What goes into your comprehensive financial plan?
This guide provides an overview of Your Plan; the unique and unbiased comprehensive financial planning service.
Find out what’s involved in the process and how these services can help you.Mark Underdown
Sign up to receive monthly money musings into your inbox and receive your Free Digital Guide.
You will receive a summary of my helpful insights once a month and will be kept informed of future Giveaway guides.
You can opt-out at any time.
You have successfully subscribed. Thank you.
In a world full of abundant choice, it’s hard to know the right decisions to make for your future prosperity.
Without drafting your own plan, you may find there is a mismatch between your life goals and the financial products that are meant to help you attain them.
Your Plan is a personal and comprehensive financial planning service to help you take control of your money and life.
There is no sale of financial products, but rather an independent, unbiased and educational service to help you manage your personal finances.
The aim is to teach and guide you, so that you can direct your own future and build your long-term prosperity.
This guide shows you what’s involved in comprehensive financial planning service and outlines why Small Acorn Money is the right choice to help you and your family live a prosperous life.
At first glance, this may seem like an obvious and easy question. Yet give it some thought and it becomes the big question and one that is always changing.
Those who have spent time contemplating what they want to achieve in life, and considered how they will use the limited time and resources available, will know this to be a challenging but essential question to answer.
Without this focus, you may find yourself in later life filled with regret. Realising that you are the one in control will ensure your money is working for you, in a way that fits your life.
Most people don’t realise that active control over their money and the choices they make with it go a long way to defining the quality of their life.
The function of money in society is to act as a medium of exchange between providers of different products and services, allowing you to consume them at times suited to you, and as a store of value so that we do not have to spend your money immediately at the point of earning it.
Yet at a personal level, your money is not an abstract, functional concept; it has a purpose.
The purpose of money is to help you live the life that you want to live.
This purpose incorporates our basic needs such as feeding, clothing and housing ourselves and our family, and ensuring there isn’t too much life at the end of our money long after we have stopped working.
For most of us however, it goes further than this.
Relative to most of the world, we live in a free and prosperous society. Money can therefore be used as a tool to provide increased comforts and conveniences, explore the world, fund our ideas, creativity and innovations, and provide us with the power to obtain the freedom and abundant choice which this world offers us.
Money is the middle man between your dreams and bringing them to life.
Managing your money properly will put you in control of your time, freeing you to pursue those things that are valuable to you today, and helping you craft the life you would like in your future.
But it is not all about money.
You also require clarity of purpose.
If you are without a clear idea of what you truly want, and if you neglect to prioritise those things that are important to you, if you lack clear direction; you will find it difficult to make the correct personal and financial decisions.
You see, money is a strange beast. Our relationship with money is even more bizarre. Individually and collectively, we appear incapable of managing our relationship with money.
Some should priotise supporting their family, yet squander their earnings buying things they don’t need, ending up in a spiral of debt.
Others spend their lives chasing money and find themselves financially well-off (and sometimes rich), but realise they are incredibly poor regarding their quality of life and happiness.
Some view money as the root of all evil, and forego the benefits of money, mistakenly blaming the messenger (money), for the actions of people.
Many who are financially successful become estranged from friends, lose loved ones from lack of attention, and become detached from their family due to lack of time. You, therefore, have to question whether they are successful at all?
Some can never quite earn enough of it. Others earn plenty but just can’t seem to keep hold of it.
Some chase dreams in dubious investments, losing their shirt in the process. Others remain fearful of things they don’t understand and miss out on huge sums that can be obtained from sensible and patient investment.
In these scenarios, people have failed to remain in control of their money and their life. Either financial factors have not been considered in full, or personal factors have taken second place to financial matters. Both routes lack the wisdom that comes from balancing your choices between personal and financial ones.
There’s little point seeking to become the richest person in the graveyard, and conversely, it is foolish to leave yourself short of money, stressed out and squeezed into frugality and poverty.
Nearly all of us don’t have the right amount of money; it’s either too much or too little (but clearly having too much would be preferable).
