Dancing in the Moonlight

Moonlight

Imagine being unable to give voice to your dreams, let alone be permitted to live them. Doing so would result in physical violence, exclusion, prison and perhaps death. Moonlight. This is a sadly familiar story. Throughout history we have seen the cost of standing up for fairness, equality and dignity. Yet today, there are many countries where freedoms that most of us take for granted are prohibited.

However, even within more egalitarian countries, there are pockets of fear and suspicion, where freedoms are not as available as they might be.  You know the freedoms I’m talking about, for gender, ethnicity and sexuality. The movie “Moonlight” explores the taboo of homosexuality within American black culture. It is a powerful and moving story of one man’s struggle with his identity and is effort to build himself and find somewhere where he fits.

Being true to yourself

There is very little in the film that I can possibly hook onto for a financial planning angle. The best I can do is remind you that whoever you are, you have a story and as a financial planner my role also involves helping you to write and live the story you wish to be told of your life. This means being true to yourself, not simply accepting the social norms of what the majority expect from working life and a lengthy retirement. What others think is not as important as your own integrity and an authentic walk, which I concede is pretty easy for a white, English speaking, able-bodied, heterosexual, married male to say.

Freedom is more than spending power

I am utterly fed up with hearing negative pointed comments about feminism or political correctness. As far as I can tell, both simply seek fairness, respect and civility and anyone that thinks those are not worthy aspirations really does need to rethink their values. OK, so Moonlight won’t be for everyone, but the non-acceptance of difference should be a cause for concern to us all. British, Sri-Lankan comedian Romesh Ranganathan challenged me (and the audience) about this last night at a small cabaret near Victoria.  Much like the Lear’s Fool, he pulled no punches with some harsh truths about what we find offensive or normal, whilst wrapped in the the mirth of comedy.  It seems that the world is currently attempting to turn back time on the progressive changes that have been hard-won. Why people cannot live in peace is a mystery that I will never fathom. If money is meant to bring freedom, then some of the richest still have much to learn.

Here is the trailer for Moonlight.

and here is a short video of Romesh Ranganatham at the Royal Variety Show.

 

 

 

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

Dancing in the Moonlight2017-02-15T13:05:44+00:00

Art and the art of friendship

Art and the art of friendship

There is a revival of the play “Art” currently in residence at The Old Vic. This is a comedic and (as is invariably the case) deeply poignant play, making observations about friends and relationships.  The focus is a work of art itself, arguably over the last 25 years, the art involved is probably less contentious than it would be by some of today’s work that has grabbed headlines in selective media.

Indeed the other notable change since the original French script by Jasmina Reza first premiered in 1994, was that the price of the painting was repriced in Euros rather than Francs. Something that we might do well to remember in the coming days – there was life in Europe before the Euro (no, I’m not making a political point, merely highlighting a historical one).

Older friends

The play is having a 20 year revival since it reopened in December 2016. The play was first (and last) in London opened in October 1996 and was hugely successful, so much so, that its endurance began to draw comparisons with The Mousetrap (for continued performances). However the run eventually came to an end in 2004, having provided a platform for many actors and comedians, with the cast changing multiple times. I cannot recall quite when I saw the play first, but let’s just say it was some while ago and whilst it has not changed, I certainly have.

A friendship of types

The play is about three friends, whose reaction to an expensive, bare, exposed, white, not quite “blank canvas” painting, that Serge buys, in turn reveals the bare-bones and home truths about their relationships. It is a fascinating, often hilarious, exploration of friendship, class, taste and identity. Everyone probably resonates more with a particular character and at various points in the play, I imagine that its possible to identify those in the audience most like the characters by their reactions at key moments, right from the very first scene. Yet despite the genuine discomfort the audience is taken on a journey to resolution.

How people talk about money

Most relationships have a degree of complexity, but what Reza notices most obviously is the way relationships are altered by money. Had the price of the painting been a few pounds, it is unlikely that the subsequent heated exchanges would have occurred. Whilst clearly we have all have friends for a reason, it is unlikely that a friend is a sensible choice for advice when it comes to matters of money. Impartiality and professionalism of course apply to many aspects of “advice” that we all seek from time to time, but financial advice, is rarely, probably never, best discussed with friends around your table of choice.

Time is short

Art is currently showing at The Old Vic in London, until 18 February 2017; starring Rufus Sewell (Serge), Paul Ritter (Mark) and Tim Key (Yvan).

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

Art and the art of friendship2017-01-27T11:11:14+00:00

Sunset Boulevard

Sunset Boulevard

There is something deeply unsettling about the musical Sunset Boulevard which I saw recently. It is currently on at the London Coliseum and stars Glenn Close, (now 69) who most will know from the 1987 movie Fatal Attraction.

