‘Fail to plan, plan to fail.’ It’s an expression that anybody who has worked in management or the military must have heard a thousand times. Like all oft-repeated clichés, it carries a kernel of truth – and in no aspect of human life is the phrase more apt than in financial planning.
Unless you have a financial plan; for retirement, for saving, for long-term investment, for buying your home, for estate planning; then you cannot realistically expect to achieve your financial objectives.
Sceptics may ask ‘What’s the point of financial planning? What’s the point of any planning? We’ve just lived through the most turbulent, changeable year in any of our lifetimes.’
At first glance, it’s a valid point. On March 23rd last year the UK – like so many countries around the world – went into lockdown. Further lockdowns followed. Tens of thousands of people lost their jobs. Businesses which had taken years to build were wiped out overnight. Stock markets around the world experienced tumultuous times.
But 13 months later a vaccine programme is being rapidly rolled out. The economy is rebounding. Many of the world’s leading stock markets actually gained ground in 2020. All the world’s leading markets – with the exception of China, which fell 1% – made gains in the first quarter of this year.
What the last 13 months illustrates is not that there’s no point to financial planning: rather the reverse – that it is more important than ever. Pandemic or no pandemic, house sales continue, we still have to save for our retirement and – with a hefty bill for Covid to pay – the Government is still going to tax us on our savings, investments and our final estate.
What is interesting is that the fundamentals of financial planning have been completely unaffected by the pandemic. If the last 13 months have taught us anything, it is that what we previously thought couldn’t happen can happen – and in many cases happen very quickly – so we need a plan, we need savings: we need a buffer.
It has also reminded us that saving and investing is a long term commitment, and that there will always be short term fluctuations. More than anything though, we have been reminded how important regular contact between a financial adviser and a client is. Plenty of our clients have needed reassurance over the last 13 months: plenty have had questions that needed answering. We have been happy to do both.
There will undoubtedly be changes in the future, whether those are what Harold Macmillan famously called ‘events’ or clients drawing on the last year to re-evaluate what they want from life and their financial planning. We will always make sure that your financial planning is flexible enough to cope and to adapt. But make no mistake: the old adage ‘Fail to plan, plan to fail’ still rings true.