Before it Started
Casting my mind back to how I was before I started my journey, here’s how I must have seemed to those I encountered:
I was what could be described as a stereotypical financial adviser–not quite The Wolf of Wall Street, but certainly very egotistical and self-important. Add to this I was overweight, hadn’t exercised since I left school, and very quick tongued, quick to belittle others to make myself look good. I also lacked interest to further educate myself beyond the bare minimum, so I was not perhaps the greatest of role models. I just didn’t care what people thought of me or what I did. Maybe it was some of the company I was keeping, maybe it was the environments I found myself in (work, social circles, etc.), and maybe it was for the lack of a community of good, insightful, forward thinkers that could offer a supportive network to keep me moving forward.
The First Spark
My first encounter with Life Planning was in 2009/2010, when I saw an article featuring George Kinder and the Kinder Institute of Life Planning in one of the press publications. Instantly I was struck by this innovative and meaningful approach of working with clients; it was certainly something I wanted to investigate further. Unfortunately, at that time, I was not able to commit the finances to the training program, but I felt the faintest glimmer of a spark being lit inside and began to guide me.
The Torch Was Truly Lit
Roll forwards to the Personal Finance Society Conference in November 2011, a great industry event, with many influential and insightful speakers, and one captured my attention. Tina Weeks was running a 90-minute session all about Life Planning; this was an event I was not going to miss. (I can still picture where I sat in the room–spellbound by the impact this way of working had with clients). Ninety minutes later, there was no doubt in my mind, I had to attend at least one of these courses.
On my return to Cornwall, I drummed up enough courage to contact this visionary of our profession and emailed Tina. To my surprise, I received a reply and scheduled a time to pick her brain on how best to tackle the training. My idea was to attend the 2-Day Seven Stages of Money Maturity workshop first, then, if I liked the concept, would move on to the full EVOKE 5-Day Life Planning course. Of course, the 2-Day being far cheaper, if I didn’t get it, I would not have outlaid as much money. Tina recommended the 5-Day course first, sharing that the 2-Day acts as a tool kit for the mechanics of the longer course. That was the only piece of Life Planning advice I have ignored–so I booked myself onto–yes, the 2-Day course.
Seven Stages of Money Maturity Course
I was thrilled that George Kinder, the “Father of Life Planning,” would be leading this course. After being almost dumbstruck by being in the presence of a living legend (I needn’t have been, as anyone who knows George will testify that he is the most humble, modest, and thoughtful human you could wish to meet), he began by introducing us to ‘Inner Listening’–yes, meditation at a course for IFAs!!!!
All in all, the workshop was an incredible experience, compelling me to book straight on to the 5-Day course in April 2012. As soon as I arrived back home, my wife could tell that this had a huge impact on me, and then the chance to implement my ‘new skills’ with clients was a gift not to be turned away. I remember emailing George to tell him “I’ve lit a torch!” I was so excited at my first live attempt.
I look back now and realise how unprepared I was when dealing with those first few clients, yet, without doubt, even though my skills were still (and continue to be) being practised, for the clients, it was a very different conversation indeed.
EVOKE 5-Day Course and Gaunts House
I had heard snippets about Gaunts House, the Dorset mansion that would serve as our home for the training: vegetarian food, no Wi-Fi, no phone signal, many rooms with multiple occupancy, infrequent electric, the need to wear slippers in some rooms (the one with the Russian rug), eating every meal together in what seemed like a school canteen. I was sceptical, but it was the perfect place for this week of learning. Set in acres of woodlands with gardens and lakes, the countryside locale offered simple silence, in tune with nature. It was a tranquil, beautiful oasis amid my world of financial services.
The Sunday evening was epiphanic. We were asked to draw our life and life plan–simple as that. Many key things arose here (obviously to be a great dad and husband), taking the family to Lapland, describing the sort of house I wanted, the wish to own an Alfa Romeo Spider–many materialistic things. But then, as I reflected, I realised that for me, health would be important (how cool would it be to run a marathon?), how I actually wanted to feel appreciated professionally, a degree of credibility if you like, and also to be able to put the ego away, to share a strong message and make a real difference to others. I also drew a picture of a tornado. Now tornado chasing, wouldn’t that be something?
The next five days were spellbinding–buddying up with a colleague where we life-planned each other as the week went along, helping each other, meditating at least twice daily, working from seven in the morning until ten at night. All of us left Gaunts transformed, looking for something different, ready to implement change, and full of reflection on what we had become and what we intended to become. Some of my most poignant memories were being delivered my torch (a vision of the future) which included taking my two daughters (one of whom was not yet born) on the holiday of a lifetime–a one-time opportunity to Lapland in 2016. I felt like nothing could get in the way!
Again, my wife braced herself for the onslaught of enthusiasm upon my return. She genuinely found me a changed person. Life Planning is more than planning holidays, aspiring to bigger houses, more travel, faster cars. It is far, far more than that–it focuses around who we want to become as a person, what our values really are, and peels back the layers of industry conditioning to allow us to flourish and be brave and bold in standing up for what we truly believe in.
6 Months of Mentorship
Fully embracing the wonders of Life Planning, naturally, I enrolled in the mentorship program, which by the end of 2012, would entitle me to use the Registered Life Planner (RLP) designation–the only person in Cornwall to hold the title. The ongoing interaction with Louis Vollebregt (our 5-Day trainer), his deep insight and understanding, support, enthusiasm, and compassion is one of the great jewels which the training offers. Again, I suddenly realised how unskilled I previously was after working through the mentorship. I have come to realise that we never ever stop learning or refining our skills.
