MONEY OFFERS OPPORTUNITY

MONEY OFFERS OPPORTUNITY

For some people the answer to almost any question is money. Whilst I would not underestimate its power, money is simply a method of exchange. In the most part having money means having choices and more opportunities. This doesn’t mean that those without it have no choices or no opportunities, but quite obviously they are much more limited.

Money is the oil in a system to get things done. However as is also pretty evident, possessing a lot of wealth does not really mean that more opportunities are taken, indeed choices might appear to become more limited, falling into social expectations about what to buy, possess, retain whilst protecting with ever more complex security.

SOLOMONS IFA REVIEW BLOG BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE

CRIMINAL INTENT

There are always those that are willing to extract your money from you. This week I had yet another person confide in me that they were victims of a financial scam and felt too ashamed or embarrassed to admit it to others. Most of us, of course, work hard for our earnings, we don’t steel of kill for it. That said, one of the myths that I grew up with was that hard work pays. This is quite obviously not true. Plenty of people work hard or long hours and are not well paid, existing just above the bread-line, hence the need to work long hours. There are others that simply work in a way that by no measure appears “hard” yet are rewarded or remunerated very handsomely. This is of course simply another of life’s “welcome to adulthood” lessons.

DESPERATE TIMES AND DESPERATE MEASURES

Those with very few opportunities, that possess the right skills at the right time can have their lives improved enormously by some helpful cash. One of the few common agreements about the Chancellor’s Budget is an unsaid one… we all would like to keep or get a bit more.

Take Darlene Sweet, a singer is living hand to mouth, gig-to-gig, struggling to get by and desperate for a moment, a lucky break. It’s all about the books you read, the places you visit and the people you meet… right? Well for Darlene, she happened to check into a hotel (the El Royale) near Lake Tahoe, on the border with Nevada and California… but the other guests, staff and hotel are not all that they appear to be.

The latest movie “Bad Times at the El Royale” by director Drew Goddard plays with our sense of security, individuality and ability to adapt to new information. What people will do to protect their own interests, how they respond to extortion and how easily manipulated most of us are. A bad night for the guests, made worse with the arrival of Billy Lee, a knock off of Charles Manson, duping followers with half-truths about money, power and corruption, explaining choice whilst amassing greater wealth and abusing the power he has over those that trust him. The proverbial thief in the night…

Here’s the trailer for the new movie. There was a fair bit of disagreement within my family about whether the movie is any good, I found it quite gripping and delightfully shot – with scenes reminiscent of Nighthawks by Hopper. My daughter however felt it dragged, the acting was poor and the entire thing overly simplistic…

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

Email me to get in touch
MONEY OFFERS OPPORTUNITY2019-08-19T15:34:15+01:00

Julie – a matter of trust

Julie

I noted in social media last week that a fight broke out in the balcony of the Lyttleton Theatre between two male members of the audience at the end of a performance of Julie. I already had a ticket booked, but of course wondered, whether it was something about the play…

I can report that the acting was rather good, (Vanessa Kirby and Eric Kofi Abrefa to name two key performances) but to be blunt, this was a play that I simply did not care for. The dialogue was awful and reminded me of various unpleasant characters. It was meant to be reworking of August Strindberg’s play Miss Julie, but it felt dated and done before, many times before, but rather better.

The basic background premise is one of a sense of being trapped by circumstance. In this case rich it-girl with the traumatic experience of being the first to find her mother following her suicide. We can only guess why, but mine is that the mother also felt trapped in a life of luxury, lacking any meaning or any significant connection with her obviously wealthy, materially successful but invariably absent husband. The resulting wealth used as the justification for a lack of presence. The price of “success” and the excesses are its ongoing punishment.

Held in Trust

Julie, who has no money of her own, because it is held in Trust “because she is irresponsible with it”. She certainly is irresponsible, but whether this came before or after the Trust fund is one of the few talking points. I’m not a fan of Trusts (a bit odd for a financial planner to admit) but living from someone else’s money rarely has a good outcome and to put it bluntly, those that do best are the legal advisors, all (mainly) to avoid the clutches of a divorcing spouse, which from my point of view merely sets up the prospect of not living with the consequences of actions. A Trust might be a suitable metaphor for many elements of the play, the lack of trust between parent and adult child, the lack of trust between a self-serving man and a woman. The lack of real trust between a socialite and her maid… I could go on. Trust is quickly sacrificed for pleasure, or perhaps relief from the trappings of situation.