The story is one that examines the Hollywood life, or more accurately, the very short shelf-life of movie stars, particularly female ones. Spoiler alert – this is not a new musical, so I will assume its ok to outline the plot. In essence movie star Norma Desmond (Greatest Star of All) of yester-year has long since been discarded and “forgotten” (personally I’m not convinced that this really rings true). The new generation of actors “who need words” are currently all competing for the limited number of roles… and we all know the stories about the casting couch. As with many things in life, the Hollywood honeypot attracts a great variety of bees, the talent pool is more than sufficient, yet to get a good idea or script turned into a good movie – that’s another matter entirely….”Every Movie’s A Circus”.

Money and Happiness

Money or the lack of it, poses problems for “our hero” Joe Gillis, a cynical and weary writer who sees both Hollywood and himself for what they are. Lack or perhaps need (or even desire) leads to compromise. Our writer hooks up with the much older actress Norma, who is portrayed as delusional, perhaps mad, but certainly someone with narcissistic problems. A relationship follows, built upon mutual desperation for something the other appears to provide, yet both are caught up in a self-serving but deceptive story that they tell themselves. “The Lady’s Paying” is a song reflecting Joe’s willingness to let someone else pay… perhaps some self-reflection on this point might result in better questions which move us all forwards about the Panama Papers rather than “how much?”

Whilst I will admit that this is an old story (originally produced as a movie in 1950 by Billy Wilder) so set with that world view, it is frankly all rather too familiar and depressing that older women pairing up with younger men, to feel young are “mad” yet in the very same breath all the male characters pair up with younger women – for the same reasons, and this is “macho”. A woman wanting something, particularly her youth or at least not to be forgotten is typically portrayed as struggling with mental health issues. Yet this is of course an issue that men and women face, with double standards applied by men. The number “Eternal Youth Is Worth a Little Suffering” seems only to point to the outward. Whilst I recognise that this is a period story, it is surely attempting to prompt questions of today… in a culture that is obsessed with appearances, selfies and celebrity…. “I’m ready for my close-up”.

Caught in the Spotlight

The irony of an audience in 2016 largely turning up to see Glenn Close in the title role, merely confirms our fascination with the stars, who now bring considerable ker-ching to the boxes offices of the West End. The audience was enraptured, yet this is certainly not one of the better musicals in the West End, and I was left wondering if the sun had not set on this portrayal of “older” “mad” women. In fairness, it is not clear how old Norma is meant to be, at one point Joe implies that she is 50… (but even in this comment, it is unclear if he is still being “nice”)… so the mere fact that an actress aged 69 playing a 50 year-old rather suggests we have moved forwards, back then women over 35 “didn’t exist”…

Of course, the truth that we all know is that life is short, we cannot deny the aging process and at some point we will become a memory. Hence having a financial plan that reflects your values, not merely your “value” and being in control of your money, rather than it being in control of you, is my way of attempting to address the money/happiness question.

As for the original, 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

Sunset Boulevard2017-01-27T10:58:28+00:00

The Master Builder

The Master Plan

Perhaps it has something to do with the start of a New Year, or perhaps it is simply a case of my awareness of the ageing process is becoming more pertinent; but there seems to be a lot of “stuff” about ageing and the need for a master plan for life.

Ralph Fiennes is currently starring in Ibsen’s “The Master Builder” at the Old Vic. I managed to see this on Monday night, it was very well performed with Fiennes having a huge amount of dialogue to remember. However… perhaps I’m a philistine, but I simply didn’t get it.

The play, (which I haven’t read) centres on a man (Halvard Solness) who, frankly, has some “issues”. Somewhat of a control freak and ultimately has a bit of a god-complex. In essence he is a possessive man, who believes that by wishing something he makes it come true.

He has risen to “power” (in the days of small-town notoriety) through hard work and “good luck” (and the misfortune of others) despite having no qualifications, simply mastering the skills “on the job”. However, he holds the view that this success has a price, which I guess is Ibsen’s attempt at discussing the price of success. The price, that is paid, seems largely to be fear of the constant younger generation taking what he has.

Get out of the way…

Ultimately, Solness does indeed lose everything to the clamour of the younger generation, but totally through his own unfathomable actions. This involves a rather strange relationship with a young girl, Hilda Wangel, who can only be described as mad or at best delusional. Indeed at one point I wasn’t sure if she wasn’t simply meant to be a figment of his imagination, but as others talk with her, I assume that this isn’t the case.

I’m sure that some freudian references could be made to the relationship that Solness has with Wangel, her assertion of his ability to build towers, her apparent disregard for marriages and his confusion about his signficance, whilst she inspires him to new heights of potency.

A better bit of thoughtful planning?

