To my mind we have always lived in a world of false information. Stories and myths, urban legend all exist to serve someone’s perspective. Since the days of modern ‘propaganda’, we have been warned of careless talk and the enemy around the corner. In the last few years, largely though not exclusively due to the arrival of the internet, facts and mis- or rather disinformation coexist. We have to decipher and frankly that is not as easy as it should be. Most conspiracy theories contain an atom of something that seems to be plausible, but is then expanded and extracted.
This week we have witnessed more political folly as Government attempts to reign in some of its own that have crossed the line of reason. When we see extremity we tend to regard things as ‘obvious’.
I present Richard Rufus, former Premier League defender for Charlton Athletic, indeed in 2005 he was voted “Charlton’s greatest ever defender”. Like many a sports celebrity and Premier League player, he was well remunerated. High profiles and substantial income in our current culture, come hand in hand with an expensive lifestyle and costly habits.
After a career in football, many players struggle to adapt to life outside of the spotlight and without the same financial rewards. Few are able to continue to earn anything like their player wages. Whatever the reasons, like many players, celebrities and frankly most people, Mr Rufus appears to have spent most, if not all of his income. Whatever savings he had were clearly not sufficient to support his lavish lifestyle, which he was unwilling to relinquish.
A lavish lifestyle provides the appearance of financial success, but what is visible is largely immaterial. I’m often struck by how many people have a car that costs north of £60,000 yet have very little savings; who spend on cars and holidays more than they save for their future … but I digress!
Mr Rufus turned his hand to financial scamming. Not the sort of arms-length, call centre scamming, but the up close, personal relationship, scam your family and friends type of scam. The detail of which can all be found online following the Court’s decision to find him guilty of a £15m fraud which has resulted in a seven year prison sentence. Defender turned offender.
I don’t know Mr Rufus, I have no axe to grind. He wasn’t a financial adviser and reports indicate that the process of the scam was much like the advice you might seek from a friend at the pub … or more likely gastro pub or bistro. The mechanics of the scam involved foreign currency (often the case), no legitimate regulation (also often the case) and persuasion with what the eyes see and what the ears wish to hear. “It clearly works for him, look at his lifestyle”.
The fact is that at the heart of this there are problems that are universal. Firstly, few if any of us wish to reduce our lifestyle, however you define it. Most people are not good at holding onto the money that they earn, inherit or win. Most of us are not good at discerning the cost of a lifestyle either now or in the future. It’s far easier for us to account for how we would spend an imaginary lottery win than how much it will cost us to live as we are for two, three or four decades once we are retired, or frankly what we spend each month now. We are all tempted by the illusion of get rich quick solutions, starting your own business, writing a best- selling book, setting up a social media account where the ‘likes’ are followed by pounds, or of course the next big one, cryptocurrency or whatever you fancy.
The truth is much harsher. It’s a long, slow process, full of setbacks as well as successes. As for advice from friends and family … well I don’t know them, actually scratch that, I do know some of them, you refer them to us … but suffice to say that qualified, regulated, impartial, non-judging, prudent, long-term, evidence-based, evidential advice is likely to be of greater value with no vested interest in whether you holiday in Bournemouth or the Bahamas; Charlton or Cuba.