How to create a business plan for your Life, and who is qualified to help you.
Sam Whybrow believes we all need a ‘business plan’ for our own lives, so that our finances will empower us to live the lives we dream of – not hold us back, hiding our true potential. But to create such a ‘business plan’ for your life, you need specialist financial guidance to be proactive not reactive with your finances – and Sam explains how to access that support.
What is the service that you provide?
In effect, I act a as Finance Director for my clients, creating a personal business plan driven by their life and goals, so they feel more in control of their finances, and more secure about their future. The personalised financial plan includes everything you would expect a successful business to have; income and expenditure analysis, a balance sheet of assets and liabilities, a profit and loss account and financial forecasts. But the key elements are the meaningful objectives of my client.
Human capital is my area – and the human and the capital cannot be separated. The biggest driver of a person’s financial position is typically not what investment return they are getting, but it is usually their own skills, knowledge and experience. Every person is their own profit centre and the realisation of this helps my client’s to drive their life and financial position forward rather than be a passenger in their life. This really propels my client’s financial position into positive territory, and creates an amazing foundation for their future and our work together.
I take account of the ‘human’ aspect – what values my clients have. So they may prefer to invest only in ethical investments, want to reengineer their life to incorporate more time for their family or start a new job or business that they have a passion for. It’s not just about the money, but what their money can do for them. Buy marrying life with financial planning, such as efficient tax planning or investment allocation, they can potentially still gain significant financial benefits over time.
Your lifestyle impacts your finances. I help people to make informed financial decisions because it affects the life they want. If you think about it – everyone’s impacted by money. I help people assimilate the impact of the money to make better choices before they are made – what kind of home they buy, when they retire, what legacy they will leave (for example, create a charity in their name or gifting money to loved ones), paying off debt or investing more. This list is endless.
I help them to articulate and identify the lifestyle they want and combine this with getting more tax relief, saving potentially thousands of pounds, guiding them to create a larger investment portfolio, managing their financial risks and seeking suitable financial opportunities. Making what they might have thought was out of reach, become fully attainable.
When did you start offering this financial advice service?
I first started 20 years ago offering financial advice, but in the last several years I have focused more on proactively helping my clients to deal with major life shifts like divorce, career progression and retirement.
Many people don’t realise how vital financial planning is when you are going through a divorce or deciding to retire in a few years. I would say that taking control of the financial aspects is just as important as dealing with the legal or other practical aspects. Everyone should pay attention to their financial wellbeing. It is as important as living a healthy lifestyle and can have either a positive or negative impact on your health.
The initial purpose of money is often for basic survival – to pay the mortgage. But that person may dislike their job – which will put stress on them and on their marriage. They may have a vision of retirement that cannot be backed up by real figures. Again this can put stress on the family without even noticing it.
Money either inhibits you – limits how much you can enjoy life because you haven’t got enough, don’t think you have enough or are weighed down by debt – or money can free you. Not simply by ‘having more’ – but because you manage it well and use it uniquely for you. I ask my clients’ ‘What is the purpose for this investment? Asking this kind of question can open up a whole host of emotions and gets to the root of why they are investing. It helps to create a financial plan that is more accurate for my clients. If they don’t know why they are investing or they cannot stomach the risk, we don’t invest. Another course of action might be better suited to them.
With my clients – especially those under the stress of a family separation or other life event – I try to break through that barrier of a sense of lack, of not believing its possible to be financially freer. My job is to deliver financial freedom for my clients.
I help my client’s focus on their long term future but am mindful of their short term position. It can feel like there are nothing but obstacles in their way, but without energising them first, by lighting their torch and visualising the possibilities, the obstacles will more often than not continue to remain in place – delaying the opportunity to move on and to create a fulfilling life. An amicable agreement on finances during a divorce is far more likely if the couple feel confident about the financial plans they both have in place.
People often blame their unhappiness on a person or something else – when in reality it’s their lack of financial wellbeing that is the core problem. They don’t have financial freedom. We all have it within us to take control of our life and finances.
What drives you to offer this financial advice service?
I want to make a difference. I want to look back on my career and say: “I made a positive impact on people’s lives”. Not just from a monetary perspective either, but also, how that has impacted my client’s life as a whole and their wider community too.
Empowering people to make better decisions, earlier in life, is one of my key personal goals.
Gaining confidence about your financial matters has the important side benefit of empowering a person’s personal life, and informing key life decisions. Money and emotion go hand in hand and I find it fascinating being part of people’s lives, and part of improving their futures.
What is the geographical scope of your market?
I am located in London and Essex, but I have clients all over the country. I travel to visit many of them, but also use Skype, email and FaceTime for clients who live further away or abroad.
What are the products and services offered through your financial service?