Do You Trust the Trustee Savings Bank?

So, who to trust? What is the price of trust and should you ever trust anyone? The truth is that we all must, being human we will be failed, but not trusting makes for miserable existence, albeit possibly right in a few instances.  Trusting any adviser is hard, trusting someone else with your money is one of the most difficult realities. Consider the recent muck up at TSB – Trustee Savings Bank, an utter fiasco. Advisers and the financial services industry must do an awful lot to shift the default setting of “mistrust”. Yet when it comes to your financial planning, this is what you need to remove. Any decent adviser will build trust over the years, by keeping promises, doing what they said they would do, looking after all your financial “stuff” and communicating in plain words.

A Problem of Wealth

One of the natural problems of having a significant amount of wealth, is that it tends to attract the wrong people, like bees to a honeypot. The opening scene of Julie reveals a birthday party composed of people that she neither knows nor likes, friends they are not. We can all probably think of people that have been parted from their money by their acquaintances.

Never underestimate the positive power of a proper financial fiduciary. Its not simply what we do, its also what we do not do, which includes not putting a hand in the till – or in this case the blender.

Here’s a promotional video from the National Theatre for Julie.

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

Email me to get in touch
Julie – a matter of trust2018-06-14T17:48:20+01:00

Downsizing

Downsizing

Imagine a world where your wealth is sufficient for the rest of your life to fully support your lifestyle. Throw in the benefit of massive improvements to the environment and waste reduction and you have the plot summary of Alexander Payne’s new movie “Downsizing”.

This is a movie that is tipped for the OSCARS, given that it will be released in December in the US and January 2018 over here in the UK. Whilst having potential for perhaps both comedy and a sense of hope, this is a film that gets loses itself in a story that is both too big and too small. It’s a pity as the premise is pretty good and the trailer is typically engaging

As a financial planner, my job is to help clients figure out how much is enough to support their lifestyle (as they determine it) for the remainder of their lives. Most people do not appear to have a financial plan, very few have a clear idea about how much would be enough.

Side Effects

Downsizing begins with the scientific discovery that means it is possible to shrink cells without harm or side effect to about 3% of their original size. The one problem being that it is an irreversible process and not available to anyone that has a body with additions (implants, prosthetics, pace-maker etc) as these will not shrink.

Living the Dream

Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) is your average American, he was once on the path to a career in medicine, but his dreams were thwarted by an ill mother who needed his care. Now a somewhat frustrated physiotherapist, he is living in his late mother’s home, with wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) and struggling to get by. At the perfectly imperfect setting of a school reunion, he is persuaded to consider Downsizing, the solution to his financial struggles.

Paul and Audrey head off to Leisure Land and receive a masterful sales pitch that extols merely the benefits of Downsizing, ignoring all of the drawbacks. The Safranek’s have assets of $52,000 but in the Downsized world this translates to $12.5million, to live on for life! The numbers do all the talking. Packing a delightful red keepsake box with their family treasures (wedding rings etc) the same box is delivered to the house in Leisure Land, but of course gold wedding rings now appear the size of buoyancy rings. I have to admit, that if I could arrange such a return for our clients I’d be winning every award under the sun. However, as with all things, there are no guarantees.

The Bigger Picture

The plan to save the world is to gradually miniaturise everyone over the course of 200 years. Despite a safe procedure (assuming removal of fillings etc) there are very real side effects in the larger world – economic, political and social. Its all very well that a mansion may now only require the space of a dining table, but property in the larger world still needs to be sold and therefore bought. Taxes need to be paid, production needs to continue and there is a debate about whether the Lilliputians should have a full-sized vote.

The film attempts a stab at all these issues as well as a rather fruitless assessment of a life of pleasure, the poverty divide, immigration and those that remain outside the system, where standards are never the same. Add a touch of impending environmental disaster and the naive, blancmange-like character of Paul Safranek who seems to lack either any sense of self-determination or self-awareness, chasing every ball thrown by anyone willing to bother. Ironically, all of the issues are far too big for the film which becomes as microscopic as its characters, lost in a world of complexity. It’s a pity. Much like Safranek, it appears nobody asked what it was that Alexander Payne wanted from this. Instead it’s a journey of happenstance, rather than any course being plotted. I suppose that this is the reality for most people, who live from day to day, month to month, year to year without any deeper sense of direction, like Safranek, frustrated through not identifying purpose. Nobody asks the right questions and so the thinking is as shrunken as the inhabitants of Leisure Land.

