Fortitude Financial Planning

Financial Planning

Too many highlights to mention…

We’re back at our desks after a fabulous 5 1/2 weeks and over 2,700 miles touring Spain and Portugal….we’re sure you won’t be interested in a blow by blow travelogue so here are some of the highlights:

The scenery in the Picos de Europa was breathtakingly beautiful and the roads virtually empty (other than some cattle being walked down to winter pasture and wild horses).

The Muga winery in Haro, Rioja was fascinating; not a stainless steel vat in sight because they continue to use entirely traditional methods (which includes the separation of 400 egg whites from their yolks to clarify each vat by hand and a cooperage where the coopers travel annually to France to select the trees that will be felled, transported to Haro for seasoning so that 1,000 barrels can be crafted by hand every year, each one taking 6 hours).

The Douro valley was magnigicent shrouded in Autumn colours. The many and various Ports that we tasted were sublime and when we unpacked we found we had purchased enough supplies to last us a while!

The Portuguese were incredibly hospitable and friendly, though their architecture of the last 50 or so years is unlikely to win any prizes and they really need to find dimmer switches for their bars and restaurants!

We did have one very sobering day when we drove for over 5 hours through the area that was devastated by wildfires just 10 days previously; thankfully few dwellings appeared to have been damaged even when gardens, hedges and trees were completely destroyed however the damage was chilling and we were too shellshocked to take photos.

We would not have had the confidence to take such a long break without our financial plan showing us that we can start living our dream (even on a part-time basis) now without compromising our future life (which we call the Life/Life Balance TM).

Now we will start to plan our next trip….Neil and Helen

Are you having a ‘Wow’ or ‘Now What’ moment?

We believe we do not have the right to talk about our clients’ money until we have an understanding about what that money needs to do for them in order for them to be able to live the life they want; both now and in the future.

Only then can we help our clients build their financial plan.

Plans evolve over time; so our process is designed to provide ‘clarity’, ‘confidence’ and ‘peace of mind’ around the decisions that need to be made.  We aim to put our clients in control of fulfilling their plan.  One client recently said this has given him a “real sense of freedom”.

Most clients have worked hard for many years; building up assets, paying down liabilities, enjoying their lifestyle now while being diligent about planning for their future.  There comes a time where we say to our client “You can now choose to stop paid work”, in other words they are no longer dependent on earning money to live out their life goals. They can begin the next phase of their lives knowing they are financially independent!

This is a ‘wow’ moment for some…a ‘now what’ for others.  It can be a scary – but it doesn’t have to be.  With the right support and ‘tools’ in place our clients can continue to enjoy clarity, confidence and peace of mind knowing what their next phase of life looks like.

We want our clients to fulfil their dreams and desires.  We want them to live out their purpose.

We understand that clients do have their ‘now what?’ moments so we coach them throughout every stage of their journey.  Understanding what our client is living for and helping them achieve it is the foundation of the Fortitude Way.

What’s important to you? What are your values? What are you living for? What will your life look like when you become ‘financially independent’?

Come and talk to us and we can discover the answers to these questions together.


A new initiative focused on good practice

The Personal Finance Society (PFS) has established a new Financial Planning Practitioner Panel to help with the vision of “protecting the public by guiding the profession”.

The panel of experienced financial planners, which includes Fortitude director Neil Bailey, will be advising the PFS as it broadens its programme of continuous professional development (CPD) resources to incorporate inspirational financial planning good practice.

Society President and Panel Chair, Sharon Sutton commented: “We are honoured to have such a distinguished and passionate group of individuals who are willing to share what they have learned for the benefit of the wider profession.”

Neil commented: “It is a privilege to be involved with this project.  Hopefully, by learning from the collective experience of this group, many more advisers will adopt some of the tools and techniques that contribute to good financial planning practice.  This will be a win/win for the both adviser and their clients.”

You can be extravagant …

I recently heard the statement “I’m happy to spend extravagantly on things I enjoy but I hate waste” …this got me thinking…

Our clients often spend large amounts of money on family holidays, cars, extending and decorating their homes; as well as gifting monies and funding charitable activities across the world.  Is this ‘waste’…or ‘extravagance’?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘waste’ as use or expend carelessly, extravagantly, or to no purpose”.  Waste speaks of squandering, frittering away, misspending, misusing and spending recklessly.

The Oxford English Dictionary definition of extravagance is very similar, “a lack of restraint in spending money or using resources”. In this definition extravagance speaks of lack of thrift, improvidence, wastefulness, and squandering.

