How I Got Advice: Christopher's story
Christopher meets a financial adviser for the first time to discuss how best to leave money to his grown up children and continue to provide for his mother.
Name: Christopher Middleton, 61
Occupation: Freelance writer
Adviser: Jerry Rixon, Hurley Partners, Leatherhead
Once a lone wolf, Christopher Middleton's commitments and attitude to money have changed. Now the children are grown up, it could be time for another rethink – and so he consults an adviser.
Before the meeting
Today, I’m 61, self-employed for the past 30 years, and I now realise – unlike when I was 21 – that I am not immortal. I never used to think about saving money or whether I needed a financial adviser; I couldn't see the point of it – I just lived for the day.
As time wore on, though, and more and more of my friends got married and had children, I started to feel less like the independent lone wolf and more like an animal that needed the security of the pack.
Sure enough, by the time I was in my late twenties, I was married with three children and had started to think differently. Less about me, and more about them. I could have bought myself a season ticket to watch Chelsea, but I joined the pension scheme at my work, then I joined the life insurance scheme.
The fact is that, when you're young, you feel that saddling yourself with a savings or pension scheme is like putting yourself out to grass. It's only later you realise that it's one thing if you're single and die, quite another if you've got four people depending on you.
Also, there’s my 90-year-old mother, who is a widow and has chosen to live in a retirement complex nearby.
Of course, the key thing is to use a financial adviser who listens to your ideas, rather than one who straps you tightly into a scheme from which you have no escape.
At 50, I had been referred by a friend to Jerry Rixon, a financial adviser who listens first, rather than gives commands. As a result of the advice he had given me, we acquired a number of savings plans that will prove a boon in the years ahead.
Now it’s time to go back to Jerry. I’m not considering ceasing to be a writer any time soon, but I know I need to understand how later life will be funded.
My savings are not vast, but I own a house. Will we have enough? What provision do I need to make?
After the meeting
Well, I'm not saying it was easy, but I feel much better now I have been through the financial car wash, at the hands of Jerry and his colleague Peter Collier.
How strange. You work all your life in the hope of blowing your money when you're older. But when you are actually older, you don't actually feel like it. The moment has gone.
What's more, if you are married and have three children, like me, you realise that you have got to leave something behind for them – other than a lingering memory of your high blood pressure and expanding waist size.
Jerry told me the following, in plain and simple terms. The fact is, my wife and I were in the classic position of having two cars, one house (initial cost £250,000, current value £1.5 million), and a pension plus two or three savings pots. In short, we were asset rich but cash poor.
What a strange position to be in. Yes, we could crack our way into our savings schemes and head off for a holiday in the West Indies. Strangely, though, while my hands were itching to get hold of our hard-won gains, at the same time, the savings instinct was deeply rooted in us.
Yes, we could flounce off, but after lots of late-night discussions, we found, to our slight dismay, that we would rather leave the money where it was, and put it to better use in funding our children's lives.
And I have to tell you, I hadn't seen that coming. You spend all your adult lives talking about what you are going to do when the children have left home, yet when the time comes, after talking to Jerry, we concluded that we would prefer to have a short holiday in the Channel Isles and use the rest of the money to help our children.
Try telling that to my 21-year-old self! He wouldn't believe it. Nor would he have any time for our other 60-plus plans: life insurance policies, health insurance policies, pension plans, etc. These kinds of schemes cost money in the short term, which I had not anticipated, but the protection they provide is long-lasting.
So, when the time comes, just like when they were christened, we can sprinkle some money down on to our children's heads. All the things I used to view as stuff for scaredy-cats, but which I now see as a solid financial platform.
After all, who knows what will happen next? I’m now glad I got advice from Jerry, who knows the twists and turns that can lurk along life's road.
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