The first step on your path to prosperity is to get an understanding of what you truly want and how much this might cost you; now and in your future.
You need to know where you are before you know where you are going.
For all of your financial products you need to ask yourself the following questions:
1. What exactly do you own?
2. What are the features?
3. Why do you have it?
What exactly do you own?
I’d be surprised if you could accurately state what you own, where it is held, where it is invested, what factors influence its performance, and what are the unique features of your existing products.
Can you quickly and clearly explain to me what investments you have? So much of your future prosperity is dependent on where your money is invested.
Where have you entrusted your future prosperity?
I’ve spent years doing research into people’s finances and the number of people who have their finances properly organized probably ranges around 5% of the population. I suppose that’s good for me. It provides me with a way to earn a living in areas I find interesting. It’s not so good for you, but it’s something in your power to remedy.
Don’t feel bad if you don’t know exactly what you own; remember you are not alone. However with my help and guidance, now is the time to get your financial house in order.
Gather up to date valuations and statements of all your finances and read them. Make a note of all the things you don’t understand and that make little sense to you.
I expect there will be a rather long list, but don’t cut corners – there is no question too small in your quest for understanding. It sometimes takes me a long time and a few challenging phone calls to get to grips with some of the financial statements out there, and I have a decade of experience across perhaps a thousand financial scenarios, and years professional study under my belt.
What are the features?
I will analyse and assess the features of your finances. This will help to answer some of the following types of questions:
- What you are currently being charged? And what do you receive in return for these costs?
- What risks are you exposed to?
- What kind of investment return could you receive?
- Are you adequately diversified?
- When will your insurance policies pay out, how much would this be and under what terms?
- What cover do you have, who is it for and what is the reason for that level of cover?
- How much are you paying on your mortgage?
- What are the rates?
- How will you be affected by rate changes?
- When will you be debt free?
- Can you make this happen sooner?
- How much can you overpay without suffering a penalty?
- Are you saving enough towards retirement?
- What pension structures do you own?
- What are the investment features (see above)?
- Are there ways to improve your tax efficiency?
- Are you giving undue attention to tax, to the detriment of other factors in your personal finances? The old adage ‘don’t let the tax tail wag the investment dog’ is widely ignored.
I do not and cannot explicitly recommend you purchase alternatives or new financial products because I am not authorised to provide this regulated field of financial advice by the FCA. My service is educational and about your overall higher level strategy and plan, than product focused. I will, however, point out any problems, suggest improvements, show you how you can take control of your wealth and finally, introduce you to a suitable regulated professional if alternative financial products could help your prosperity, or show you how you can do it yourself.
Why do you have it?
It’s not enough to simply know what financial position you have. You need to understand why you have these products in place.
For example, I often find people have shares because they have received them via work, or inherited them; then have simply held onto them. This is a poor reason to own the shares of a company. You should have compelling reasons for each of your financial positions and understand how they will complement each other, and impact on your current and future prosperity.
Another example would be insurances. Many people are sold insurance and tend to forget exactly why they have it, i.e. what does it protect and in what circumstances.
What about bank accounts? People tend to keep the same account simply through inertia, when ensuring the best rates, service, and security of our cash is essential.
So, a key part of taking control is to understand why you have these products and why you build your current financial position. This will help you make well-informed decisions about your finances that fully incorporate an understanding of your life and personal requirements.
This service is about taking control. Don’t leave it on autopilot.
My planning process is not about me telling you what you should and shouldn’t be doing with your money.
You are paying me to help you understand the financial factors involved in your own personal choices.
Ultimately, any decision you make is your own responsibility. I can only provide unbiased help, guidance, and counsel to improve your understanding and make you think about areas you may have not considered. There are three key points to this aspect of Your Plan:
- Anything I suggest or propose isn’t set in stone.
- Everything should be on the table and open for discussion.
- I will never make a strong recommendation in the way that other financial advisers tend to do. On most occasions, this is the service a client seeks; someone to make financial decisions for them. Other times, this is an assertive sales tactic.