It’s clear from these definitions that the compilers of the Oxford English Dictionary perceive ‘waste’ and ‘extravagance’ as being interchangeable.

Luckily the Cambridge Dictionary compilers seem to be a little bit more laid back.  Their more congenial definitions of extravagance include “something expensive that you buy even though you do not need it” and “behaviour in which you spend more money than you need to.”

When we meet our clients we have rich and meaningful conversations about their specific goals and objectives.

Our clients spend time and energy working hard and accumulating capital, so why shouldn’t they be extravagant from time to time when it comes to the things that are important to them?  After all they have a plan so they know they can afford it!

Do you really want to leave this planet with ‘too much money’ and your ‘financial bucket’ overflowing?

Isn’t it better to manage your “financial bucket”, avoiding waste, so that you can use your wealth to do the things that are important to you; including being extravagant from time to time?


Wow…it’s been 15 years!

When I look back 15 years since the launch of the original Fortitude Financial Planning, I am amazed and proud of the business we have built.

It was a sunny day in August 2002.  Mark and I met (with Paul who has since departed) to discuss establishing our own business.  We were excited as to what we could achieve but also apprehensive.

At the time, my wife and I had a young family with 2 children (my youngest was only 3 months old).  Davina suggested that me wanting to leave employment with an Accountancy firm, giving up a ‘secure’ salary, was very risky.  Nevertheless we took the plunge ….only time would tell whether or not it was the right decision.

In those days commission was the standard payment method for almost all Independent Financial Adviser (IFA) businesses, necessitating the sale of a financial product. Some would argue this encouraged the mis-selling scandals with which we are all familiar.  Businesses that charged fees were rare.

IFAs, however, were able to provide significant value to their clients in the days when internet capability was limited and the choice of products and providers was extensive. We probably all find it difficult to recollect the days when we did not have access to a world of information at the touch of a button.

My sons are now both over 6 feet tall; Luke, a typical teenager stuck in his room with GCSEs on the near horizon and Daniel, an uncertain semi-adult looking at A levels and university with increasing trepidation.

There have been other huge changes over that long period.  It is only in looking back that we can really appreciate the world we then lived in:

  • A new Blackberry phone cost £250 (about the same as the iPhone introduced in 2007)
  • Blockbuster (Video Rental) was a $5.5bn business
  • A basic computer cost £1,500
  • People used internet cafes
  • A pint of beer cost £2.00
  • The FTSE 100 stood at 3940
  • The £ sterling bought $1.60
  • Nobody had access to the internet in their pocket 24/7

The big things that stand out to me on this list are inflation and investments; inflation has averaged 2.9% p.a. (so the £2.00 pint should now cost £3.08) but the FTSE has risen by an average of 5.2% p.a. (including dividends) despite several much publicised falls (including 20% in 2002, 40% in 2007/08, 15% in 2010, 2011 and 2015).

When we met Neil and Helen (in 2005) they had already been running a “new model” fee based Financial Planning business since 1997.  From them we learned the many ways clients can benefit from a comprehensive Financial Planning process.  This motivated me to attain my Certified Financial PlannerTM (CFPTM) qualification in 2006. It was a big challenge, but one that gave me some real “lightbulb moments” – in particular the power of Lifetime Cashflow models. As a result we made fundamental changes to the way that we work.

Fortitude has continued to move forwards, always striving to deliver better outcomes for our clients.  We now have 10 team members and have increased the number of clients that we look after.  We aim to deliver great financial planning to every one of our clients, each and every time.

Our clients tell us that the value we provide is helping them to feel comfortable and in control; confident that they have ‘enough’  to live the life they want today and in the future.

As for me and my family, we are really pleased we made the leap and we’ve rarely looked back.  I have a desire to help people and it is in Financial Planning that I can live out my purpose.


We welcome Paul to our team

We are delighted to welcome Paul Roberts to our Client Support Team as a Trainee Paraplanner.

Paul has just graduated from the University of Northampton with a BSc in Banking & Financial Planning.

When asked why he decided to accept the role Paul said “To be honest, it was the people here and their aura that really stood out to me. I didn’t get that feeling that most people get when you walk into other corporate financial organisations, which shadows over you and puts you off immediately. Instead I got a warm friendly feeling, and felt that their intentions were pure and clear, in that they provide honest and trustworthy advice and support to each individual client.”

