“I would never have been able to do all of this without your help. You’ve been so good to me over the years.” That’s what my client Caroline said to me recently. Her words moved me, especially as she’s been my client for over 30 years. It is immensely satisfying to know that I’ve made such a difference to her life, so much so that I felt very emotional. It’s not the first time a client has told me that they’re grateful for my help and every time I hear similar comments, it always moves me. There’s quite simply nothing better than making a difference to other people’s lives.
Transferring Caroline’s Marital Home to Her Name
Caroline was one of my first ever clients. In fact, I’d worked with her even before I became an Independent Financial Advisor, back when I worked for an insurance company and that’s where I first met Caroline.
Caroline was an excellent GP but money-management and understanding finance was never her forte. When I met her, she’d just been through a stressful divorce so one of the first things I did for her was to liaise with her ex-husband and transfer ownership of her home into her sole name. I had to intervene because the two of them had been separated for almost ten years and had a poor relationship so that they were unable to discuss financial matters. Having me as an intermediary helped to get things moving. We arranged a mortgage to buy out his share and with the help of a solicitor contact of mine, the title of the house was transferred to Caroline’s name.
Caroline’s Retirement Planning
Following her divorce, Caroline was left looking after her two young sons which meant she could only work part-time. With some cashflow forecasting, we realised there would be an income shortfall in retirement. So, to rectify the situation, we started some retirement savings into a pension and personal equity plan (do you remember those?). That was quite some years back, just before I became an IFA in 1992. As soon as I did, I arranged critical illness cover for Caroline to cover her mortgage just in case. Unfortunately, that came into play just a year later when she developed breast cancer. I helped her with her critical illness claim and thankfully, cleared her mortgage.
Fulfilling Caroline’s Dreams
I’ve always been a “life planner”, even before I met George Kinder (from the Kinder Institute of which I am a member), and we discussed what was important to Caroline for her future. In keeping with the Kinder Institute’s way of working, when you discuss what’s in a client’s “heart’s core”, it’s always done without judgement. So all my own values and interests were left on the shelf.
I’m a humanist and listened carefully to Caroline. I discovered that her own religion was very important to her. Her father had been a vicar and she’d grown up in a vicarage with very few amenities. Perhaps that’s what shaped her future as she was always worried about money, but with careful guidance, I showed her how she could afford to visit Bethlehem, Lourdes and Rome – the places she’d longed to go to. Later on, she visited Petra in Jordan and took a cruise up the Nile, which she still talks about today.
Unfortunately, in the early noughties, Caroline developed type two diabetes and was forced to retire from practice earlier than planned. With my help, she obtained an early ill-health pension from the NHS and an enhanced annuity from her personal pension fund. Additionally, Caroline had a PHI income protection policy that filled in the income gap between her taking early retirement and receiving her state pension.
Helping Caroline Was Not Just About Financial Planning
For me, genuinely helping clients as an IFA goes beyond money. As well as helping Caroline, my team also guide one of her sons who has worked in the People’s Republic of China for several years. He has a rental property here in the UK, which is insured via our agency so that I can ensure that the house is properly insured, and we are the main point of contact for the letting agent. We’ve found that Zoom meetings from China are easy to arrange as a meeting with someone in the UK (as long as we remember to allow for the eight hours’ time difference!). He has all his email directed to us and we scan it for him so that he receives it on the same day.
Real Future Planning
With breast cancer and diabetes, you would think that Caroline has had more than her fair share of ill health, but sadly she has now developed Alzheimer’s. As an ex-GP, she is frightened of the future, but she is determined to continue to live every moment to the full.
Lasting Powers of Attorney and Wills
Back in October 2007, Lasting Powers of Attorney were made available, and we almost cajole our clients to get them in place such is the importance. I’ve prepared clients’ Wills since 1990 and today, we have a special member of our team who is responsible for Wills, Trusts, LPAs and all things legal. Caroline’s LPAs have been in place and registered at the OPG for several years, which means that her other son (who lives locally) can help her with the things that she can no longer do herself.
Caring for Caroline Longer Term
Currently, we are discussing care costs and the potential for moving Caroline into long-term care at some time (hopefully a long time) in the future. I am a member of SOLLA, The Society of Later Life Advisers, so I do have the expertise to help people like Caroline in their later life.
Has financial planning made a difference to Caroline’s life? I will let you draw your own conclusion. It’s more than finance, it’s real life-planning, therein lies the difference in the way I work.