Posts By: Carpenter Rees

Early Retirement is good for your health

Sound financial planning is not only good for your bank account – it could improve your life expectancy. If you’re reading this then you probably don’t need to be convinced of the benefits of looking after your money, but here’s another reason to add to the list.

The idea of retiring early can be most appealing. For some it will already be a reality, whilst wise financial planning may mean it’s perfectly achievable for those thinking about it. Research now suggests that an early retirement can also lengthen your life. Economists from the University of Amsterdam published a 2017 study in the Journal of Health and Economics which confirmed that male Dutch civil servants over the age of 54 who retired early were 42% less likely to die over the subsequent five years, compared to those who continued working.

Researchers put this life-extending phenomenon down to two main factors. First, when you retire you have more time to invest in your health. Whether that means you find more time to sleep, more time to exercise or simply more time to visit a doctor when an issue arises, you’ll see the benefit.

Secondly, work can be a great contributor to stress, creating hypertension which is in turn a huge risk factor for potentially fatal conditions. In the study, retirees were shown to be significantly less likely to fall victim to cardiovascular diseases or strokes.

Of course, there can be benefits to continuing to work. Participating in a work environment is a good way of keeping your mind and body active. On top of that, being part of a team helps develop and maintain a sense of purpose and belonging that is essential to cognitive health and development.

That’s not to say that all these benefits can’t be achieved outside of work; the key is to find a hobby, interest or cause to involve yourself in. As is so often the case, there’s no single solution. It’s important to find the best path for you, whether that’s staying in work, retiring early or going part-time. Whatever you choose, spend your time wisely as it could have a major impact on how long your retirement turns out to be.

Why Simple Beats Complex

One of Carpenter Rees’ guiding principles of investment is ‘keep things simple’.  Ben Carlson, a very well respected Financial Adviser in the USA, wrote a whole book on the topic aptly named ‘A Wealth of Common Sense: Why Simplicity Trumps Complexity in Any Investment Plan’.

Ben’s view is that a simplicity-based framework can lead to better investment decisions and whilst he couldn’t prove that as an 100% fact, below are what he believes are the main reasons why simple beats complex in the investment world –  and being a fan of simple, who are we to argue:

Intelligent people are drawn to complex solutions. There are plenty of intelligent people in the world of finance, but that intelligence often comes at a cost because smart people can more easily fool themselves into believing they have all the answers. Simple is not stimulating enough for some people, therefore intelligent people tend to overthink things and that can get them into trouble.

Complexity is about tactics; simplicity is about systems. Tactics come and go but an overarching philosophy around the way the world works can help you make better decisions in multiple scenarios. Simple doesn’t go out of style but complex does.

Simple is harder. To keep things simple, you have to fight harder because our human nature makes us susceptible to stories and narratives. Simplicity is more of a psychological exercise while complexity is more about trying to be cleverer than anyone else.

Trying harder does not guarantee better results. Outsmarting the competition is easier said than done because putting in more

Giving: How to Do The Most Good Without Disrupting Your Financial Plan

Many studies have shown that charitable giving provides greater happiness than buying more stuff. Eventually, you get used to your fancy new car, and the level of  enjoyment it provides goes down. But giving forges feelings of connectedness and community that don’t fade away.

Incorporating charitable giving into your financial plan is a great way to make sure that your generosity is aligned with the things that are most important to you. Some forethought about these key issues will also make sure that your good intentions don’t throw off the rest of your own long-term planning:

  1. Have a purpose.

The most effective charitable giving is thoughtful and intentional. It may be helpful for you and your spouse to ask yourselves some questions that will narrow your focus, such as:

  • Do we want to give to a national or local cause?
  • Are there pressing issues in our community that we feel we can help impact?
  • Do we have any personal connections to causes, such as medical research or support for the arts?
  • Do we want to support friends or family by contributing to causes that impact their lives or fulfill their passions?
  • Do we want to support a religious organisation, such as our church?
  • Are our charitable impulses motivated by on-going problems, such as education or homelessness, or would we rather position ourselves to react to events such as natural disasters?
  1. Do your homework.

Once you’ve settled on a cause, do some research on potential recipients. Visit the local charity you’d like to support and meet with its leadership team. Is the organisation running itself responsibly? Are there good, competent people in charge? Will these people get the job done? Don’t sink your money into a well-intentioned black hole.

If you’re looking to give to a national organisation, keep in mind that even some of the biggest names have come under fire lately from watchdog groups for misusing donations. Make sure you’re giving to an organisation that’s doing what it says it’s going to do with your money.