- Financial education – building their confidence in dealing with money
- Financial audit – where are they now? Can they save money on their existing policies, are there any improvements to be made or is the existing policy and investment strategy satisfactory for their needs
- Financial strategy – helping them make an exciting and attainable life plan
- Financial advice – make recommendations to improve specific parts of their strategy such as tax optimisation or investing wisely
- Annual review and forward thinking strategy, including budgeting and goal planning, agreeing what can be improved and implementing that
- Ongoing service – being available to provide support at any time
Many people limit themselves to working with only certain professionals, and think that is enough. Success is usually measured by how much money you have, by how much you make or by saving tax. These are typically the main indicators of successful financial management.
But what really drives that client?
Many of my clients are socially responsible people and happy to pay tax – although they would like to control how and when they pay it, which is where I help them! I connect to their core drivers – what are their dreams and ambitions and values? – I can help them to structure their financial world so they can stop worrying about money, and instead use it as a tool to live the life that truly fulfils them.
What makes a financial plan accurate is understanding what truly drives my client, not just how much money I can save or make them – albeit this is an important part of my job too. Through creating the financial plan, they may discover that although they initially told me that they want to retire – they then discover through our working together that they want a new career – but one that they love. Similarly, perhaps a divorcing couple could change their mind if they visualised what their future may look like, in harsh practical terms, before they take the plunge?
Could financial planning help people to be more aware of life choices? I think so. This effects how the financial planning is done, and it’s not a process that you are likely to do with most financial advisers.
I help my clients recognise the emotional connection they have with money. I’m also able to refer them to other professionals who can help them further, as part of a wide network of experts I am connected to. In today’s fast paced, social media world, we can often find ourselves more alone rather than connected. I am convinced that by surrounding yourself with mentors – people who can support you throughout life and connect the dots – it can have a positive affect on your life and finances. I am interested in connecting the dots for my clients and often refer them to specialists in various financial and non financial fields. It will always be my clients’ decision though. They are not under any obligation to use my connections but they have someone, in me, to turn to if they need support. I like to become a positive part of my clients’ life.
What makes the face to face work so good for the clients – and enjoyable for you?
Working face to face, it’s easier to build a relationship with them. Their meeting is time just for them. It also allows me to build up a rapport – they can see how much I love my work and want to make a difference to their lives.
I encourage partners/spouses/other family members (if appropriate) to be included in the meetings. The annual overview of the year, and planning for the next year – is always an in depth conversation. This happens every year, and allows me to keep up to date with my clients’ needs and the changes in their lives. It allows me/us to plan for their future.
Working through Skype, email, phone and FaceTime is also good, but I use it generally as a client support – so if they have a worry at midnight they can still call or arrange to skype me. I try to make myself available 24/7 where possible. It is a privilege to be part of my clients’ lives and I take that responsibility seriously.
I always offer a free initial meeting. If the client wants to take it further, I can provide a basic financial plan at relatively low cost, compared to my competitors. This adds real value and is tangible – my clients understand it. It’s a marker in the sand for them to really take control of their finances.
I do a full review and find out what my client’s needs are and eventually what product can make their money work harder for them, if any – possibly they need pensions advice, investment advice or a specific tax structure.
Should everyone invest?
“Do you even need to invest?” That’s one of the first questions I ask. Some people already have enough but just don’t know it. Some people cannot afford to lose money. Some can’t sleep well at night if the market were to fall more than they can tolerate. And some need to accept the investment risk in order to grow their money to fulfil the life they want. For those who are already financially secure, they sometimes like to invest in esoteric projects, even start their own charity or invest in their family or other matters close to their heart.
Ethical investments are getting more popular. Some of my clients choose to take some of the profits from a traditional investment, and spend some of it on sponsoring a child through university or other socially conscious causes.
For many people, they don’t have the income to invest until later in life – in their 40-50s. This may be too late to get enough from a cash ISAs – but why not save through a Stocks and Shares ISA or pension where HMRC give you up to 45% tax relief? Where else can you get that kind of return? Then combine that with some other investments – spreading the risk? These kinds of strategies can prove to be very successful.
Many people have a fear of investing and losing their hard earned money, so I educate and support them in their decisions and how to mitigate the risk. They are completely in control of all their decisions. I also work within their psychometric profile – one person’s level of acceptable risk will be very different from the next.
What are the unique selling points of your service? What benefits do you offer?
Lifestyle and financial planning – I bring the two together, so clients get a financial plan that is totally and uniquely tailored to their desires and their lifestyles.
Ongoing client support is all included, and my service is very high quality. There are only about 100 or so Registered Life Planners in the country, and I’m one of them. The training included listening skills, fully understanding what the client wants from their life – at a deeper level. I can help them to articulate their dreams and goals, which is part of what makes my job more richly fulfilling. This part of my work means I am non judgmental and progressive. It adds purpose and fun to financial planning for my clients and me; breaking down many barriers that exist between client and financial adviser. My clients enjoy the collaboration; well at least it looks like they do!