Follow your heart
The start of 2013 presented me with the opportunity to assist George and Louis with some of the training, again enhancing my own understanding and relationships with other notable life planners. During one of the sessions, we partnered up with someone where we had to simply look into each other’s eyes and try to interpret what was going on. Naturally, this was a very intense session and led us to have a chat about where we worked.
At the time, I was trying to integrate Life Planning into the practice where I worked. That was far easier said than done–being ridiculed for meditating, ‘using namby pamby questions’, drawing out the sales process, and being told ‘well we already do all of this stuff’. I knew deep down that change for me was afoot. I had mentioned to my partner that I was considering leaving my workplace and joining a friend in Cornwall. She told me to stop and speak to Tina (yes, the same Tina I held in such high esteem) before doing anything else. I really didn’t understand what it had to do with Tina but went along with her suggestion.
Not very long after our conversation, Tina offered me the opportunity to join Serenity Financial Planning and head up their Cornwall Office. It was quickly becoming the UKs largest Life Planning firm. Obviously, the chance to join such a high profile and forward-looking company was such an honour and one which I told Tina would take me around 12 months to complete. I was treated to expert Life Planning as Tina gently and skilfully enabled me to rationalise this 12-month time period, reflect on it, and then take action.
Finding Serenity in Cornwall
On the 24th September 2013 the Cornwall Office of Serenity opened. I knew deep down that the right clients would come to me. We had a great opportunity to work with those who embraced Life Planning and would be resolute to only take on clients who agreed to the Life Planning way of working.
Over five years later, I look back at what has already been the most wonderful of journeys. Sharing many great (happy and sad) stories with clients, seeing their lives change, helping them find purpose and understanding and living life intentionally.
From helping a client who lost her husband to suicide regain her purpose and focus in life, to showing people a different way to feel fulfilled, there are many stories of exploration, vision, overcoming obstacles, and applying a wide array of accumulated knowledge, and supporting our clients to execute their own plans.
Yes, in 2016 we took the girls to Lapland–something which featured in every single one of my three questions. Many of the qualities which we were looking for in our own lives are still a major focus and the learning still goes on. A great delight in 2016 was spending a day with George and his family when they visited us. Yes, it was a day in the company of a great thought leader and innovator, but much more than that, it was a day with a great inspiration and friend.
In their wisdom, George and Louis decided to run Life Planning Mastery sessions. These quarterly workshops offer life planners the opportunity to refine their skills. No matter who participates in the workshops, everyone goes away better off. It is truly humbling to work with a Life Planning great, someone far more experienced than me, and to feel that I have made a difference to them in some small way. It happens to all of us every time.
One of the things I wrote down on that first Sunday evening at Gaunts, was that I wanted to feel a degree of credibility within the profession. Up until then, I had always been the ‘new adviser’ (even after seven years) and felt looked down upon. My passion for Life Planning was very much like a blazing star, having benefitted so much from it myself. Imagine my delight when in 2017 I was asked to speak about ‘Life Changing Experiences’ at the PFS Annual Conference (taking great insight from just six years before when I saw Tina speak). George and many other life planners were also speaking over the two-day event–a superb week of profile for the Life Planning community. 2018 enabled my torch to burn even brighter by speaking around the UK, again for the PFS, about Financial Planning, where of course, the delegates were treated to further insights into the wonderful world of Life Planning.
Now, I’m over 30 pounds lighter than when this journey began. I exercise, meditate, practise yoga, read, and journal daily. Yes, I managed to complete the marathon under challenging circumstances (having been injured for the last two months of the build-up), and our house brings us just what we want from it–a sense of family hub and lightness. Lapland was the most incredible experience for everyone where we met the real Father Christmas. I also extracted myself from those associations which were not helpful or supportive. I allowed myself to be the real me and no longer feel like I had to conform to the stereotype I had created over the years. I have quite literally found Serenity.
It is ironic in a way, that as I write this, I see a number of criticisms on a recent blog post, calling Life Planning ‘nothing more than a clever way of re-inventing a financial planner – nothing more’. It still astounds me that people with no insight into Financial Life Planning can be so dismissive of a fresh approach which has such a significant impact on many people’s lives.
Some of the wisest words I have heard regarding Life Planning are “to be a life planner, you have to live your life plan.” Thanks to Tina, George, Louis and everyone else from the Life Planning community, that is exactly what I am achieving. Every time I inspire another client, I achieve it just a little bit more. (I still haven’t managed to go tornado chasing yet though!)
Thank you for the wisdom, insight and inspiration.
Jeremy is Head of Life Planning of Serenity Financial Planning, a unique financial planning company that aims to deliver Financial Life Planning to as many people as possible in the UK.
Jeremy has over 25 years experience and specialises in Life Planning. This is a technique that encourages and inspires clients to create the best life they can which then forms the basis of a well structured and efficient Financial Plan. The service that Jeremy delivers includes in depth scenario modelling which illustrates to clients their situation both now and in the future.
He works predominantly with people reaching a crossroads in their lives, either through intentional or unplanned circumstances. He also works heavily with small business owners seeking to find the right balance between business and life. A particular passion is helping clients to move from London to Cornwall to enjoy a life of greater serenity, at the same time alleviating the years of stress which have built up.
In 2013 following the death of his friend, he became heavily involved with the fundraising group ‘Thinking of Del’. The group was set up to raise funds in memory of Del Wilton who suicided after suffering from PTSD, depression and workplace bullying. Jeremy’s ‘Bandtastic’ fundraising concert in May 2017 went on to raise around £20,000 for local charities.
Jeremy lives in the ancient market town of Helston in Cornwall with his wife Rachel, and their two young children. In his spare time he plays the trumpet, and can often be found at Poldhu Cove enjoying the stunning coastline and beach. He keeps fit by practising yoga and coaching Helston Bluebirds – the under 8’s girls football team.