I am a coach, planner and strategist that helps you reach the right decisions with your money from a position of improved understanding.
Any financial decision you make will have some advantages and disadvantages to consider. These should be considered against your personal views and goals.
We are dealing with the future and certainty, whilst desirable, is the one thing that will never apply.
We are essentially building your comprehensive financial plan together, in partnership, and a discussion process to understand, discount and consider various options is a crucial step.
Only through building an understanding of your personal and financial situation, will the choices you make be reflective of you taking control, rather than leaving your finances at the mercy of others.
Once we have discussed thoughts and options, I will present my plan to you in your digital brochure that will be your personal and comprehensive financial plan that you can keep and refer to.
It’s far better to see your financial plan in paper rather than discussed verbally, as terms can be more easily explained and numbers can be presented in a more visually appealing way.
I’m also quite certain that you don’t want to hear me drone on for hours about money, with all the knowledge and wisdom flying into one ear and swiftly out of the other.
I also work better in writing. The process of writing is conducive to comprehensive thinking. It forces me to crystalise my thoughts, ensuring they are articulated with clarity and without confusion. This method ensures that necessary details are covered and not overlooked. It also benefits you, with your digital brochure allowing you to consume your plan at your leisure.
This document will also form the basis of your future actions and ongoing planning; you can refer to it, review your progress, and make any amendments necessary.
Finally, putting the plan onto paper is a small but very important commitment. It’s a little like writing your personal contract. There will be a section for you to sign that will clearly set out a summary of your goals and the agreed steps to help you achieve them.
There will likely be many lifestyle, behavioural and financial steps to follow on your path to prosperity. This small commitment will nudge you into remaining on the right path. You can use it to hold yourself accountable to the goals and objectives you have made; reviewing whether you have made progress towards them or deviated from your intended path.
Your financial plan doesn’t end the day you receive your digital brochure. You shouldn’t let it sit in a box gathering dust, or saved to a computer file never to see the light of day.
Getting your finances in order is the first step on your path to prosperity. But it’s only the beginning. Planning your journey doesn’t automatically mean you will arrive at your destination.
You should keep your plan in mind on a frequent basis, review your progress towards your important life and financial goals, and rectify deviations from your path.
It also helps to have someone lend a hand, holding you to account against the plans you have made, and hopefully provide a little wisdom along the way.
In a similar way to having a personal trainer, having me on hand to discuss your financial progress will make you far more likely to stick to your goals. You can go it alone, but most fail. When you try to do it all on your own, life just seems to get in the way. Let’s face it, constantly thinking about money probably isn’t natural or healthy, and obtaining professional help from someone who specialises in this field is a constant value add to your life and your personal finances.
It is a valuable ongoing service for most people who incorporate comprehensive financial planning into their lives. As life changes, you may find that you take comfort from knowing that you have a professional who is truly unbiased and conflict-free (which is indeed quite rare), sitting on your side of the table.
When constant changes to the financial environment and life generally, affect, alter and impact on the financial plans you have put in place; Ongoing support will ensure your finances remain on the right path.
If you are reading this guide, I assume it is because you need someone to help you with your finances. But why should that someone be me?
I set high standards to my services that make them superior to the available alternatives (even if I do unashamedly say so myself). These standards are as follows:
Comprehensive & Holistic Approach
A holistic approach means incorporating the different aspects of your finances and life into your overall plan. The whole is made up from the sum of all the moving parts.
Regarding your financial planning process, it means first and foremost that we consider your personal situation, beliefs, and objectives. We then tally these with financial factors to come up with your bespoke and personal strategy. The process of crafting your plan is comprehensive. Nothing less than this approach will do when the aim is to maintain and enhance your prosperity. It’s too important.
Most of us specialise nowadays so we can excel at a given topic. However, when it comes to your personal financial plan, you need to ensure that you don’t let one factor, such as tax benefits, outweigh other factors, such as the risks involved, when considering your overall situation and establishing your comprehensive financial plan.
The old saying ‘don’t let the tax tail wag the investment dog’ is still frequently forgotten.
