Blog

The Circle of Wellbeing by Emily Pool

About a year ago I joined the Initiative for Financial Wellbeing (IFW), and with this membership I found what I had been missing for some time – purpose.

I spent the majority of my career in the City, followed by a few years within Commercial Banking out in the “suburbs” – an ill-considered move for “a better work life balance” after having children, which in reality meant I halved my salary (not my working hours) and traded a nanny for an au pair. After escaping banking, and I say “escaping” because it really did feel like a “jailbreak”, I reassessed my values, resolved never to work for a large corporate again, and found a role with an Independent Financial Adviser after deciding I needed to help balance people rather than “balance sheets”. This was the start of my new journey, where I am now firmly on the evolutionary path from IFA to holistic Financial Planner.

To me, an Adviser seems a rather outdated label which has connotations of “selling products” and helping clients build wealth – but the purpose is perhaps not always clear.  In the current climate, particularly in the midst of a global pandemic, two new buzz words that really resonate with me are: authenticity and wellbeing. These were two very much talked about subjects during the IFW’s online conference held in September 2020, that totally captivated my imagination.  Finally, I had found a small enclave of people working in financial services, who were truly paying more than lip service to the human side of finance – the psychology behind why we feel the way we do about money and wealth, the behaviours that drive our personal and macro-economics, and the history behind how we have created a world that puts GDP before wellbeing.  I guess you could class it as a collective of Greta Thunbergs all calling for change, whose overriding message is that money, in itself, does not lead to happiness.

My most rewarding new clients have been the ones I have truly connected with. The ones with whom I have used the cash flow modelling process and openly discussed the “what if” scenarios. The ones who have shared their life stories, their anxieties, their stories of loneliness, their fear of death, or their journeys of ill health. I have helped these people find peace of mind and wellbeing by enlightening them on whatever subject area was pertinent to their particular needs – be it retirement planning, estate planning or investment – and provided a plan that puts them back in control. I made sure they knew the purpose for the plan, and that it was clearly designed to improve their wellbeing. “Each pound should have a purpose”, is what I tell my clients.

The value I brought was not in the selecting of the pension or investment fund that I recommended – such products are fairly commoditised, but the value comes in the relationship and the plan, both of which will support a client in achieving their holistic objectives – not just the financial ones! I recently supported a client’s decision to change jobs and move to a part-time role so she could spend more time with her recently retired husband. Was she wealthier as a result?  No. Was she happier?  Absolutely. Did her marriage benefit? Hopefully.

Of course, it would be wrong of me to assume that all clients wish to link their financial goals to a clear purpose, and therefore there is still a place in the profession for the “adviser”, but I am happy to say that the next generation of Financial Planners are poised and ready to help holistically with life goals, which will improve wellbeing and not just bank balance.

And so it transpires that in helping people with their financial wellbeing, I have finally found my purpose – it’s a two way transaction.  No longer do I spend all day analysing spreadsheets and reading legal documents feeling disconnected and disenchanted.  On the flip side of course, I no longer receive a large salary and all the trimmings of a corporate benefits package…. but…am I happier? You betcha.

The IFW exists to support planners and coaches who want to improve their client’s financial wellbeing by helping them become happier and more fulfilled, not just wealthier. It is largely run by volunteers and we would be very happy to have you. For more information see: https://initiativeforfinancialwellbeing.org.uk/