Also, remember that big organisations – even charities – must manage things like overheads, salaries, and insurance. Are you happy supporting the organisation itself? If you want to see your money in action more visibly, you might be happier giving locally.

  1. Beware the internet.

Whenever something bad happens in the world, our inboxes and social media are flooded with donation links. Read before you click. Be especially wary of crowd-funded campaigns on sites like GoFundMe. The cause may sound worthy, but these sites do not provide meaningful oversight on every campaign. Your money could be going to a cause, or it could be going straight into a scam artist’s pocket. You’ll never know

Is Your Money Being Used to Improve Your Life?

There’s a movement toward redefining money: instead of accumulating money for what it can buy, more of us want to use money to live the best life possible with what we have––a concept known as Return on Life™ (ROL).

With ROL, money becomes a tool to help you live the life you want. Accumulating as much wealth as possible is no longer the primary objective of your financial plan.

The traditional path to saving and investing has been to focus on the future (retirement), and rely solely on numbers and return on investment (ROI). However, this approach often can be misleading because it doesn’t consider your individual circumstances. “Beating the market” is often an artificial objective because it is not likely to have a substantive impact on your unique situation. Consider this: what does beating the market by one percent less (or more) mean to how you live your life? Do market returns have an impact on how you live your life?

What is relevant is developing a financial plan that considers the following:

  • How much do you currently have invested?
  • What is your current cash flow?
  • What transitions are you currently experiencing, or expect to experience (examples include paying down debt, divorce, concern about illness, job loss, retirement, purchasing a home, providing financial assistance to a family member)?
  • Do I feel comfortable with my level of financial obligations (examples include housing expenses, leisure activities, and healthcare expenses)?

By incorporating these factors into your planning, we can begin to understand what needs to change (or not change) in order to live the best life possible without overextending yourself. You may even be pleasantly surprised to learn you can enjoy the fruits of your labours sooner than expected!

Money does not exist for its own sake. Money exists as a utility that we use to improve our lives.  How your returns compare to any index, fund, investment category, or another person are less consequential than whether you are meeting your own ROL goals. Measure your success against your objectives, not someone else’s. You don’t need to keep up with the Jones’—or anyone else.

In order to enjoy ROL, you need to understand where all your money is coming from and where all your money is going––and why.

Understanding the “why” enables us to create a plan that works for you and your individual circumstances. You may be living above your means and need to make changes to your lifestyle. Or you may already have enough, and be able to take a trip or enjoy another experience you have been putting off.

Together we can address the following questions:

  • What challenges and opportunities are you currently facing?
  • What key transitions are looming on the horizon?

Your answers to these questions will determine the inflow and outflow of money, as well as your financial progress or decline. Knowing your age, and how long you expect to live isn’t enough to develop a financial plan that works.

With ROL, you don’t give up the best of life or the best parts of yourself just to get money. The money is there to serve you, not vice versa. Instead of focusing on someone else’s definition of success, write our own. ROL puts quality before quantity by managing your assets in a way that improves your life and provides peace of mind.

In traditional financial planning, the primary components include asset, risk, and debt management, as well as tax, estate, and income planning. All of these areas are essential and necessary for a strong financial plan, but there is more to developing a strong financial plan than numbers.

We all have different values and principles regarding money. Each of us has a history, present circumstances, and future hopes that are unique. By focusing only on numbers, we miss enjoying life now and in the future because we only concentrate on accumulating wealth. A financial plan designed with ROL as its foundation is designed to build freedom, relieve the pressure of ROI-focused planning, and ensure your plan meets your goals.

There is no greater freedom, and no greater wealth, than living the best life you can with the money you have.

 

 

There is no such thing as Plain Sailing

Embarking on a financial plan is like sailing around the world. The voyage won’t always go as planned and there will be rough seas, but the odds on reaching your destination increase greatly if you are prepared, disciplined, patient and well advised.

A mistake many inexperienced sailors make is setting sail without first having charted a course to embark on or without a clear sense of direction and once they finally decide on their destination, they find themselves lost at sea, in the wrong boat with inadequate provisions.

Likewise, in your financial planning journey, you need to decide on your goals. A first step might be to consider whether these are realistic and achievable. For instance, whilst you may long to retire to the South of France, you may not be prepared to sacrifice what you want to do today to satisfy tomorrow’s longer-term goal.

You need to ensure you have the right planning tools to get you there. Have you planned for contingencies? What degree of bad weather can your plan withstand along the way?

The key to a successful voyage is a good navigator. A financial adviser is like that, regularly taking coordinates and adjusting, if necessary. If your circumstances change, the adviser may suggest you re-plot your course.