Without going through a rigorous and thoughtful financial planning process to build an understanding of your financial position, how do you know if you are truly making the right choices?
A comprehensive and well thought out financial plan considers all factors before reaching any decisions. Some factors to consider would be as follows:
Investment risk profile and capacity
Require investment return
Leaving a legacy
I have no intention of disagreeing with you during your financial planning process. However, you are paying for independent thought and unbiased counsel. An important part of this is challenging conversations, and playing devil’s advocate on occasion to test the strength and reasoning behind your views and positions. It’s important to outline alternative views to ensure you are certain about your financial choices. If you don’t go through this process, where exactly is the benefit of paying for the services of a professional? If someone tells you everything you want to hear (often to obtain a sale), why wouldn’t you just save the fees and make your own choices?
The overlooked value of paying for unbiased and professional advice, is having someone who is prepared to tell you that your ‘baby is ugly’.
The phrase means if I see something in your finances that should raise alarm, I will sound that alarm, outlining my reasoning behind my concerns.
We can then have constructive discussions and debates about what may be better choices towards your own personal goals, and you can ensure that the decisions you take are truly from a position of full understanding and control.
You’d be surprised how often people say they want a certain goal or that they think a certain way; yet their finances do not accurately reflect this.
If this happens to be you, I will tell you so for your own financial wellbeing (ever so politely, of course).
My aim with Small Acorn Money is to empower people to take control of their own wealth.
I hope to achieve this through a combination of educational articles, guides, videos, books, digital courses and financial planning. Hopefully, after spending some time with me, you will feel comfortable and equipped to manage your own affairs, either entirely on your own, or with some additional support and guidance.
You pay me an explicit fee to solely work in your best interests. I have no ulterior motive, sales targets, or conflicts of interest. I have no financial products to sell you. I am going to pick on the traditional financial advice model a little bit to explain why I feel my financial coaching service is the better option for you.
Too many financial advisers are entirely reliant upon you as a client purchasing a product, or transferring to another provider in order for them to get paid. With this method of earning a living, are you really that surprised when your ‘advice’ results in needing a new product or provider?
The old adage, “you don’t go to a barbers and ask whether you need a haircut” comes to mind!
Financial Advisers advertise they are ‘independent’ or ‘unbiased’, yet their operational set-up and charging model is full of conflicts of interest. So whose interests are they working for?
You pay me an explicit and transparent fee to sit on your side of the table, placing myself between you and the self-interest, jargon, noise, and complexity of the financial industry. Whilst some other financial planners operate this way, it is quite rare to find those who do.
Now that I have hit traditional financial advice with a big stick, here is a little defense (as the truth is never entirely one sided). Financial advice is a business. It is there to meet consumer demand. Many people just wish to delegate financial decisions and control to others. They want someone else to ‘tell them what to do’. That’s fine. But doing so means you must entrust your future to someone else, in full.
My comprehensive financial planning service will require a lot of your personal involvement. Comprehensive financial planning takes time. If you would like to entirely delegate the decisions to someone else then my services are not for you. If this is the case, I will gladly introduce you to the right financial adviser for your requirements.
Technology allows me to work from anywhere and remove many of the costs associated with having an office and providing a face-to-face service, passing these savings onto you by way of lower fees.
I am a big believer in two things:
Work is a thing you do, not a place you go
In the early years, humans were nomadic hunter gatherers. Then we developed into producing agriculture, and we all needed to be in one place to work the fields. More recently it was factories, and then came offices and the networking benefits of cities. With the invention of the internet, and the ability to connect with anyone around the world at a click of a mouse; this has turned our society full circle. An increasing number have chosen to once again become nomadic. We can now essentially pick where we would like to live from a lifestyle perspective and still provide high quality work. I therefore intend to slowly travel the world, spending months and years in different locations to enrich my life.