I suppose the play reveals some lessons about marriage or relationships generally. The rather obvious need to communicate, and in particular not to avoid talking about the really important things (unlike Solness) which perhaps would have laid the foundations for a proper “life plan” to work on together.

Financial planning is essentially doing just that. If it’s done well, it will reflect your values. To date I haven’t discussed whether a successful financial plan has a price, in the sense of some form of karmic balance (a yin to the yang) but clearly any choice has a sense of this to it. Saving means not spending it all. Investing means taking a patient long-term view not than the short-term gain. Unlike Solness, wishful thinking has no part in a good financial plan – and a decent planner will help you remain grounded, not building castles in the sky.

The Master Builder is playing at the Old Vic until 19th March 2016. I’d be interested to hear your take on it! Fiennes is typically brilliant with a strong cast.

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

The Master Builder2017-01-27T11:01:50+00:00

Dawn French 30 Million Minutes

Dawn French 30 Million Minutes

I recently saw Dawn French perform 30 million minutes at London’s Vaudeville theatre. Most will know Dawn as something of a national treasure from her portrayal as the wonderful Vicar of Dibley which continues to be repeated on television. She is of course part of the double-act French and Saunders and has been one of the leading people behind Comic Relief (who are 30 this Christmas).

30 Million Minutes

The new show called 30 Million Minutes is essentially her story so far. The 30 million minutes being roughly how long she has been alive (there are 524,160 minutes in a 365 day year) the 30 million point passed once 57 years 85 days and 8 hours old, Dawn turned 58 in October. Like most of our stories, hers contains both wonderful moments, some hilarious and some plainly deeply painful. However most of us do not have our stories splattered across mainstream media, neither, thankfully, do we suffer the abuse about our appearance.

Confessions of a Comic?

This is a personal and revealing performance, exposing her self-confessed need for attention and affirmation, which seems to be insatiable. Tremendous credit for her bravery and self-exposure, however I am left to wonder quite why she would revisit this each night in her performances, perhaps therapy through retelling or partly confessional. Her story is moving, and at times desperately sad, whilst being littered with familiar and familial references.

Quite how revealing the story is can only be judged by those that know her best, but clearly the impact of a life in the media has a high price with some very personal attacks, however I was left with the nagging feeling that whilst to some extent the performance is akin to a story between friends, something deeper was missing in the nightly retelling… such as her motivation for becoming the consummate clown.

Despite valiant efforts to convince both herself and audiences in all formats that being comfortable in your own skin and acceptance of body image, I wonder how many are sufficiently convinced within a culture of appearance is all.

Perhaps obviously, but I don’t know Dawn but like most of the population I have a very warm place in my consciousness for her, the new show has merely built upon this. We are reminded that time is fleeting and for a financial planning angle? …. well, reflect on your own story and where you’d like to take it.

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

Dawn French 30 Million Minutes2017-01-06T14:39:21+00:00

Short-Listed for 2016 Professional Adviser Awards

Short-listed for 2016 Professional Adviser Awards

I am delighted to report that we have been short-listed again in the category of “Firm of the Year for London” for the Professional Adviser Awards 2016. We now have a hat-trick of finalist appearances for the Professional Adviser awards. Like most award ceremonies, we don’t find out who wins until the winner is announced, but frankly for a firm of our size, I am honoured to be short-listed.

It’s usually a good evening out, mixing with some of the top firms in the UK. One of the most unexpected pleasures about my work is the relationships with other advisers. Many of us share best pratice ideas at a level that is rare in most fields… admittedly we all have a vested interest, we all want to do our best for our clients and we also appreciate that it is in everyone’s interest to have a better educated, better advised, better serviced UK market, leading to more people being financially independent and less reliant upon the State.  Better advice means fewer complaints and reduced need for redress and hopefully lower regulatory fees.

The ceremony takes place on 11th February 2016.

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

Short-Listed for 2016 Professional Adviser Awards2017-01-06T14:39:22+00:00

Professional Adviser Awards 2015

Solomons-financial-advisor-wimbledon-blogger

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 20152017-01-06T14:39:30+00:00

Money and Power

Solomons-financial-advisor-wimbledon-blogger

Money and Power

Perhaps my age is showing, but it is only day 6 of the new year and I am already fed up with the election campaign. I ought to be celebrating our democracy and the opportunity to hear reasoned arguments, however inevitably we seem stuck in a cycle of who will tax or cut most, the prospect of genuine change and improvement for all seems rather unlikely with the inevitable tension around money and power. Here Lies Love NT

In a more reflective moment, I remind myself that this is not a dictatorship and we at least get to vote and I don’t really think we are at the mercy of a despot who has anger issues and a twitching finger poised over an end-all button. This isn’t the case for millions of “voters” around the world who are marched off to vote for egomaniacs. This in mind, a relatively new musical to arrive via New York at the National Theatre “Here Lies Love” is based on a 2010 concept album of the same name, which gives musicals a nightclub injection. If you think that a nightclub is exclusively for the “young” perhaps think agains as, the creators Fatboy Slim (Norman Cook) is 51 and David Byrne is 62. The production has the flavour of community theatre, with the execution of high-end night club. A moving stage and audience, all combine to great effect and an entertaining, immersive experience.

