“It’s about truly understanding what matters to a client.”

Thirty years as a financial adviser has taught financial coach Nicholas Lee a lot about what people really need help with when it comes to money, and he says that making an investment or setting up a savings account is only part of the story. As the founder of Making Sense of Money, Nicholas provides guidance and information that helps his clients to gain control and focus over their finances to enable them to live with more purpose. Here Nicholas tells us how an ever-growing understanding of financial wellbeing has helped him on this journey.

How would you summarise your passions both in and out of work?

I’m driven by a desire to help others, actually I think we all are. I’ve come to see that ‘helping’ does not mean doing it for people. This is especially so in helping people to make sense of their finances and focus on their goals. My role as a coach is to connect emotionally with people and stand alongside offering help and guidance. If you do it for them, you underline their perceived helplessness, whereas by offering encouragement and guidance you are inviting them to build confidence and resilience. It’s about empowering people to use their abilities and achieve their goals.

Outside work I have nearly completed walking 1000 miles this year. It means walking for an hour each day. I am supporting The Buddy Bag Foundation which provides beautiful bags of clothes and toys for children who have been displaced from their homes due to domestic violence. Each bag costs £25. If you’d like to you can donate here.

What’s your happiest memory?

My beautiful girls, Thea and Jessica, were born prematurely on Boxing Day 1986. Jess weighed the same as a bag of sugar. They were put into incubators for four weeks until they were strong enough to come home with us. I remember running with joy in my heart on a snow packed road towards a new future as a Dad.

What one thing do you wish you had been told about finance when you were fifteen?

That saving some of your income can change your life. It’s not about being cautious or prudent or boring. It’s about creating time in your future.

Morgan Housel puts it this way: “Every bit of saving is like taking a point in the future that would have been owned by someone else and giving it back to yourself.”

It’s such a powerful idea and I recite these words regularly to my clients. Our lives are constrained by time – money is simply an enabler. It allows us to be who we want… but only if we recognise that power.

What made you want to work in finance?

I didn’t. Like many people of my generation I started my career in the early eighties when unemployment was hovering around 3 million and I needed work. I fell into selling life assurance with one of the new unit-linked companies and discovered I was good at it. It was like the Gold Rush, the money was amazing and within a few years I’d built a loyal group of clients around me. As I got older and more skilful I discovered the magic of financial planning and lifetime cashflows through listening to Paul Etheridge. He was a huge influence on many of us that time. I love helping people to create a vision for their lives and showing them how to make it a reality. It’s a dream job.

How did this lead you to becoming a financial coach and mentor?

As an IFA I became uncomfortable with the commercial imperative of bringing money under management. Making money out of other people’s money seems wrong to me. I believe there is huge value in financial planning and coaching people to make good decisions about their lives and their money. By separating planning and coaching from the ‘money management’ the client understands what they’re getting and why. It’s also a way of demystifying investment and helping people to take control of the process themselves. I believe financial planning should be available to everyone.

What prompted you to join the Institute for Financial Wellbeing?

The focus of the IFW is helping people to take control of their lives and create peace of mind around their finances. That’s what I do for a living, so why would I not join in with likeminded people? I love the wide range of disciplines and ideas that we access to help us be better at what we do. I’ve never had to sit through a load of self-serving codswallop from an investment manager. The IFW provides access to different ideas and ways of communicating with and helping our clients.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned about financial wellbeing since joining?

That I wasn’t paying it enough attention. I’m getting better at it. It’s about truly understanding what matters to a client and for that you must learn to listen. And I don’t mean shut up while they’re talking, I mean listen. They’ll tell you what matters, they are the expert on their own lives, they just need some help articulating it and translating it into action. Creating financial wellbeing is about putting the client at the centre of the whole engagement and not pretending to be an expert. Get out of the way and focus on connecting, listening and supporting.

Who or what is your favourite wellbeing guru, podcast or book?

Oooh where to start. If you’re forcing me to choose:

Morgan Hounsel’s The Psychology of Money offers a fascinating perspective on how we interact with money in our lives. I love this book because it makes me think for myself.

The classic Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin is full of practical help on how to get money into perspective and use it to enhance our lives.

Finally, Pete Comley’s Monkey with a Pin helped me to see the madness that is our investment industry and how to avoid the hype.

As a meditator I listen to Thom Knoles’ Vedic Worldview podcast.

What are you doing to advance your own wellbeing?

I’ve disentangled myself from the idea that more is better… more money, more stuff, more work. Instead I focus on simple pleasures – connecting and working with my clients, walking and writing.

Maya Angelou describes it beautifully:

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”

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