As this is Paul’s first “proper” job we are excited to have a blank canvas so that we can train him in The Fortitude Way.

This is our first experience of recruiting a graduate and we are all trying to remember our first experiences in an office so that we can make Paul’s journey to being a Paraplanner successful and enjoyable; this is easier for some of us than others!

Outside of work Paul tells us that he enjoys outdoor activities including mountain biking and rock climbing, which is good as he will be cycling to us from Towcester until he passes his driving test.

One year on…

It’s been just over a year since I joined Fortitude and what an experience…

In my previous company I was working as a Financial Adviser selling products.  I always felt deep down that there was more…then a colleague introduced me to Paul Armson.  Paul mentors advisers in ‘Lifestyle Financial Planning’.  I connected with him, engaged with his course and I found the missing piece for my jigsaw…proper financial planning that changes lives!

My journey into Lifestyle Financial Planning began when I joined Fortitude Financial Planning.

I’m working alongside two of the leading Financial Planners in the UK.  I’m involved in interviewing prospective clients, preparing meetings, coaching and engaging with clients in building their financial plan and carrying out reviews.

I’ve introduced Paul’s ‘Bucket Model’ which is a tool that brings financial planning to life – it has been well received.

It’s been great to help clients gain visibility of their financial arrangements, coach them and discover what they are living for.  It’s only when we really understand our clients’ hearts’ desires can we set out and build their financial plan.

I’ve had the privilege of seeing what clients thought impossible become possible. In some cases this produced an emotional response…even tears of joy. The whole process is powerful, transformational and freeing!

Other areas I’m involved in are; compiling blogs, networking with lawyers and raising Fortitude’s profile in Northamptonshire, through the Chamber of Commerce and the Northamptonshire Community Foundation.

I’ve begun studying for my Certified Financial PlannerTM qualification and have passed the first element.  I have a long road ahead but it’ll be worth it!

Overall, it’s been a fantastic experience and I’m pleased I made the transition.  Now it’s onwards and upwards and looking forward to the years ahead.


Much more than an IFA

The following excerpts are from an article which was recently written by the editor of our local village newsletter; they remind us how IFAs are generally perceived and how different we are from that perception.

“In the past I have interviewed a number of companies and individuals who have businesses that are either centred or close to Greens Norton. What has struck me about all the businesses is that they have a large amount of innovation associated with them: either in terms of what they sell or make or in terms of how they organise themselves.

Fortitude are a financial company based just outside Greens Norton; they offer financial advice. You, perhaps, would not think that such a company would have much of an innovative focus. I found that this was not true.

I spoke to two of their planners: Chris Bowmer and Richard Peters. In my early life I was brought up in an environment where the two things that were not talked about were sex and money. However, the last twenty years has seen a veritable explosion in both, with tabloids focussing on the former and the broadsheets on the latter. Almost the first remark that Chris made when I arrived was to refer to the blizzard of financial advice that is found in the media as ‘financial porn’.

I imagined that a visit to a financial advice company would mainly concentrate on maximising investments and future income. Both Chris and Richard quickly disavowed me of this notion. They did say that there were companies where this happened, but they preferred to focus on the aspirations, future lifestyles and career wishes of their clients before thinking of money.

They told me that when they take on a new client they adopt a three-stage process. The first is to ask the client what they want to get from the rest of their life such as: do they want to retire early, do they want to take part-time work, if they are retiring early what do they see their retirement looking like?

Once they have established this, they start looking at the prioritising of financial objectives that match the answers that they received in the first part of the process. The third part is the one that I guess most of us associate with a financial advice company: the selection of financial instruments that enable their client to successfully live the life they have articulated. This is the conventional part of their process.

What struck me about the processes that they use is that it involves both hard and soft skills. The latter involving discussing and probing the aspirations of their clients, with the former doing the exact financial planning that matches these aspirations. I pointed out that this must be difficult to do: during my career I have come across a number of people who have excellent hard skills but whose soft skills lack something. They agreed with me and pointed out that there is a major shortage of industry staff who have the Certified Financial Planner (CFPTM) qualification to carry out the processes they described.

The model they adopt when dealing with a client is called the “financial bucket” model, where the bucket holds assets such as: bank accounts, savings accounts, investment bonds and shares and where the bucket empties through expenditure on items such as food, mortgages and rents and fills through inputs such as salaries and wages and interest from investments. The bucket is also used to support the client’s life choices such as: holidays, giving to charities and carrying out volunteering work.

