Informed Choice 20th Birthday BBQ

Here are a few photographs from our 20th birthday BBQ at Sundial House this afternoon.

Thank you to everyone who came along to celebrate our milestone.

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Messing about on the river

As part of our 20th birthday celebrations, the Informed Choice team took to the water today, chartering a narrow boat from Farncombe Boat house.

We enjoyed a trip along the River Wey to Dapdune Wharf and back, stopping for a picnic along the way and bumping into our friends from TWM Solicitors who were also out for a boat trip.

Here are a few of our photos from the day:

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The family finance talk

The family finance talkHave you had a full and frank conversation with your adult children about money; the family finance talk?

A new study in the US has found that 64% of parents and children can’t agree on when to have conversations about financial preparedness.

The Intra-Generational Finance Study by Fidelity Investments spoke to 1,058 parents and 159 adult children.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it concluded that personal finances are still a taboo subject for many parents and their adult children.

In my interviews with experts for the documentary I’m currently making about the Baby Boomer generation in retirement, a common theme has been the reluctance of retirees to talk to their adult children about financial planning.

This is so important because it presents an opportunity to build a plan during a lifetime, which can be implemented on death, rather than leaving behind a mess for all concerned to deal with.

Conversations about money also help should parents lose mental capacity in later life, perhaps needing residential care.

Rather than adult children having to second guess their parent’s wishes, they can instead put plans in place which were previously discussed, debated and agreed upon.

Fidelity in the US commented, “Admittedly, these discussions aren’t always easy, but there can be real emotional and financial consequences when they don’t happen or lack sufficient depth,”

We couldn’t agree more.

There is nothing easy about retired parents and their adult children having “the family finance talk,” but it is vital to do.

Often the best way to facilitate such a conversation is to engage with a Financial Planner who, in the first instance, creates a comprehensive Financial Plan for the retired parents.

Once in place, agreed elements of this Financial Plan can then be presented to the adult children, setting expectations about items including inheritance and care fees funding.

The Financial Planner can continue to work with the family to help answer questions and ensure a smooth transition in the future; the “cascade of wealth”, as it is known in the Financial Planning profession.

Approaching the family finance talk in this manner is an effective way to avoid misunderstandings and create clear expectations for the future.

It is not a one-off conversation, but something that needs to be repeated annually in order to remain relevant.

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New arrival

New arrivalInformed Choice is delighted to announce the delightful news that Edward Oliver Neligan was born to Andrew and his wife Carol on 20th June.

Weighing in at 7lbs 10 oz, mother and baby are doing well.

Everyone here at Informed Choice is delighted that Edward has his Mother’s looks!!

Andrew will now have to do some serious Financial planning all of his own.

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Martin’s story from 1994

Martin's story from 1994In the latest in a series of blogs from the Informed Choice team, Martin recounts his tale of 1994, the year in which Informed Choice started.

As I often struggle to remember what I ate for breakfast, thinking back 20 years to 1994 is something of a challenge.

I reached my 15th birthday that summer, a milestone marked by the (legal) option to watch a much wider range of movies.

The 15 Certificate back then opened up this young movie watcher to see more new films than it probably would do today.

A particular favourite was True Lies; a movie my best friend Ian watched at the cinema more times than I could count, and I joined him for a couple of those. Speed was another favourite.

I was anything but sporty back in those days, although my friends and I would often spend the weekend out mountain biking, usually in the Surrey Hills or exploring the countryside around Cranleigh.

It was that summer three of us completed an epic (at the time) bike ride from Cranleigh to the coast and back. Even back then, 60 miles of cycling felt like a long way.

These were of course the days before the Internet (at least nothing we would recognise today, all newsgroups and download speeds measured in minutes not micro-seconds) or mobile phones for teenagers.

My social life had to be organised by actually talking to other humans, something replaced by Facebook, Twitter and text messages in subsequent years.

When not hanging out with friends in the evenings after school, I would be listening to the Evening Session with Steve Lamacq and Jo Whiley on Radio 1 in my bedroom.

This was my introduction to bands such as Terrorvision, Portishead and Green Day, which remain on my playlists to this very day.

I certainly had no aspirations to become a Financial Planner back then; in fact, my career choice was about as unclear as my academic potential, with my mock GCSE results failing to provide any clarity other than the hope I might progress to sixth form college the following summer.

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What was Andrew doing 20 years ago?

What was Andrew doing 20 years ago?20 years ago I was living in Exeter and about to sit my GCSEs (an A*, 2 As, 5 Bs and a C if you were wondering. Which, in today’s money is probably equivalent to all 9 A*s!).

Beyond academia I was a member of the school team to win the National Indoor Hockey championships at Crystal Palace and had just completed the annual 35 mile Ten Tors expedition on Dartmoor (it is not a race so you probably don’t need to know we were the first team to finish in just over 24 hours ).

The Premier league had entered it’s second season and my team, Manchester Utd, won the trophy for the second time and beat Chelsea 4-0 in the FA Cup Final.

Ryan Giggs was only in his fourth season as a player.

It was also when I used to follow my local club, the ‘Mighty Grecians’ (Exeter City) around the country to glamorous places such as Swansea, Hull and West Brom.

Considering those three clubs are current Premier League clubs the fortunes have been contrasting to say the least.

On the music front I would have been listening to the eclectic mix of music including Blur, Suede, East 17 and the Prodigy; music that defined a generation as they say in the movies.

My favourite films of that time included Pulp Fiction, Four Weddings and a Funeral and Dumb and Dumber (still funny!).

In other memorable events I put my first pound on the National Lottery and on the basis that I am writing this you can decide whether you think I won anything then or since!

As a 16 year old boy there was another area of interest but because I don’t kiss and tell that is all I am saying on that particular matter.