As with the weather at sea, markets can be unpredictable. A sudden squall can whip up waves of volatility, tides can shift, and strong currents can threaten to blow you off course. Like a seasoned sailor, an experience adviser can help navigate you through these conditions.

Once the storm passes, you can pick up speed again. Just as a sturdy vessel will help you withstand

Landscape – Why Delay? You Can Start Improving Your Health Right Now!

A busy 40- to 50-hour work week, kids that need shuttling to and from school and extra-curriculars … and a gradually decreasing metabolism.

Sound familiar?

Young, working couples with no kids may have more time to be active and healthy. Long morning walks, three trips to the gym every week playing sport with friends cooking their way through gourmet recipes.

Then life happens. Children, promotions at work that lead to more responsibility and longer hours.

A couple’s free time together begins to dry up. Five-a- side night turns into crashing on the couch for a few hours before bed. Weekend bike trips or trivia nights turn into weekend rushes to and from kids’ parties or sporting activities and gourmet cookbooks are replaced by fast food menus.

Then there’s the money crunch. Even couples with a financial plan in place tend to worry more about money once a mortgage, car payments, and children enter the picture. Many couples start pinching pennies at the expense of their creature comforts and well-being. New clothes and a replacement for that worn-out mattress aren’t as important as saving for college tuition or eventual retirement. Frozen meals and take-aways are quick fixes when there’s so little time to cook a good meal before your daughter’s dance lessons.

The Result

The risks involved when we start neglecting our health are real, and harder to correct as we continue to age. But there are emotional consequences as well, especially if one spouse slips out of shape faster than the other. Innocuous suggestions like, “Let’s take a trip to the farmer’s market” or “How about we re-start our gym membership?” can feel laced with criticism. A loss of confidence, feelings of depression, and inattentiveness to basic hygiene and appearance can follow. Money – already the most common source of marital friction – will continue to be a barrier to self-improvement. Unhealthy people don’t like being told they’re unhealthy, and will often put off preventative care, like annual checkups.

If you or your spouse are struggling with a similar scenario, take a moment to work through the following questions and suggestions together:

Questions to Ask

Are you and your spouse able to maintain your health without any financial stress?

Do you and your spouse regularly confirm your health and overall well-being with your doctors?

Is your level of physical activity higher or lower now than it used to be? If you’re about to retire, do you anticipate a more or less active lifestyle?

What are some physical recreational activities that you enjoy?

What is a recreational activity you’ve never tried, but deep down always wanted to try?

How old is your furniture, especially your bed and mattress?

How many fresh meals do you and your spouse cook and eat at home every week?

Steps to Take

Landscape – How Will You Practice Your “ART” in Retirement?

A hammock on the beach. Your favourite chair in the living room. Waking up when you feel like it. A blank diary. Doing what you want when you want. Doing nothing if that’s how you feel that day.

After a lifetime of working 35 hours or more every week, this scenario sure sounds appealing to many soon-to-be retirees. But the surprising reality is that a life of unstructured leisure can create stress, strain spousal relationships, and lead to feelings of uselessness and depression.

When today’s successful retirees stop working, they learn the “ART” of retirement. It’s about Activity, Relationships, and Time. They experiment. They try new things. They make new connections. And eventually, they create a new daily routine focused on the people and passions that make their lives fulfilling.

Activity

Jack just retired. He has no idea how to spend his time anymore. So, he potters around the house, fixing stuff that isn’t broken, rearranging things that don’t need to be rearranged, watching a lot of TV … and driving his wife, Jill, crazy.

We chuckle when we see a scenario like this play out in a film or TV show. But Retired Hubby or Wife Syndrome is a very real problem. Many senior couples have spent eight hours or more apart from each other every single day for decades. Then, suddenly, they’re together all the time!

Often, this is the moment when spouses realise they each have very different ideas about what retirement is going to be like. One spouse might have visions of a spending their time in the garden whereas the other might have plans to see the world. Somewhere in between those expectations are the activities that are going to make retirement worthwhile for both people.

The things you do in retirement should be meaningful, stimulating, and energising. Your passions should be your guide to a new routine – both with your spouse, and apart from him or her. Take professional lessons to turn a hobby like golf or painting into a real skill. Volunteer at a charity that’s close to your heart. You and your spouse can indulge your inner foodies with weekly date nights to try out all the new hot spots in town.

Relationships

Your spouse isn’t the only person you’ll be seeing more often in retirement. Your relationships with the rest of your friends and family are also going to change now that you’re no longer working. This too can be difficult, as many of the people you spent your workdays with recede from your day-to-day routine.

