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Who are you talking to about your money?

Many of us would rather not discuss our personal finances. But this reluctance to talk can affect the decisions we make and this in turn can have a huge impact on the choices we’ll go on to have in life. To help highlight the many positives that come from talking about – and seeking advice on – money, Tilney client Deborah Gilshan and her financial planner Ann-Marie Atkins spoke to us.

Published on 12 Nov 20187 minute read

Introducing Deborah Gilshan and Ann-Marie Atkins

Deborah Gilshan is an Investment Director at Aberdeen Standard Investments so is no stranger to finance. Her role is to steward clients’ capital, making sure, for example, that the companies their money is invested in are well-run and that they are sustainable businesses that will provide strong, long-term returns. She meets with boards of companies to talk about governance and sustainability issues, for example who is on the board, how much the CEO gets paid and the environmental footprint – wider aspects of a company other than just their financial results. She is also on the Steering Committee of the 30% Club, a global initiative launched by Dame Helena Morrissey, one of the most high-profile, senior women in finance, to get more women on company boards and leads the work of the 30% Club Investor Group, to harness the power of investor capital in achieving gender balance. And although this leaves little spare time, for the past seven years Deborah has also been running her own network, The 100% Club, which promotes the power of networking for women to advance their careers. She was recognised for her work on promoting gender balance at the 2018 Scottish Diversity Awards.

Ann-Marie Atkins is the managing partner for Tilney’s financial planning business in the North West. She is one of our most experienced financial planners and was named Financial Adviser of the Year – North of England at the 2018 Women in Financial Advice Awards.

Talking about money is a big taboo

Deborah Gilshan: Talking about money is a big taboo and this silences a lot of conversations that we should be having. We don’t do well in this country at educating people about savings and investments, and the terminology used in finance keeps people out. I think a lot of people don’t realise that they’ve actually got choices about how they invest and what they can be invested in.

I’m a good example. I work in finance so there is this assumption that I know everything about personal finance. I don’t. I have always looked after my finances – I’ve always had money in the bank, savings in the stock market through ISAs, I’ve got pensions and I have bought and sold two houses. But I don’t actively trade shares and I didn’t know the detail on specialist areas such as tax allowances. In spite of this I didn’t think I needed financial advice and I didn’t give it much thought. I’m in this job all day every day and I don’t want to be managing my finances in the evenings. And I think I’m typical of most people – and certainly the women I mix with. It’s not a priority for us because we’re doing other things.

Ann-Marie Atkins: I see this with clients all the time. They are so focused on doing their jobs fantastically so, for example, Deborah is this woman who goes to boards and challenges them, and has all this knowledge and  capability but when it came to her own pension investments and tax planning, it wasn’t really on her agenda so she hadn’t given it much thought.

The real challenge is that because we don’t open up about our personal finances, people so often don’t realise that there are all these things they could and should be doing that will make a really big difference to their financial futures.

This all stands in the way of many of us becoming financially secure or financially independent. And unfortunately this is particularly true of women. More men seek financial advice than women and, with the couples I advise, it is still men that predominantly lead the conversations about money even though I am seeing more and more women in charge of the family’s finances. And of course it doesn’t help that there are still too few women working in finance. That’s a real pity because being a financial planner is a great job!

Taking time to think about your finances

DG: I do a lot of work on diversity through my job and I know that financial freedom is really empowering. It’s empowering to be financially secure and to earn your own money, and the choices that these things give you are really exciting. But I still hadn’t thought too much about that in terms of my own situation. Ann-Marie was actually my Mum’s financial planner first and when I sat in on meetings with my Mum, I began to realise that I could do with a financial ‘health check’ so I decided to have a conversation with Ann-Marie.

AA: I remember it well. It was getting to the end of the tax year and Deborah had the opportunity to possibly reduce tax by making a one-off contribution into her pension. I remember having the conversation and saying, “If you do this, this is what you’ll see in your pension and this is the tax you’ll get back.” And Deborah said, “What? I’ll actually get tax back?” It was a lightbulb moment!

DG: It was. Ann-Marie has made me think very differently about finances. She brings independence and is an authoritative voice. She’s also very practical and will tell me stuff I don’t want to hear!

AA: That’s my job! I ultimately want to make life easier for my clients and for them not to worry, but to get there I need to probe and I do challenge on certain things. I find that people are often set in their ways or have a particular thought process around finances – for example, you should always buy property – but actually finances are very personal. They are applicable to your personal circumstances and there are no hard and fast rules. I challenge my clients and help them to think about things differently. But a good financial planner won’t be judgemental. I’ve got clients who spend more than they earn and I have frank conversations and say, “You do realise that the course of action you are taking will lead to this?”

The importance of an honest financial planner

DG: You definitely want a financial planner who will be honest with you. You want to know they’re on your side and you have to be able to talk freely about your lifestyle because this is so core to your personal finances and making a success of them. I actually find our meetings quite therapeutic now!

AA: A lot of my clients say this. Again, we’re back to the subject of our reluctance to talk about money. I’m the person that people open up to and that they can have really honest, frank conversations with.

DG: And what’s equally as important about this is that when we talk about personal finances, it helps to encourage other conversations about money, for example pay rises. If you’re confident around your own finances, you also then become competent and confident to say, “How much am I worth?”

AA: Absolutely. As part of the conversations I have with clients, I say ‘talk me through what your package is and what your additional benefits are. It’s reinforcing if I say, ‘that’s a great pension scheme you’re on. Let’s get some projections of what it’s going to be worth’. At other times I might be saying, “Really? In your industry? That’s unusual.”

DG: We need to be more willing to have these conversations. It can solve a lot. I definitely don’t think I would feel as confident about my financial choices if I didn’t speak to Ann-Marie. She’s helped me think differently about finance and has given me a lot more confidence around my own savings and investments even though I’ve worked in investments for nearly 18 years.

I would encourage everyone to start having more conversations about personal finances and, if you’re thinking about seeking financial advice, I’d encourage you to do it. It’s like your annual health check. You should have an annual financial health check. A financial planner can help you understand the choices you have and make you more comfortable with the choices you are making with your money.

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