“The IFW helps me to see what my ‘blind spots’ are.”

Sally Matthews is a Certified Financial Planner at Paradigm Norton with a focus on people, their lives and not their money. She helps people make better financial decisions, tackle their financial planning challenges and address conflicting life goals. She says: “Your money is simply the ‘enabler’ of the life you want to lead….and not the end game. Money matters but life matters more!”

Sally will be joining Lorraine McFall as a co-host for the IFW Forum on 20th July, when they will guide you into the topic ‘3 ways to strip back client meetings for time better spent.’ Book here.

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

I would say work provides me with a sense of purpose rather than following my passion. However, I am passionate about doing my best to provide a highly attentive and pro-active service that delivers what the client needs from me. I truly care about the client experience and how we make them feel.

Whilst work provides me with ‘purpose’, my ‘passions’ outside of work centre around physical and mental wellbeing including Pilates and the Alexander Technique (AT). Most people will have heard of Pilates and the physical benefits this brings. Less people will know about AT. This is a way of moving with maximum efficiency and minimum effort. It also includes unlearning unhelpful habits (including poor posture) and getting rid of harmful tension in the body triggered by poor movement, posture or stress.

What’s your happiest memory?

Visiting the US for the first time ever with my friends in my early twenties. We had an absolute whale of a time. I felt so ‘grown up’ and ‘independent’ having just started work after Uni and saved hard to be able to make this trip. I was overawed with seeing the great big American trucks and all the famous sites you would see on the telly (including the Golden Gate Bridge). I felt anything was possible at that point.

What one thing do you wish you’d been told about finance when you were 15?

I wish someone told me the story in the opening chapter of Morgan Housel’s book ‘The Psychology of Money’ which is a valuable lesson about patience versus greed when it comes to decisions people make with their money.

What made you want to work in finance?

I’m very driven by doing things that are purposeful and practical. Guiding people through the complexities of their finances is a great way to serve others, be helpful and of course I can also apply my skills and experience to my own life plans and financial goals.

How did this lead to you becoming a financial planner?

I remember working for a traditional IFA many years ago and being drawn to the ‘problem solving’ aspects of the job and wanting to help people understand what their savings actually meant for them in the future from a lifestyle perspective. The problem is, I had no idea how to go about this. I wasn’t surrounded by likeminded people, I was rubbish at Excel and didn’t have access to the appropriate kit such as cashflow software (nor was I even aware of its existence).

Someone mentioned the Certified Financial Planner qualification to me and when I looked into it – I knew this was exactly what I needed to do to help me develop. It was also a good intro to good quality financial planning firms which would be a good home for me, and the rest is history.

What prompted you to join the Institute for Financial Wellbeing?

I wanted to be able to look at the service I provide with a fresh pair of eyes; to improve my communication and coaching skills around behavioural finance, and equip myself to lead by example in the workplace (and gain the confidence and structure to do so).

What drew you to financial wellbeing in the first place?

An awareness that there is more that we can be doing (and should be doing) for our clients to improve our relationships and their experience of our financial planning service.

An awareness that certain clients could make better decisions, learn more and be less anxious around money if I improved my communication and coaching skills.

When you’ve worked for the same clients for many years, you worry about the relationship or service becoming ‘stale’ and ‘irrelevant.’ The IFW helps me to see what my ‘blind spots’ are. I feel I have SO much to learn from likeminded coaches and planners and I owe it to the clients we look after.

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

That we have to get our own house in order first before advising clients on their key elements of wellbeing and financial wellbeing. I learned more about myself and the areas I’ve been neglecting.

I learned how our own deep-rooted biases individually as well as at firm level can impact on our client relationships and the quality of the advice delivered if it goes unchecked.

How have you implemented the tenets of financial wellbeing you learnt on the Financial Wellbeing Certificate course?

It’s changed the way I prepare for annual planning meetings, even down to the language I use when communicating and better preparing clients for what I am going to ask them when we meet.

I take more care to use clear, plain language and avoid jargon. This includes removing generic, standardised wording that features so heavily in template reports and really nailing the ‘why’s’ specific to the client when delivering written advice.

I’m braver now with clients and in the workplace at calling things out that aren’t aligned to financial wellbeing values.

How has the way you work with clients changed since you joined the IFW?

I spend more time carefully preparing for a meeting including choosing what questions I am going to ask and what I want the client to get out of the meeting. Originally, this added to my workload which has led me to reconsider what else am I doing pre meeting/post meeting that’s not adding value or ‘over engineering’ our advice process that can easily be dropped (without upsetting compliance).

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

My favourite wellbeing book is ‘The Road Less Travelled’ by Morgan Scott Peck. This is the first wellbeing book I ever read and really made an impression on me at what was a very impressionable age 😊

In short, it helped me to understand that sometimes life is great and sometimes life is rubbish but that is OK. It also taught me to get through hard times with interest and curiosity.

What are you doing to advance your own financial wellbeing?

On the back of completing the IFW certificate, I appointed a Financial Planner to look after my financial planning affairs. I was rather taken aback by the sense of relief I felt to have somebody else organise me, challenge me and provide an objective point of view.