Imelda Marcos

This is the story of Imelda Marcos, her rise and fall from power. Byrne and Cook wanted to explore what makes powerful people behave the way they do. I’m not so sure that this was explored terribly well, whilst displaying a delusional, drugged up Imelda, she isn’t portrayed that badly – a little bit too vanilla in Manilla – little about her excessive flamboyancy and penchant for hundreds of shoes. The story is chronological, revealing the fragility of her marriage, her inability to cope with her rags to riches story and a familar narcissism of Heads of State that seem to believe that they “give their all to their people”.

The Price of Democracy

There was little in the musical that gave me reason to believe such behaviour was understood or how to spot it in others and take precautionary action…so no tips for our elections. The world seems to have done little during the period of martial law and  assassination of the opposition including the shooting of Benigno Aquino on the steps of his ill-advised return flight to Manilla on 21 August 1983 (age 50) which you may remember. In the Philippines, the Marcos regime was eventually cast out by a peaceful protest, following a corrupt election (February 1986) against Aquino’s widow following which the public simply decided enough was enough. Marcos and his family took US advice and support then fled to Hawaii along with 24 suitcases of gold bullion and jewellery. Sadly for Imelda this took precedent over her 2,700 pairs of shoes. It is estimated that Marcos stole over $10billion from the country, much was invested into various family related businesses and Swiss accounts. The Swiss have so far returned about $684 million. So for me, this musical, whilst being entertaining does little to understand how and why power corrupts so absolutely. Indeed one might argue that the catchy tunes, flashing lights distract from the real story… but then, perhaps that’s the point.

Dominic Thomas

Money and Power2017-01-06T14:39:31+00:00

Top Rated Adviser

Solomons-financial-advisor-wimbledon-blogger

Top Rated Adviser

I am delighted to announce that Solomons has achieved Top Rated Adviser status and appears in The Times money section today. This is due to an impartial website called VouchedFor where you can leave a review. Due to our consistently high scores (not perfect scores) we have now become part of a very small elite group. I am very thankful to all of you that provided reviews and for taking the time to express your thoughts. Top-Rated

Despite the endorsement, I continue to try to improve what we do, the services we offer and making it easier, clearer, quicker and more valuable for anyone to seek advice from us. As a small firm we live and die on our service and now having celebrated our 15th year in August we are becoming more like the company I hoped to create. Its the little improvements that tend to make a significant difference, but we certainly punch above our weight and can access all of the very best solutions for our clients, using the latest technology available.

If you have a smart phone or tablet, you could try out our APP. If you wish to discuss your planning with me, please pick up the phone or send me an email.

Dominic Thomas

Top Rated Adviser2017-01-06T14:39:34+00:00

Short-listed as “Firm of the Year” for London

Solomons-financial-advisor-wimbledon-top-banner

Short-listed as “Firm of the Year” for London

I have to admit to being somewhat chuffed and a bit taken aback. I learned this morning that the firm made it to the last 8 short-list for the Professional Adviser awards 2014 for “Firm of the Year” for London. These were actually announced yesterday. I doubt I will make it to top of the list – the competition is rather good, with firms that are frequent award winners and quite a lot bigger. I do not even know how many firms entered –but as they say, “you’ve got to be in it to win it”.  I had to submit a case study and then information about the firm and how we do what we do. It really is a long-shot and minnow versus the rest. Whatever the outcome, I’m really chuffed for me and the team here. We don’t find out who wins until a glitzy event in February.  Whatever the result, it’s nice recognition… as a first-time entrant, perhaps I should enter a few more.

Building Reputation PA Awards 2014

Anyway, I hope that for our clients it’s a bit of good news (that they are being served by a decent firm). Of course you can also add your own testimonials to a system firms cannot control (Vouched For). This is a completely impartial way for clients to put a few comments down about us. The blue icon is in a couple of places on this page if you wish to do so. Obviously if you aren’t a client… well do these things make any difference to you when considering who to meet? As a small business clearly I want to attract the right clients, most are recommended by existing clients, but some manage to find us on the web, so if you have any bright ideas of how we can make our difference clearer and why our clients give us good feedback, do let me know.

Dominic Thomas: Solomons IFA

Short-listed as “Firm of the Year” for London2017-01-06T14:39:42+00:00
Go to Top