Work – Life Balance. For The Institute Of Financial Planners Magazine

I’m 49 and that’s a very dangerous age; ever since primary school I knew the year I would reach 50 was going to be 2011 and 50 years old back then seemed ancient. Anyone who has safely negotiated this milestone in life fully understands the soul searching and constant self evaluation that occurs. What a perfect time to be asked to write about your work/life balance, but only perfect if you are pleased with how things are working out in your life so far. Obviously I must feel pleased enough to take the job.

It is Confucius who is credited with saying “If you choose a job you love you will never work a day in your life”. Yes, like all of us I have bad days, but overall I believe he was right on the money with his words of wisdom. I am my own boss and have been for almost 25 years, so if things aren’t right today, I have only myself to blame. I never wanted to work for anyone because it can’t be easy to love what you do if you are being told what to do.

Most of us have conquered huge obstacles to just survive in business today; endless regulation, taxation changes, bad press, market meltdowns and property collapses. If we are still involved in financial planning today it is probably because we love it. But we can love what we do too much. Sometimes we can’t leave our calling alone and only get that feeling of peace and balance when we are working towards our latest business related goal. Holidays can often feel like an inconvenience if you let them. We work twice as hard before we go away to meet unfeasible deadlines and then upon our return plough straight in to catch up. In the early days we saw clients at home and in the evenings.

One definition of balance is: a state in which various parts form a satisfying and harmonious whole and nothing is out of proportion or unduly emphasised at the expense of the rest.

So how did I get to be in balance? Well it’s not always been that way. I kicked off my financial services career as an Abbey Life salesman in 1987. I worked all hours and often 5 evenings a week. It was then that I had some lessons bestowed on me by the more experienced associates. Some lessons I still think are fundamental and some just reflected the direct sales forces of the pre PIA 1980’s.
• “A whole of life minimum cover life assurance plan is an excellent savings vehicle”. – Not so true then or now.
• “Life is a three-legged stool”. – That was as true in 1987 as it is today.

In summary, because I know I will be reminding many of you here, you need all three legs when you sit on a 3 legged stool, or you are going to fall over. As time passes by the legs on your stool grow as you grow as a person. If the legs don’t grow in unison you are going to fall over. The stool legs are labelled Business, Relationships and Health. We need all three to thrive. We all know successful individuals who have eventually suffered ill-health, sudden death, separation, divorce and estrangement from their children because they solely concentrated on their business. One of my original Abbey mentors Michael Yates had a lucky escape only this week. He has been dedicated and has built a successful business with SJP, but at the age of 53 has suffered a minor heart attack. He gets a second chance with his stool balancing. Michael Tompson another former Abbey peer wasn’t so lucky at age 48 when his heart attack came knocking.

So my work, relationships & health balance can be summed up thus.

Work – no problem, I love what I do and so need to be regularly dragged away from it. I am an entrepreneur who has carved out a niche offering financial planning to the small number of individuals who require that bespoke service.

Relationships – When I get away from work I can enjoy the company of Lesley, Lucy & Charlotte. The best way to get away from work is by taking a holiday and we do about 8 weeks a year of that, many of those are skiing in winter.

Health – I begrudgingly cycle 21 miles, twice a week with friends at stupid o’clock in the morning to be back home by 7.00am. I have also started running in the evening with a view to completing the Para’s 10 mile run in September. All this and I have been an asthmatic since childhood. I undergo an annual aviation medical including an ECG test.

As our baby-boomer clients continue to age we are constantly reminded of the need to try to live in “the now”. Many clients have too much money and too little time or energy left in life. Time is a strange phenomenon; it seems to be one dimensional, with a constant 24 hours in a day. But we seem to flit between 3 dimensions. I have spent the majority of my life looking to “the future” for myself, my family and my clients. I sometimes get nostalgic and live “in the past” when I reminisce. My mind however rarely lives in the now, just enjoying the present, experiencing only the moment without evaluating where this moment fits in the grand scheme of things. The now is the area that I’m looking to balance most in my life currently. I often listen to Simon Mayo on Radio 2 in the car on my way home from the office, if you do too you will understand “Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think”.