As a Chartered Financial Planner I have the highest level of training and technical knowledge ensuring the advice, service and ongoing support is of the highest quality – there are only about 4,000 in the country out of 30,000 advisors. I am also a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), which means I have been tested to make sure I meet rigorous international competency, ethical and professional practice standards – training which bridges the gap between the Life Planning and Chartered Financial Planning, giving me the practical and technical ability to create a full financial life plan. The CFP certification is the only globally recognised mark of professionalism for Financial Planners and sets me apart from other IFAs in the UK and globally. The combination of these three qualifications has taken years of hard work and sacrifice, but it allows me to be at the forefront of financial planning for my clients. It allows them to be confident in my ability. I am only one of a handful of financial advisers in the UK that have these combinations of qualifications.
What are the greatest marketing and sales challenges you face?
I think the biggest challenge to any financial adviser is to dispel the myth of what a financial planner has become in the public perception. It’s a very negative image, one of ‘unscrupulous advisors’ selling products the clients don’t need, just so they can earn their commission. This was true for a few unlucky customers in the past, but new regulations have tackled the core problems. Charges have now to be up front for the service provided – no more relying on commissions. This removes any conflict of interest.
Fortunately the industry has cleaned up it’s act a great deal over the last few years, so those of us who are dedicated to offering only what is the best for our clients are not being ‘painted with the same brush’ as those who a few years ago, were not so client-focused. There is still a long way to go before our profession is highly regarded and I want to play a big part to improve this perception – the only way to do this is to offer a service to clients that they value, respect and cannot do without.
I try to educate, rather than ‘convince’ my clients, to see the benefits of a financial decision they are making and how it will affect their financial position. And this is so important. Less people nowadays are doing the right thing – getting a pension and making provisions for their future. They seem oblivious to how precarious their lives will become financially if they don’t act and make decisions that will provide greater long-term security. That’s why I feel that my role is so vital.
A common problem is people being too attached to their existing life style to make wise financial decisions. They are afraid of missing out on every day little luxuries or that they cannot adjust financially to make sure they have enough to live off when they retire and to enjoy their life now. Obviously divorce shatters the lifestyle that married couples are used to. This I why I feel financial planning before, during, and after divorce is crucial to leading a fulfilling life and to moving on. I am not suggesting, for one minute, that it is easy though. It is not, and takes a lot of hard work, but with the right people in your corner it can be helpful and ease the negativity associated with divorce.
Most of us could do so much to support ourselves in later life, and make much better financial decisions regarding divorce or other major life changes – without having to ‘miss out’ on what they really enjoy and value.
What other business challenges do you face?
Many people think they don’t have any money, so what’s the point of making a financial plan? But I say that there is always a way to improve your financial situation, and that no-one should go without help.
The perception can be that is it not cost effective for a client to work with me, but typically clients are surprised how cost effective my services are. I add value in many different ways and because I focus on combining life and money, my clients usually see the benefit and value in what I do, from a very early stage in our work together. I will advise also them on other routes and make helpful introductions.
I would like to begin to offer online solutions, making quality financial advice even more accessible to a wide range of people. Over the past several years I have provided consultancy support to a fintech start up aimed at making improvements in this area, but it is still a challenge, but watch this space! For most of my clients I spend time with them 1-1 and each session takes as long as it takes – I believe that quality work takes time because it is important to really get to know my clients and their lives.
What else would you like the world and potential customers to know about your financial service?
Financial planning isn’t just for my client’s personal life. It’s also for their business – and it includes the needs of their partner, spouse, or family as a whole, and the lifestyle they choose to lead.
Apart from being able to work remotely via Skype/Facetime, which is very helpful for clients who are busy or abroad, I can also offer fixed-price options if someone needs specific help.
I intend to become a key resource for the ‘Millennials market’ – 14 million of them in the UK – most of them without many assets, no property, no pensions and no inheritance or savings. These are the people who most need to make a financial plan and to make wise decisions, yet they currently believe that there is no point getting financial advice as it is perceived as expensive. My clients have children or grandchildren that this service can be appropriate for and offers values to them too – knowing their younger family members are starting on the right track.
I would like to create video resources – particularly aimed at the wellbeing aspects of financial planning so that people equate the financial with the tangible life benefits – such as sleeping better at night, less financial worries, and a more hopeful future and retirement.
Anxiety about financial issues can ruin a night’s sleep. That doesn’t happen with my clients.
Many financial advisors have only that annual meeting. For me, that’s just not enough – my clients need my support throughout the year. And it’s all included in the price.
I have clients that have been with me for 7 years – I like to build long term relationships. When Brexit happened, and Trump got elected, not a single one of my clients called me! They didn’t need to. They are all informed and confident that the investment process is valid, long term and stable, and any risk is carefully spread. Core cash is kept back – I would never encourage them to invest all their money!
When my clients allow me to create with them a ‘business plan’ for their lives, then not only can they sleep well at night – so can their families.
I invite you to undergo a free financial health check
Contact me now on 0203 119 3815 or 07563529918
to arrange a time to talk
Chartered Financial Planner, Certified Financial Planner & Registered Life Planner