Something greater than financial advice
Earlier this year and shortly before I surrendered my Financial Services Authority permission to provide financial advice I met Bruce and Theresa, my long standing clients of some thirty years. The meeting was arranged to say farewell and to close our professional (but not social) relationship, and to finalise their plans for their retirement https://nicksasaki.com/tony-robbins-dean-graziosi-own-your-future-challenge-project-next-review/ .
The meeting lasted for most of the day, and whilst their finances were on the agenda and were dealt with, much of the meeting revolved around how they were going to live in retirement, what they could and should do, how they were going to maintain family ties, decisions about their house and nearly all aspects of life in retirement. We also covered their relationship with money, dealing in particular with how to change their working life attitude of saving and prudence to finding the courage to spend their time and money on making the most of their lives in retirement. Whilst I was able to demonstrate mathematically that their income and assets were more than sufficient to allow them to live a fulfilled life in retirement, we had to deal with some deep emotional blocks to spending, in particular the fear that they would run out of money.
This was far more than financial advice. It amounted to ‘financial life coaching’, a relatively new professional field that treats money and life as intertwined and is truly holistic in its approach. It is an approach I started to adopt in 2006 after training with the Kinder Institute of Life Planning in the US. In truth, most of my client interventions since then have been holistic, coaching interventions. I have found that the coaching element is of far greater value to my clients than arranging financial products, which, within the context of most financial life plans, should be simple, low cost and commoditised.
Financial coaching is for everyone?
I have witnessed the impressive changes that financial life coaching can bring about in clients, and I would argue that everyone needs a life coach. In reality, the service is less suited to what Ross Honeywill and Christopher Norton call ‘Traditionals’ and more suited to what they call the ‘New Economic Order’ (NEO) (Honeywill, Ross and Norton, Christopher (2012). One hundred thirteen million markets of one. Fingerprint Strategies.), and what James Alexander and the late Robert Duvall in their research for the launch of Zopa (the first peer-to-peer lending business) called ‘Freeformers’ (Digital Thought Leaders: Robert Duvall, published by the Digital Strategy Consulting).
Two types of consumer
These distinctions are important in the context of a key concept about money, which I will cover shortly. First, lets consider the differences between the two groups. Honeywell and Norton describe ‘Traditionals’ as primarily interested in the deal, features and status. A sub-group of ‘Traditionals’ is ‘High Status Traditionals’ for whom status is the highest priority. They cite Donald Trump as the epitome of a High Status Traditional.
Honeywill and Norton contrast ‘Traditionals’ with NEOs. According to the authors, NEOs buy for authenticity, provenance, uniqueness and discovery. They are more likely to start their own business, are usually graduates, see the internet as a powerful tool for simplifying their lives, understand investing (money and personally), and are repulsed by conspicuous consumption. They are highly individual and express their own individual values through what they say, buy, do and who they do it with.
Honeywill and Norton discovered NEOs in the US and wrote about them in 2012 but Robert Duvall and James Alexander arrived at a similar concept in the UK in the early 2000s. In their research prior to launching Zopa, Duvall and Alexander identified a group of people they called ‘Freeformers’, a new type of consumer ‘defined by their values and beliefs, the choices they make, where they spend their money. They refuse to be defined by anyone, they don’t trust corporations or the state. They value authenticity in what they buy and they want to lead “authentic” lives.’ Duvall and Alexander saw these people as the core of an IT society based on self-expression, choice, freedom and individuality.
Two attitudes to money
In my own career as a financial adviser, planner and coach I have identified two prevailing attitudes to money. There are those who see money as an end in itself, and those who see money as a means to an end.