But this can also be a wonderful opportunity to connect with the people who matter the most to you. Once you and your spouse make it through the initial adjustment period, in my mother and fathers case this took at least 12 months I have to warn you, you’ll be able to spend time doing the things that brought you together in the first place. Planning trips and extended vacations around your children and grandchildren will create meaningful experiences that you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life.

Your social diary also gets a whole lot bigger. Fill it up! Organize your friends for a weekly round of golf. Plan date nights with other retired couples. If there are people you lost touch with due to the grind of working and raising a family, reconnect.

Time

Time without the structure that work provides can be challenging for retirees. The very notion of time can take on new meaning. Without meetings and project deadlines to worry about, time can seem so limitless that it’s overwhelming. It’s like an artist staring at a blank canvas—where do you begin?

So how will you fill your day? Will you start taking an hour to do things that used to take 10 minutes when you were working? Will you sleep later? What new routines will you start?

The good news is, many of today’s retirees are more active, more connected to their communities, more adventurous, more ALIVE than they’ve ever been! And they organise their time in retirement around the activities and relationships that make them feel happy and fulfilled.

Perfecting your ART

Retirement is an ART you have to work to perfect. You’ll make mistakes, and you’ll learn from them and adjust. You might load up your days with activities, only to find that having a bit less structure allows you to explore your options. You might find the initial lack of structure maddening, and work on a new routine. You might try a part-time job. You might like it. You might not.

There’s no one way to have a successful retirement. But the sooner you start working to refine your ART, the more beautiful your retirement picture will be.

10 Tips for surviving inevitable market falls

It is an inevitable part of investing that at some point markets will fall by an alarming, if not unexpected, degree.  We haven’t seen large market falls for a decade but should expect that at some point we will.  When, and in what magnitude, no-one knows, but remembering the following can help:

  1. Embrace the uncertainty of markets – that’s what delivers you with strong, long-term returns.
  2. Don’t look at your portfolio too often. Once a year is more than enough.
  3. Accept that you cannot time when to be in and out of markets – it is simply not possible. Resign yourself to the fact. Hindsight prophecies – ‘I knew the market was going to crash’ – are not allowed.
  4. If markets have fallen, remember that you still own everything you did before (the same number of shares in the same companies, and the same bonds holdings).
  5. A fall does not turn into a loss unless you sell your investments at the wrong time. If you don’t need the money, why would you sell?
  6. Falls in the markets and recoveries to previous highs are likely to sit well inside your long-term investment horizon i.e. when you need your money.
  7. The balance between your growth (equity) assets and defensive (high quality bond) assets was established by your adviser to make sure that you can withstand temporary falls in the value of your portfolio, both emotionally and financially, and that your portfolio has sufficient growth assets to deliver the returns needed to fund your longer-term financial goals.
  8. Be confident that your (boring) defensive assets will come into their own, protecting your portfolio from some of equity market falls. Be confident that you have many investment eggs held in several different baskets.
  9. If you are taking an income from your portfolio, remember that if equities have fallen in value, it is likely that your adviser has set up your portfolio so that you will be taking proportionately more of your income from the cash held within your portfolio or your bonds; not selling equities when they are down.
  10. Your adviser is there – at any time – to talk to you. He or she can act as your behavioural coach to urge you to stay the course.  They are a source of fortitude, patience and discipline.  Be strong and heed their advice.

Warning – The above information is provided for information only. It does not constitute investment advice, a recommendation or an offer of any services and is not intended to provide a sufficient basis on which to make an investment decision.  The value of investments may go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount invested.

Where are we now?

I feel the above sketch by Carl Richards explains what we do for clients and what they can do for themselves at the beginning of our relationship so that we can work out where they are today.

When it comes to money, what we don’t know can hurt us. I’ve seen this truth play out time and again when people tell me that they want to take their finances seriously by investing and making plans for the future.

“Excellent,” I’ll say. “So, what can you tell me about your current finances?” Occasionally I have a client who is fully aware of what they have, but the most common response is a blank stare.

I’m not surprised.  Sometimes we just don’t want to know.  As soon as we start listing our current assets and liabilities, we come face to face with both our good and bad financial decisions.

Maybe we’ve done a great job of saving money every month, but we’ve also had a credit card balance for over a year. We need to know both the good and the bad. Otherwise, we can’t plan for the future. Getting a handle on our current reality starts with something simple: a personal balance sheet.

To start, grab a piece of blank paper. Draw a line down the middle. Write “Assets” on the left, “Liabilities” on the right. Then, make a list.