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The cost of being a pensioner

The cost of being a pensionerHow much does it cost each year to be a pensioner?

According to new research from Key Retirement Solutions, the average annual expenditure of an over-65 household is £10,387.

This covers average essential expenditure such as food and fuel.

It is of course an average figure.

The figure is £3,100 a year lower in Wales than in the South East, for example, where pensioners face average living costs of close to £12,000 a year to cover the essentials.

Based on a flat rate State pension of £7,700 a year, this research tells us that UK pensioners face an average shortfall of £2,700.

Much higher than this if you live in London or the South East.

This is different for everyone.

The amount you spend in retirement and the amount you will have to spend in retirement will depend on your chosen lifestyle and your sources of capital and income in later life.

Also be aware that your spending patterns are very likely to change during your retirement.

We often find that our clients experience distinct stages of retirement; everything from a more expensive ‘active’ stage in the earlier years, to a lower cost of living in later retirement, before facing big bills (often funded from the sale of property) to cover residential care fees.

No two retirement experiences are the same when it comes to their costs and sources of funding.

Understanding what the averages look like is of some help when setting a retirement budget, but to get a really good handle on things it is essential to sit down with a Financial Planner, go through a lifetime cash flow forecasting exercise and find your own number.

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20 years of Informed Choice – Nick’s story

Nick Bamford Chartered Financial PlannerSometimes adversity creates  opportunity.

In 1994 Andy and I  had been independent financial advisers for 5 years as part of another IFA firm when unexpectedly one of our business partners died.

David was only 50 years old and very much a larger than life character.

He had been my mentor as an IFA  for the past 5 years and I had learned from him some of the important attributes of dealing with people in business (treat them the way you would want to be treated).

It seemed appropriate for us to consider our future and from that tragic event Informed Choice Ltd was born.

Working from our home office but associated with a larger West End based IFA practice it gave us a good balance between being a small practice but tapping into the resources of a much larger firm.

The fact that the firm was run by a friend who I had known since 1980 enabled us to have that relaxed relationship of mutual support between the two firms.

Financial advice is a very personal thing so it was pleasing to have clients move with us to the new firm.

Our goal was to be different in our approach to the delivery of financial advice to our clients and all of the good things that we do today have their roots in the way we set the firm up in 1994.

Focus on understandable advice communicated both orally and in writing and total transparency.

We may do things much differently today lots more technology than was the case in 1994 but the core of what we do remains the same.

If it was 1994 again I am not sure that I would do too much differently.

The fun in the last 20 years has been to see the advice we gave over the years turn into results.

Being there with our clients meeting them regularly and monitoring progress to plan has important imposed disciplines on us.

There is an attraction to the “blank piece of paper” that exists at the start of a  business life.

You can pretty much determine everything about the way the business will look.

20 years on though and you begin to realise how important it is to continually adapt and change.

Had we been change resistant over those years I am not convinced we would be celebrating a 20th birthday this month.

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Cranleigh in Bloom

Cranleigh in BloomThis week sees the judging of Cranleigh in Bloom, a fantastic initiative which has resulted in the High Street looking even better than usual this summer.

Here at Informed Choice, we are proud to be a sponsor of Cranleigh in Bloom, with our hanging basket displayed at the entrance to Sundial House and some additional bedding plants in the pots we usually have outside on the patio.

Judging Day for Cranleigh in Bloom is tomorrow, Tuesday 8th July 2014, starting at 1.55pm at the Village Hall and finishing at 3.15pm at Little Manor Gardens.

In addition to all of the flowers, the competition aims are “Sustaining communities through horticulture, gardening, the environment and people.”

The volunteers behind Cranleigh in Bloom have already planted 2,000 blubs in the High Street flower beds.

Local businesses, including Informed Choice, have purchased 36 hanging baskets and troughs which have been on display since May.

In addition, sponsorship has purchased ten new flower troughs to brighten up the Obelisk, Millenium Sculpture and Fountain, and refurbish the flower beds by the village hall, outside the Post Office and the War Memorial.

We think the village is looking fantastic and wish Cranleigh the very best of luck when judging takes place tomorrow.

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What do you want from your financial adviser?

What do you want from your financial adviser?I had an interesting call from a gentleman on Friday morning.

He already has an adviser providing him with independent financial advice.

From what he told me the adviser is doing a good job in providing him with lifetime cash flow forecasting and advice about how to invest his pension funds and general investments; all of the things that you would expect a competent financial adviser to do.

The adviser is also described as a nice person, a family man with a nice personality.

There is just one problem. The adviser attends client meetings with multiple power point slides and presents a lot of numbers “When he talks to me my eyes just glaze over!” said the caller.

On probing him a little it became very clear that the adviser is doing something really important and advising the client based on the premise that he doesn’t want the gentleman and his wife ever to run out of money.

You would have thought that was particularly good objective, I certainly do.

But the interesting thing is that the clients don’t actually mind if they do run out of capital and for three very good reasons.

First, they own their own home and it is unencumbered and currently rising in value at a rate quicker than they want to spend their capital reserves.

Secondly, they have a guaranteed retirement income from their pensions at a level that absolutely covers all of their essential household bills.

Thirdly, they have no one to whom they will want to pass on their estate on death.

What they want to do is to spend more money now.

They enjoy the theatre and want to go more often. They have friends in the Far East and would like to travel more whilst they are physically able to do so.

A quick look at their finances confirms they could spend the extra that they want to spend and realistically still never run out of money.

I wonder if sometimes the numbers and the assumptions that we use masks something more important?

Saving, investing and being prudent make real sense, but sometimes so does spending your money.

What do you want from your adviser?

Is it sometimes that what is wanted is permission to spend?

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