If you want that shiny new Volvo - as one of Liam's clients was adamant about - then you had better be able to afford it now without damaging your long-term financial health
I met two would-be clients last week looking for financial advice. It was my first-time meeting both - what I like to call our discovery meeting where we get to know each other.
It turned out that both wanted to work with me, which was good to hear, but I decided I only wanted to work with one of them. Why I chose not to work with one couple was mainly down to them not being prepared; also, they hadn’t thought through why they were in front of me.
They didn’t really know what they were looking for, and when I tried to help them by suggesting things like paying off their mortgage quicker, retiring earlier, building up their savings, paying off debt etc., they wanted all of that, it sounded great.
Put a plan in place to achieve all of the above, they said. But here’s the thing: do it in a way that doesn’t alter our current quality of life. They weren’t joking.
I could see they had a lifestyle that was dependant on credit to supplement income. They were living way beyond their means, which is an enormous issue. It’s impossible to achieve anything unless you are creating a surplus each month, and unless you’re committed to turning this around, financially you are going nowhere.
They were unclear about what they wanted to achieve but were very clear that whatever plan I would come up with, it would come with no change to their current spending.
I almost forgot to mention, they also told me that when I build this incredible plan, I was to factor in a change of car in the next couple of months.
She always wanted a white Volvo XC60 and that was non-negotiable. They didn’t want me to say anything that would stop them from buying it, they weren’t for turning. They said they would get a PCP loan and I’m pretty sure they haven’t a clue what a PCP contract is, or what it involves.
The starting price of a Volvo XC60, in case you’re wondering, is €48,490.
After about 40 minutes of back and forth, I explained that what they were asking for was impossible. I mean, were they listening to themselves? Unfortunately for them, they weren’t a fit for me, because I knew no matter what suggestions I put forth, they wouldn’t follow through on any. I want to work with people who will listen, and who will take on board the very practical and fact-based advice I give them.
They looked disappointed and surprised. They didn’t think anyone would turn down new clients who were willing to pay a fee. But I didn’t want their money. It wouldn’t sit well with me and my values, if I was going through the motions, indulging their fantasies when I knew that’s all they were.
The second person I met was completely different. Immediately she was open to finding out what needed to be done in order to achieve her goals.
She had three specific goals, which she shared with me, and they were:
1. Become mortgage-free in seven years, when she was 57.
2. Achieve a financial state, that once the mortgage is paid off, she’d have enough money, where she didn’t have to work again, if that’s what she wanted.
3. When she reaches 65, and decides not to work again, she can do so without worrying she would run out of money.
So, we put together a plan to achieve just that. We looked at the numbers, and I identified what needed to be done between 2019 and 2026, and what needs to happen during 2027 and 2035. I mapped out how much she needs to save and how much she needs to earn.
Now she had absolute clarity about what needed to be done. She didn’t have to second guess the plan, she could see the logic behind it but more importantly she could see, if she followed through with what I said, the outcomes she was looking for would become a reality.
Yes, there were going to be trade-offs, but she knew they would determine how her future turns out, and yes it was going to be difficult, but she was laser focused and she was going to make it happen.
Everyone wants to be successful, and people are always talking about what they would like to achieve. But they never talk about what they need to give up to make them happen. Maybe they don’t know, but when they do, it’s only those who are prepared to make those changes and sacrifices that succeed.
Anyone like that first couple I spoke about, who think they can get whatever they want without making changes are delusional. The latter woman didn’t mind making certain trade-offs, because she saw them as opportunities for a better future. She was willing to give up the temporary comfort of doing nothing, in exchange for making adjustments to achieve permanent success.
The couple weren’t, and that’s why they’re not clients of mine. And I can predict with a great degree of certainty, what their future is going to become, and sadly for them, it’s not pretty.
Liam Croke is MD of Harmonics Financial Ltd,
based in Plassey. He can be contacted at email@example.com or www.harmonics.ie