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The space in between

With Covid restrictions now well and truly over, life is finally getting back to normal. We can now do the things we haven't been able to do for years.

Do you remember me talking about the Big Dream 2022?

Back at the start of the pandemic, I encouraged you to visualise something that would take your mind away from the worry of Covid, the effect it would have and to focus on something the other side.

A cliche, yes, but life really is for living. I asked anyone reading the article to consider what they would do if they took a six-week sabbatical in 2022. 

Lockdown was a time for planning. That time is over. Now it's time to make it happen.

My Big Dream 2022 was to learn to kite surf. This July, I'm doing it. But more than that, it was about spending time with Charlie and Otto. No phones, Minecraft or work for a period. 

I am going to teach them both how to swim, practice my Spanish and spend evenings barbecuing the fish we’ve caught on the local beach. 

The reason I’m saying this is because, there’s no way it would happen if I hadn’t written down and made a commitment to what one one family member called a 'pipe dream'. 

Well, much like any of the plans we build for clients in WealthMap, they happen if write them down and you commit to them. 

Mountain climbing 101

Last December I watched '14 Peaks: Nothing is Impossible' on Netflix.

It's the story of how Nirmal Purja managed to summit all 14 of the world's 8,000m peaks in seven months.

As I sat there, joggers on, central heating turned up I decided I too should climb something. So, I took the Corridor Route to reach England's highest summit – Scafell Pike. At 978m it's hardly Everest (8,849m) but we all have to start somewhere.

And, as I made my way to the summit, I realised, it’s better to climb something than nothing at all. It’s the same with investing. 

It's better to start small than not at all

As with sensible investing, it takes a long time to see results during a hike. Sometimes it feels like a thankless trudge, especially when the markets are in decline. 

It's all about keeping patient. Keeping constant. Keeping going.

It's incredible how much distance you can cover if you walk steadily for four hours. Turning back to look at the bottom of the valley, it was amazing how far I'd come.

Likewise, you can build tremendous amounts of wealth by steering a steady course. It might feel like you're making no progress but trust me – you'll look back and think ‘wow’.

You need a guide

Wherever I go, I always bump into doctors. Many of my clients are medical professionals. Even out in the wilderness, climbing Scafell Pike, I met a group of them.

And I'm glad I did. I was at a fork in the path and didn't know which way to go. One of the medics had climbed Scafell before and advised me to go left – turning right would almost certainly mean I need rescuing. 

Scafell Pike in good conditions is just about within my limits as a novice. I can already see, anything more challenging and it's important to have a guide. We all have goals, but you can't go from lounging in your joggers to conquering K2. No amount of desk research or YouTube videos will replace experience. 

A knowledgeable financial planner is vital when building your personal wealth. A good financial planner can help you understand the limits of your financial resources. 

Adaptable planning is key

My next challenge is Snowdon – but unlike doing Scafell Pike, I’ve decided to try and summit twice in one day. I know it will be hard, so ‘get-out’ options at different stages are part of the planning. Complete the task, and I’ll have cleared 2,000m of elevation in around 12 hours. 

But even the best-laid plans might need adapting once they’re in place. I’ve planned for the parts I can control, but what about the parts I can’t? With hiking, the weather might change unexpectedly. Or I might roll my ankle. In finance, markets can turn quickly.

That’s why no matter how watertight your strategy seems, you still need a guide to keep you right. This also stops the temptation to veer off-course and make mistakes that might seem like a good idea at the time.

Don't rest on your laurels

Why do most mountaineering accidents happen within the first 15-60 minutes of summiting? Because people relax. They've reached their goal. They think the tough part is over and they switch off. 

This is also why people make mistakes at the start of retirement. Perhaps they spend money too fast, or too slow. They panic and sell at the wrong time and sit in cash while the market recovers. 

Errors at the top, a long way from Basecamp can be the most costly. That’s why we measure, test and observe financial plans in the WealthMap software so carefully. We need to make sure every client gets down from their summit safely. 

Enjoy each step of the climb

With financial planning, a lot of focus is on what to do at 60 or thereabouts. If you're 40 and have a financial plan, like me, you have 20 years where everything is planned and taken care of – as long as markets hold true.

So what will you do with the space in between?

For me, my 20s were spent playing rugby. My 30s were spent looking after Charlie and Otto when they were babies. I’m beginning to have a little more spare time than before and I'm starting to think about a series of challenges. I want to enjoy the journey, just as much as I enjoy the secure future I’ve created through regular investment. 

Now, I've decided to climb a few things and I have some other ideas I’m exploring. 

People ask if I’m doing it for charity, but these hikes aren’t significant in terms of distance and effort. I simply enjoy setting out with a goal in mind and accomplishing it. For me, it’s all about self-sufficiency and looking at delaying everything until a day that might never come. 

Doing things for charity (or anyone else) puts pressure on the activity. And makes it seem less selfish, but selfish is fine. A weekend here or there is fine. 

When you know you’re doing something for yourself, it’s easier to enjoy the task. I find having a third purpose, away from Barnaby Cecil, Jane and the boys. Having that third set of challenges or problems to solve helps my mind switch off and relax. Even if it’s very taxing.  

It’s the same with financial planning. Sometimes I look at the WealthMap plans we build, which look fantastic from retirement onwards and I say to clients - “But what about that space in between. There’s some room in there for some adventures too, surely?”

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