The deferred life plan is a mistake
In my view, the traditional retirement model of working for 40 years and then retiring at 65, is dead. I can’t quite comprehend why people put off lifelong dreams until a time when they will be in a poorer state of health, if death doesn’t come first. The time to do the things you would like to in life is today – tomorrow may not come. Care is required here, however. From a financial perspective, you need to be prudent and plan to live to 100 years of age, but from a lifestyle perspective, it’s important to live a little more in the here and now. My own intention is to never retire in the traditional sense. I will retire when I drop dead. However, what I have done and will continue to do so, is take frequent extended breaks, spreading out my ‘retirement’ over my whole life.
From a young age, I have always held a burning, insatiable desire to see the world. Given the world’s present level of prosperity, openness, and technological advancement; I am fortunate enough to incorporate some form of work/travel balance into my life.
It is for these reasons that I am slightly nomadic while providing comprehensive financial planning services, writing books, developing helpful educational content for the public, and providing research and reporting services to fellow financial services professionals around the world.
While I consider England my home, I no longer spend very much time there and don’t expect to for a good few years yet.
I will therefore be outside of the UK when I provide my services to you. I therefore need to work in a secure manner when providing my services to you, and you will need to agree to my unique terms of service, including a data protection agreement which allows me to store, manage and access your personal and financial data outside of the UK.
Committed to learning
I have studied for a variety of professional financial qualifications. These qualifications would satisfy and exceed the regulatory requirement to provide product related financial advice, manage client investments on a discretionary basis, among other regulated financial functions.
They provide me with a broad understanding of the products and techniques used in managing wealth. A full list of these qualifications is outlined below:
- CISI Private Client Investment Advice and Management (Distinction)
- CFA UK Investment Management Certificate
- CII J04 Pension Funding Options
- CII J05 Pension Income Options
- CII J0 Personal Taxation
- CII J06 Investment Principles, Markets and Environment (Merit)
- CII RO1 Financial Services, Regulations and Ethics
- IFS Certificate in Financial Advice
- IFS Certificate in Mortgage Advice and Practice
- IFS Certificate in Regulated General Insurance
Yet being in possession of professional qualifications is not sufficient; It makes me largely the same as most other Financial Advisers.
In my view, it is my wider readings that have built my knowledge above and beyond that achievable solely from structured study. I personally value the vast range of books, blogs and research reports more highly than my professional qualification, yet they don’t come with any certificate of accomplishment.
My hope is that through my accomplishments and continual learning, I will one day be deemed an authority or expert in financial planning and investment management.
Personally, I will always feel like there is more to learn and more to understand about investing, financial markets and financial planning. With each book, I often find ten more to add to my Amazon wish list. This commitment to continual learning ensures I will always be searching for improved solutions and a deeper understanding of subjects that apply to financial planning, and new ways to help you.
Sales Free Approach
There will be no sale of financial products. As such, the FCA does not regulate my services. The FCA regulates the sale and promotion of financial products.
This separation from product sales makes me truly unbiased, but I am therefore not regulated by the UK Financial Conduct Authority and will not (and cannot) provide specific product recommendations to you.
Whilst I am qualified to a standard exceeding the requirements to provide this type of regulated financial advice, I am not interested in providing these services to you.
Let’s face it there’s enough financial advisers out there doing largely the same thing – where is the value in me being another one? If you require this type of service, I can introduce you to the right financial adviser.
Financial planning is more important than financial products, My aim is to teach you how to take control, not to sell you financial products.
I stay ‘in the know’ on financial products and solutions because I also provide research and reporting services to a few financial planners around the world. I will, therefore, be familiar with what you have and the products available, but my attention will always be on your high-level plan, rather than your financial product details and technicalities.
Take Control Today
Don’t leave your wealth in someone else’s hands.
Don’t leave your future to fate.
It’s time to take control.
This service is the key to your long-term success and lasting prosperity.
The first step of your comprehensive financial plan is a brief conversion to ensure we can work together and value can be added to your financial situation and your life. This is at my expense and no obligation on your part. If you still have any further questions we can discuss them during your call. I do not ask for any payment until you fully understand the process and are 100% comfortable to proceed.
Match your money to your life and take control of your future prosperity.
Start Your Plan Today.