Assets are anything we own. Liabilities are any debts we owe. On the asset side, list things like savings accounts, ISA’s, Pensions and the value of a home. On the liabilities side, list things like credit card debt, a mortgage balance, and any other loans. For this process to work, we need exact numbers, especially for our liabilities. Be prepared to call credit card companies and banks if needed to get this information. Again, not knowing these numbers can hurt us.

Of course, the personal balance sheet may also reveal we’re better off than we think. That’s a good thing. We may have saved more and have less debt that we assumed. Once we have all the numbers, add them up. Then, subtract all the liabilities from the assets. This number equals our net worth and our current reality. This process seems simple enough.

The next step is however a little more complex. It needs discussion and some analysis. The “how do you get there?”; that all important middle step is where the advisor with a wealth of experience can help. However, if we keep avoiding or skipping this first step, we’ll have a difficult time figuring out where we want to go, let alone how to get there!

So if you’d like help understanding where you are now, or working out how you get to where you want to be, please do contact us.

 

Financial freedom- Creating and maintaining the right investment strategy

Our life is an endless series of daily choices, and how we manage those choices determines the outcome of our life. We all want financial freedom, but how will we achieve it? Financial goal-setting is the key to building wealth.

There are always going to be bumps in the road on every journey, which is why it’s essential to be flexible enough to adjust your plans when the unexpected happens. Your wealth creation objectives need to be able to adapt to whatever’s going on in your life. Nothing should stand between you and your long-term goals.

Creating and maintaining the right investment strategy plays a vital role in helping to secure your financial future. Whether you are looking to invest for income, growth or both, we can provide you with professional expert advice to help you achieve your financial goals. So what do you need to consider?

Set a goal and start early

Short term, ultra-specific goals are generally very easy to achieve as they don’t really involve any planning, but longer-term goals on the other hand require you to actually plan out how you are going to achieve the goal. Remember that wealth creation is about creating a lifestyle of your choosing, and the earlier you start to invest, the sooner you can enjoy the benefits of compound growth working for you to build value and make your money work harder for you.

By taking the time to step into your future, you can look back and visualise what needs to happen today for you to enjoy the lifestyle you want tomorrow. Ask yourself these three questions to help you visualise your future needs: what do I have? What do I want? When do I want it?

Develop an investment habit

If you think that investing a few hundred pounds every month will offer little in return, you should change your mindset. To start your investment strategy, you should adopt a stable and organised investment routine that will help you achieve your goals. Compound growth is the central pillar of investing. It is why investing works so well over the long term.

The more you invest and the earlier you start will mean your investments have that much more time and potential to grow. By investing early and staying invested, you’ll also be able to take advantage of compound earnings. Making money on your money is the concept behind compounding. Compounding is when the money you earn from your investments is reinvested for the opportunity to earn even more. However, you need to keep in mind that while compounding can make an impact over many years, there may be periods where your money won’t grow.

Be consistent

Many people stop their investment planning particularly during market downturns, as we’ve seen in recent weeks. By doing this, they often miss out on opportunities to invest at lower prices. If you keep to your investment strategy and keep moving ahead consistently, this helps spread risk and enables you to grow your wealth for the long term through pound-cost averaging and careful asset allocation.

It’s important to remember that investing is an ongoing process, not a one-time activity. The right way to begin your investment strategy is by establishing goals that need to be achieved over the short, medium and long term. Secondly, it is necessary to assess your current position in the financial lifecycle. Thirdly, you must ascertain your risk profile, as that decides how much risk you should take while investing. This is particularly important as different financial objectives require different investments approaches.

Maintain a well-diversified portfolio with regular reviews

Regular reviews of your portfolio enable you to adjust your portfolio to meet your changing needs and risk appetite at different stages of your life and in different market conditions. This helps you keep up your investing momentum towards achieving your long-term financial goals. It’s also important not to put all your investment eggs into one basket.

Investing randomly into different asset classes without ascertaining their asset allocation, not following a disciplined approach to investing, exiting abruptly from an asset class and investing without a clear time horizon are some of the most apparent inconsistencies in any investment process.

Create the right investment strategy

We recognise that choosing how to invest your money can seem daunting. When it comes to planning for your future and that of your family, you’ll want to be sure that you have everything covered. We help our clients set goals and then create the right investment strategy to achieve them, whether it’s growing family wealth or leaving a legacy. We know everyone is unique and has different priorities. To discuss your future dreams, please contact us.

 

 

The above information is provided for information only. It does not constitute investment advice, recommendation or an offer of any services and is not intended to provide a sufficient basis on which to make an investment decision.