Here’s the trailer, the film is released in the UK in January (following its showing at the London Film Festival this month). Oh yes, the trailer is the best bit.

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

Email me to get in touch
Downsizing2017-10-26T17:44:40+01:00

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

Hell or High Water

Hell or High Water

A cursory glance of any media and it is hard not to conclude that there appears to be high degree of disappointment, disengagement and dislike of the way things are. One of the latest releases “Hell or High Water” exposes the cracked surface of the American dream and perhaps the end of the American empire.

Whilst, by no means a “revelation” we are shown the harsh reality of life in mid-Texas, of the small-towns that have reverted to outposts, now desolate from the financial collapse of 2008 and an obvious lack of opportunity. The only reassurance being the constant nodding oil pumps that imitate the heart monitors that reflect the State of being yet alluding to a deeper malaise.

To my mind the image of Texas already feels like an echo of the past. The gun-loving, property protecting, villain chasing, all seem like a throw-back to watching black and white cowboy films, (which were dated even then). Add a dash of more enlightened native American history, the mess of “How the West was Won” and men in cowboy hats look like pastiches of a past that was never terribly glorious… being a cowboy is of little appeal to a younger generation, who has almost as little “support” now as he did 200 years ago. This is of course, cultural and one of those many moments that someone from Britain is left with the sense of something  got lost in translation – we sound similar enough, but there clearly are profound differences, which can only presumably explain the rise of Donald Trump and his call to “Make America Great Again”… I wonder when he has in mind and for whom.

Cops and Robbers…

Hell or High Water is set in the context of 2016, but it could be 1816 or 1916. Bank robbers, chased by a local law-man (Jeff Bridges) and posse and just for good measure an Indian guide (Gil Birmingham). Perhaps the writer (Taylor Sheridan – who also wrote Sicario) is pointing to the fact that little appears to have changed (for some). There is still the same degree of desperation and whilst the land was once that of the native Indians and taken from them by white people, now the Banks have taken the land from the white people. All of course within the law, written by those it serves.

Justice is just this…

So it is with some degree of poetic justice that the central character Toby (Chris Pine) decides to rob the very banks that are trying to repossess his late mother’s ranch, in essence, trying to repay the outstanding money with the banks “own” money. To cover his tracks, he even elects to appoint the same Bank to act as the investment adviser to the resulting Trust, a perfect “stick it to the man” using their own systems against them. He enlists the help of Tanner, his elder brother (Ben Foster) who has a deep disregard for anything different, yet clearly yearns for a something much different.

It is possible to simply see this movie as yet another in the chase genre, but my sense is that this is rather more profound, reflecting the desperation in the State of the Nation, which has seen the supposed freedoms that wealth can bring, merely usher in another form of slavery and clusters of circled wagons, requiring ample supplies of guns.

As for a financial planning angle – beware of banks offering umbrellas when the sun is shining, invariably they want them back when it starts to rain. In short, debt in any form needs to be mastered and repaid, the account always needs to be settled…. oh and I guess, have a plan with the end in mind… which includes how your estate is handled.

As for the movie, I really enjoyed it, wonderfully directed by British, David Mackenzie. Here is 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

Hell or High Water2017-02-02T13:27:21+00:00

Where does the time go?

Where does all the time go?

It’s the holiday season. All being well in a couple of days I will be poolside, reflecting on the year so far and what I still need to do, (being a couple of things that readily come to mind) and no doubt I will wonder, yet again “where does all the time go?”

Holidays are a little like landmarks in time. My daughters often use holidays as a reminder for helping us recall when other things happened, for example, a recent question about our aging cat (who went to move in with the neighbours when the dog arrived) was answered by recalling where we were and what else was going on when we picked him up… all referenced by our family holiday of that year.

So this week I will be reflecting on the a small milestone. It will be 16 years since I formally received permission from the regulator to open the doors at Solomons. Sixteen years. It seems that I have endured rather longer than the regulator, which is in its third revision or Doctor Who like regeneration in the same period.

