster for Hyde Park on Hudson, which, if I recall doesn’t even include Eleanor, but many of the women in F.D Roosevelt’s life, the image is rather pertinent and could be her obscured by his position – though in practice she wasn’t and even publicly disagreed with some of his policies. hyde-park-on-hudson-movie-poster-2012-1020753603

Eleanor was, by all accounts a brilliant First Lady. Anyway, one of the quotations I came across for her was this one:

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, “I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along…. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

I am probably guilty of looking at life through a rather narrow lens, one that tends to see the life example with a financial planning element to it. Today as I write the markets are beginning to react, as they always do, to uncertainty in the news. This time it is the anxiety about the spread of the Ebola virus. I am neither a medic, nor a scientist and do not wish to dismiss this as unimportant, clearly it is a serious problem and one that could be devastating if some of our wildest horrors materialize. However, anxiety and bad news are the normal. We have never known the future, which frankly is probably a good thing. This weekend we could spend considerable energy worrying about any number of things, the problems on the Turkish border, Ebola, European economies, ageing populations, limited resources, climate change, war in Syria, Ukraine, Iraq, Libya… and of course I could add hundreds more.

The financial services industry often trades on the promise of security, something that even the Regulator and Ombudsman appear to occasionally believe possible. Yet in practice the security that money or wealth bring is illusory when real disaster strikes. It certainly can make life considerably easier in the comfort of a fair, prosperous society, but has little value when society collapses. Eleanor Roosevelt says:

There never has been security. No man has ever known what he would meet around the next corner; if life were predictable it would cease to be life, and be without flavour.”

So, we do what we can. We grapple with an uncertain future attempting to make the best decisions from the choices before us and the information available. Uncertainty is normal. Market over-reaction to news good and bad is normal. Strangely, these unusual times are decidedly normal, as history reminds us for those that care to look.

Dominic Thomas – Solomons

Uncertainty is Normal2023-12-01T12:39:32+00:00

Tax, Votes, Spending and Debt

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Tax, Votes, Spending and Debt

In the UK, despite our unpredictable and often disappointing weather we are undoubtedly in a very privileged position, some of the richest people on earth. We can easily forget our liberties and the many advantages we enjoy and should be unsurprised that others might wish to come here to create a future for their own families. Whilst we clearly need to exercise care in who we allow into Britain, we are all here largely by chance.

Tax

I’ve been reflecting on history and taxation and to be blunt, was surprised by my own naivety. As taxpayers, at least here in the UK, we get to vote (unless you pay tax and are under 18). This is perhaps the best example of “money talking” if you pay tax; you have an interest in how it is spent and why. One might build an argument for those that do not pay tax, should not have a vote (remember that there are various forms of taxation, not simply income tax – VAT, stamp duty, road tax, council tax and so on)… fairly hard to see how any adult in Britain would possibly be a non-taxpayer (unless they don’t live here).votes for women

Votes

Anyway, what I had forgotten or perhaps not appreciated was the involvement of suffragettes in the taxation system, who argued that taxation without representation (political) was unjust. Today it seems hard to imagine a counter-argument or why women would have been prevented from voting. Yet many women today are paid less than their male colleagues for doing precisely the same work. On occasion this is obvious, but sometimes it isn’t and frankly this is seriously out of order with where we ought to be by 2014.

May I ask you a question? When you initially read “those that do not pay tax should not have a vote” did you have a reaction to a fairly bold statement? Most people would think immediately of income tax and recall that not everyone pays income tax… many of the elderly, the infirm, unemployed and of course some parents looking after children. To deny these of the right to vote would be somewhat outrageous right? But most people pay tax, invariably through “indirect taxes” that we tend to forget about when we consider our actual net income. We are now in a period of confusion about tax avoidance, when terms are being quite deliberately muddled or misrepresented. Who really believes that the state should fund nothing? (or very little? or conversely everything?). There is a societal dynamic to taxation, yet our disconnection from community and engagement in politics tends to repress this social (not socialist) memory. Tax is good for us, but that does not mean that we should assume that paying less tax is “bad”. We are encouraged to save for our own futures by having some tax advantages (pensions and ISAs) or to encourage entrepreneurialism – which hopefully creates jobs and greater wealth. These are designed ultimately to reduce reliance upon the State.

