Whilst out at dinner with my family recently to celebrate our daughter’s 9th birthday, I cracked a tooth on a Chinese spare rib. I knew it was bad straight away and a trip to the dentist the following week was inevitable.
I am fortunate, however, because my wife Bonnie is a dental professional and although my tooth was not something she could fix, I was able to get booked in to see her colleague Joe within a couple of days.
Now I’ve met Joe before, lovely guy, but I’ve never sat in his dental chair. And as much as I like Joe, I also like going to the dentist for corrective treatment as much as the next person (i.e. Never).
So, there I was, at the surgery two days later making small talk about my spare rib mishap before the conversation took a professional turn.
Some medical history was requested, my dental routine investigated, followed by a full inspection of not only the problematic tooth but every other tooth in my mouth. Tooth colour was cross-referenced to colour palettes, my gums and tongue examined, x-rays were taken and together with a few ‘hmms’ and ‘ahhs’ Joe and his assistant conversed over some dental terminology before the click-clacking of notes were taken on a nearby PC terminal.
Meanwhile, silenced by the thorough examination, my mind was contemplating questions such as ‘What does Joe make of my teeth? Are they bad? Should I be embarrassed? Should I provide an explanation? Where do I stand compared to average patients? Is this going to be expensive? Is this going to be painful? Can this even be fixed today? I wish I’d taken better care as a teenager’.
And at that moment, I came to a realisation. I was experiencing the kind of doubt, nervousness and fear of judgement about my teeth that potential clients might feel when they come to discuss their finances with me.
“And at that moment, I came to a realisation. I was experiencing the kind of doubt, nervousness and fear of judgement about my teeth that potential clients might feel when they come to discuss their finances with me”.
Money is a topic that is discussed openly very rarely, let alone with someone you might not know too well. So, when it does come time to talk about it, we fear we’ll be judged. Judged over how much we earn (whether that’s high or low), where existing assets came from (self-made, family money etc.), our relationship with it, how much we save, debt, what we spend it on, mistakes we’ve made, our future plans, how little perceived knowledge or understanding we have. The list goes on and nobody wants to look stupid when talking about it, right?
So, we play our cards close to our chests and nod in faux understanding when others mention money matters that we haven’t got to grips with yet.
In fact, money is as taboo in polite conversation as politics and sex. No wonder we clam up and quickly switch subjects. We’re just not used to talking about it, or we consider talking about it crass.
“In fact, money is as taboo in polite conversation as politics and sex. No wonder we clam up and quickly switch subjects. We’re just not used to talking about it, or we consider talking about it crass”.
But in my more than 20 years of meeting people to talk about money, I’ve seen and heard more than most. People with over £100,000 in credit card debt. Monthly income well in excess of what would be a high annual income for most people. Unexplained high expenditure accounted for by the revelation of a second family overseas. Family squabbles on divorce and death. I’ve seen financially wealthy still contend with the many personal problems of their family members. This is life. It’s not perfect. Everyone is trying to make it work.
Back to Joe. When Joe completed his examination, he immediately directed his attention to helping me fix the problem. I suppressed my own hang-ups and we discussed a solution that both he and I were happy to move forward with. My earlier doubts were either irrelevant, figments of my own imagination, or answered emphatically through our discussion. I walked out of the surgery that day far better off than when I walked in.
Likewise, you can be assured that whatever doubts you have about the status of your finances and plans, as a professional adviser my focus is on helping you take positive steps forward. This means discussing and identifying goals, putting in place processes and structures to help you meet them, and keeping you on track over time. To do this we need to speak frankly and openly, and I need to get to know about you, your history, your family, your finances and your life ambitions closely, so that we can work together on setting you up to achieve them. It’s no time to be shy.
So, when we meet, just like Joe did at my dental examination, with a smile I’ll prod and poke you, your finances and personal plans. But have no fear. My focus is on helping us both make sense of your financial life so that with the right guidance you can achieve what is important to you.
(With thanks to Joe Bansal at the London Smile Clinic for correcting my tooth!)