During a client’s life the inputs and outputs into the buckets change, for example downsizing a house may mean that a client has monies to place in the bucket, either as a liquid asset or as an income generator. The important point that Chris and Richard made to me was that the flows change throughout your life, for example when your children leave home and you are close to retirement your life choices change and hence your financial requirements change. This is why they do not have one-off meetings with their clients.

The world is full of surprises. In my past work I have met many people, interacted with lots of organisations and visited many places. A few of the people that I have met have been, at first sight, extraordinary; however, many of the people I have met once I have got to know them have been extraordinary and out of the normal. Fortitude is the company in the second category: a company that at first sight provides straight financial advice but when you probe you find that their work is very much more than that.”

Darrel Ince

Editor, Greens Norton News

Does your Planner deserve you as a client?

The term Financial Planner is widely used, how do you identify the firm that is deserving of you as a client?

These are the questions we believe clients should ask themselves:

1. Do they understand what YOU are trying to achieve? Understand what YOU are living for? Or do they focus on your money?  Only when they know about you and where you are trying to get to do they earn the right to talk about your money.  Your money is to support you and your lifestyle, not the other way around.

2. Do they show you where you are heading financially? Will you get reassurance, clarity, confidence and peace of mind that you are on track to achieve your lifestyle objectives?

3. Do they provide clarity and demonstrate if you have too much money, not enough money or just the right amount of money? You need to know what your financial bucket looks like today and over the course of your life.

4. Do they have to sell you a product to get paid? Or do they have a transparent fee structure in place? Fees should be based on understanding you and where you’re going in life and then helping you with a financial plan to help you meet your life’s goals.

5. Where are they placing the value? Is it on helping you achieve your lifestyle objectives or is it focused on making returns on your investments (which is out of their control)? The value must be placed on helping you achieve your lifestyle objectives.

6. Do they invest your money in a high risk investment profile just because your risk profile says so? Or will they invest in the most appropriate investment profile according to what you need to achieve your lifestyle objectives? Investing should be simple, painless, low cost and low risk as possible.

7. Do they focus on helping you become financially independent or dependent on ‘making more money’. Your money is to support your lifestyle objectives.

8. Do they have a fiduciary relationship with you or serve the financial services industry? You and your needs must be paramount.

9. Do they speak in a language that you understand or do they boggle you with industry jargon? It’s always best to deal with someone who you understand.

10. Do they seek to build a relationship with you or is it a transactional approach. Your life is important and it is always best to build a relationship with someone you trust.  Financial Planning seeks an ongoing relationship over many years.

We are confident that our clients can respond “YES” to all the above, contact us to see if we can offer you a similar experience.

Watch out there’s a property scam about!

A recent One Show feature made me think; many of our clients are in the position to be at risk from a growing property scam.

The One Show featured a gentleman who, purely by chance, discovered that criminals had transferred his property (on which he had no mortgage) into their name prior to instructing its sale by auction.

It was all too easy:

  • His postbox was at the end of a long drive and not visible from his home.  His post had been stolen from the postbox and used, by one of the criminals, to apply for a false passport.
  • The criminal was then able to instruct Land Registry, via a solicitor, to transfer the property ownership into his co-conspirator’s name.
  • The co-conspirator instructed the sale of the property by auction.

The legal owner’s daughter was an estate agent and spotted that the property was for sale during the course of her work.  Thankfully, the sale was stopped and the criminals have been handed jail sentences.

It appears that, since 2009, Land Registry have intercepted 254 similar fraudulent property transfer applications.  Others have succeeded and the property sold without the legal owner’s knowledge.  As you’d expect the sale proceeds quickly disappear.  Thankfully, in such cases the legal owner will not lose their property because the change in ownership is fraudulent, depending on the circumstances the buyer may be entitled to reclaim their money from Land Registry, but not always.

Many of our clients are in the fortunate position to be mortgage free or own property that they let; such properties are particularly vulnerable.

However, it’s simple and straightforward to ensure that you are alerted, by e-mail, if Land Registry receive an application to transfer the ownership of your property.  You can set up an alert by clicking here.  You don’t need to be the legal owner so you can also set up an alert if you are concerned about another property; a vulnerable parent’s home for example.

Identity theft and financial fraud are on the increase; it’s up to all of us to do what we can to protect ourselves and make life as difficult for the fraudsters as we can.

If you are interested you can view The One Show episode from 8th May on the BBC iPlayer (subject to you having a current TV licence of course).