Taking Stock

I hope that this doesn’t sound twee, but I really enjoy helping my clients. I love real stories and helping clients plot new ones – or rather the life that they want in the future. Of course I don’t make it happen – they (you) do that. However I have the opportunity to prompt thought, vision and help clarify it, occasionally acting as a type of permission-giver due to being able to demonstrate what would happen if…

That’s what I love about financial planning. Like most people, I find financial products rather dull and invariably remain sceptical and suspicious of the wider workings of the financial services industry, which resulted in the formation of the company and the business model of transparent charges and a “level playing-field” approach.

It is with some degree of surprise that I read my trade press suggesting a further 22% of advisers will close within the next year because more changes to commission are coming or feared. The change being that it will be turned off…. yet this is what we did 16 years ago.

Woodstock …. or out in the Wilderness

At the weekend I attended “Wilderness” a festival held in Oxfordshire. It was my first visit (its fifth year) and having been to quite a number of different festivals over the years, it was interesting to experience the evidently more affluent middle-class approach. I was struck by the irony of it being located near Woodstock  and connotations with the east-coast American hippy counter-culture festival started in 1969 of the same name. What was once counter-cultural has become both “fashionable” and highly commoditized over the last 46 years. Sadly I missed the V&A museum’s take on this observation, which is true of many, if not all festivals, not simply Wilderness, who have by far the best on-site food (I admit to indulging in a superb banquet fit for a King at the Hix on-site restaurant and the odd glass of champagne at the Lauren-Perrier orangery) all of which you won’t find at your typical summer festival. Nobody dared mention the phrase champagne socialism too loudly.

Anyway, one of the talks/seminars I attended was called “State of the Nation” hosted by Jolyon Rubinstein which raised questions about business, stock markets and economics. Despite festival attire, many of those attending are probably the sort of people (of all ages) that seek out financial advice, yet few seemed to really appreciate how much financial services eeks out of their wealth in charges…. something that I hope is evidently clear to our clients  and why I set out 16 years ago to be transparent and use low-cost investing techniques. I guess it is good that finally others are waking up to better understanding of economics, wealth and planning. As many festival revellers seemed to come from the London area, perhaps rethinking or dare I say even re-imagining financial planning resides within striking distance of Wimbledon…. and we’ve been walking the talk – living it for some time.

What Wilderness has done is to break into the imagination of those more right of centre, higher earners, who are also desperately aware of the unfairness of the “system” and have found some comfort in various, albeit expensive forms of alternative…. a sure sign for hope.

Do share this with your friends..

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

Where does the time go?2017-01-06T14:39:25+00:00

The Wealth Inequality

What is the Wealth Inequality?

I risk sounding ever so political and I am well aware that there are no easy answers. However, as I provide financial planning advice to people in Wimbledon (and wider afield) I imagine that bringing information to your attention about money and wealth is probably important and in particular the wealth inequality. On a global scale most of Britain is wealthy. My clients are all wealthy in terms of the UK, some very wealthy, however I don’t currently advise the mega wealthy (£10m+).

What is the market value of the US?

So have a look at this video, it takes US opinion and US data, but in practice the same phenomena is happening in most nations. To give a little more background, at the end of 2012 the US stockmarket was worth about 46% of the total world stockmarket at £10,540 billion (the UK worth 7% at £1,717 billion). This does not include the value of property or all assets, just the stockmarket capitalisation values. The video mentions 312 million Americans so 1% of this number is 3.12million Americans actually own 40% of the US wealth (and therefore 18.4% of all wealth). It is estimated that the world population is now 7 billion.

How does the wealth inequality impact tax policy?

The problem for politicians is that due to the disproportionate amount of wealth that is owned by the top 1%, there is a fear that changing tax policy would mean that this wealth would leave the country. Increasingly I am of the view that this is the basic fear now underlies most economic policy and why the middle classes in particular are paying far more tax (proportionally) than anyone else. The top 1% has greater access to offshore tax regimes and can afford to risk very large sums of money on tax avoidance schemes that may not work. All of my clients can make use of legitimate tax avoiding and tax reducing schemes, but not on the same scale or with the same degree of cavalier attitude.

You don’t see hearses with luggage racks

I risk offending the wealthy or even putting them off appointing me as their adviser which I don’t mean to do in the sense of a personal attack, but merely to raise the huge problem of inequality. Certainly our politicians misuse our taxes, we need wealth to create jobs and security, however unless I have missed something, when you die, you don’t get to take it with you. Great financial planning is about working out what it takes to support your chosen lifestyle and is not simply about amassing more.

Dominic Thomas: Solomons IFA

The Wealth Inequality2017-01-06T14:39:44+00:00
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