As the year draws to a close, I have begun to reflect over my last 12 months and thankfully there have been many highs and only some lows. And I think it is important for us all to sit down and look back, particularly over what went well, because we tend to only remember and focus on what went wrong for us rather than celebrating and remembering the things that were really good.
My first personal highlight is that myself, and all, of my family stayed healthy in 2013. It is something to be thankful for, because I have come across many people throughout the year where a partner or close relative either died or suffered a serious illness which had a terrible impact financially and obviously emotionally on them.
My next highlight is the number of emails and letters I receive from Limerick Leader readers telling me their stories or commenting on something I had written the previous week etc.
Some of the letters are absolutely terrific and I remember one in particular from an elderly gentleman who took the time to write to me about an article I wrote about the importance of teaching children about money and instilling good values and good habits in them at an early age.
Getting them to appreciate the value of money would help them no end as they get older. He agreed with me and explained that in his day he started off earning money as a young boy collecting sticks and he then moved on to selling pigs toes; it was a great letter and we could learn so much from wonderful people like him.
Reading his and many hundreds of other letters makes writing this column so enjoyable and rewarding for me so thank you and I look forward to hearing again from you in 2014.
My next highlight was the release in March of my fifth personal finance book. ‘I am going to be debt free’ took me probably 12 months to complete and at times was very difficult to write.
But I knew a book like this needed to be written where people just needed practical advice, support and guidance so I set out to achieve this by writing it in an easy-to-understand and non-judgmental or patronising way. A book that people could read and say “that’s me” but most importantly I wanted to inspire and give people the tools and confidence to take action to improve their financial well-being. And I hope that those who bought the book feel this way.
One of my biggest highlights of 2013 was the launch of our website My|Money (www.my-money.ie) with my great friend, mentor and business partner John Fitzgerald.
It quickly became apparent to John and, I, from working with many different companies over the past number of years, that recession or no recession people find financial matters scary and complicated which has a massive impact on their quality of lives.
What we surprisingly found out in our research was how big an impact a financially stressed employee was having on the company they worked for but they didn’t even realise just how big an impact.
So with our knowledge and experience, we set about providing a solution that would satisfy both the employer and employee. We began by asking ourselves “what would we do” if we were the company, knowing everything we do and what staff members from every grade and salary alike kept telling us, was stopping them being the best they could be and keeping them from their night’s sleep.
Some other highlights throughout the year for me were taking on a bank who tried to confuse and mislead a customer of theirs into thinking and believing they did nothing wrong when they absolutely did.
There was terrific satisfaction taking them head on and eventually winning where they had to admit they failed in their duty of care to her and refund her a cheque in the amount of €16,797.
I will never forget the elation in her voice when she telephoned me with the news when the cheque arrived in the post.
There was also great satisfaction helping people throughout the year invest money that earned in some cases up to four times more than they could get on deposit with no risk attached, and showing them how they can achieve much better returns than they could have ever imagined.
And I’ll never forget helping a lady receive a cheque in the amount of €103,769 from a life policy her husband owned that she never knew about – he had died eight years previously and she never knew he had this policy and only came to light when we were looking at another area for her.
Lots of great stories for me personally to recall, which made 2013 a very rewarding year and for me money isn’t just a numbers game, it’s about people and their lives which is why 25 years on from when I started with IPBS I am even more passionate about what I do.
The only low points for me in 2013 was still seeing how banks treat some people like they are pariahs because they are in arrears and how unhelpful some of them still are; they really don’t realise the negative impact they have on people’s lives but hopefully this will change in 2014, it has to
Finally, my last regret of 2014 was sharing my iTunes password with my six-year-old, Sarah – you might remember what happened to me a few weeks ago when she went on a shopping spree on-line.
Well the reaction I got from readers was brilliant, you all thought it was gas – I’m glad someone found it funny.
Finally, on behalf of myself and my family I want to wish you all a very happy Christmas and peaceful New Year.