Spending

However I am concerned by politicians that seem to think that reliance upon the State can be reduced before independence is even achieved. The new pension rules are undoubtedly liberating, but please remember that “once it’s gone it’s gone”. This isn’t a “bad” thing, it is simply the reality of living within our means. The main problem being that most people don’t and the reason they don’t is due to the cost of living and an inability to say “no”.

I am conscious that it is very easy for a financial planner with wealthy clients to say this. Surely just a bit of self-discipline is required. Just say no… which I believe, but am also aware of my own hypocrisy. I am just as inept in some aspects of self-discipline. The most obvious for me is my fondness for wine and good food (which sadly in middle age does not mix well with an Adonis physique). I also have the ability to spend money on things that I don’t really need, but would like. Again, there’s not much “wrong” with this, but when I use a credit card that I don’t repay straight away, I am really in denial about my own unhealthy habits – and perhaps delusional. However more significantly, is that the wealthier I become, the more readily I can spend and the more I forget what it was to have less. I am lucky. Yes I work hard, have taken “commercial risk” but lucky even so.

I don’t judge how my clients spend their money, merely help them account for it and create planned spending. It is a very worthwhile exercise, but invariably a “painful” one…. If I asked you to sit down now and account for your spending in the last year/quarter/month, I dare say I would meet with some resistance. I often wonder why, after all, it is little more than historic information that cannot be changed. Yet it often reveals information which we probably know but would rather not see. As a nation we are quick to point to politicians claiming expenses that we think unfair, or companies that “charge too much” or “make too much profit”; how much aid is “wasted” but where does this come from? It is simply envy? Shouldn’t we start with getting our own affairs in order first?

Debt

Look, I’m not trying to be “political”. I am merely attempting to reveal that simply saying “no” is only a partial answer. I have more questions than answers and I have already confessed to you my own hypocrisy. Despite this, (perhaps in spite of this) I do believe that as a nation we need to consider why we feel the need to overspend and how we handle our own money…of course when its other people’s money, we are even more detached from it (hence the problems within financial services)….where “bankers gamble with your money” (I am repeating a phrase I have heard many times, not necessarily an accurate one)…I do know that some of my clients are very good at running a budget and sticking to it, some get frustrated with those that don’t. However, we all have our failings and whilst I am not excusing parents (for example) for failing to say no and somewhat arm-twisted by commercials aimed at children, closely followed by adverts for loans, it is a modern-day pressure which not everyone has experienced in precisely the same way. I’m not sure that banning things is a mature approach to life, but I can see an argument for banning adverts for loans during children’s TV programming, which is why I support the #DebtTrap campaign that The Children’s Society are running (which I came across over the Bank holiday weekend.

If I might therefore make a suggestion or two. Firstly, that we start with ourselves, regain control (if it was lost) or at least proper knowledge of how we spend our money. If you would like an easy to use spreadsheet for this exercise, just email me for one. Secondly, have a proper personal spending plan and if this is exceeded be prepared to ask why this was… and not just dismiss the incident as “of little significance” you may find much can be learned from your own chequebook. Do let me know how you get on…. As a final request, do check out the Children’s Society Wall of Debt campaign.

Please note that I do not provide debt advice. Despite being a financial planner, this is not my area of expertise (negotiating with creditors). If you require debt advice or someone you know does, please visit the Money Advice Service website (paid for by financial planners). Oh.. and a film currently in production with a fairly stellar cast “Suffragette” is in production.

Dominic Thomas

Tax, Votes, Spending and Debt2023-12-01T12:39:29+00:00
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