Finance was never something Mike was interested in. If you had asked Mike as a teenager, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ Mike would have shrugged his shoulders, and not for one second thought he’d become an Independent Financial Advisor (specialising in pensions and investments) and a Behavioural Investment Coach. He loves his job and the responsibility that comes with it.
Mike never really applied himself at school and ended up with just a handful of CSE’s in his pocket and left for the world of full-time work. He fell into the world of retail as soon as he left King’s Tamerton School at age 15. With retail, he learnt a lot about sales and talking to people but the main thing he learnt was that working in a busy retail environment on a bank holiday wasn’t for him.
Snooker was and still is, a fond passion of Mike’s ever since he was 13. He played for Devon and on the Pro-am circuit and met a lot of people in the snooker fraternity that became close friends of his. One friend who worked for Pearl Assurance approached him and said ‘You’re friendly, you’ve got a good sense of humour, and you get on well with people, that’s half the battle. Why don’t you apply for a job with Pearl Assurance?’ Mike thought to himself, well it’s got to be better than retail on a bank holiday weekend, so he took the aptitude test and by the skin of his teeth, he passed it and soon after, he was hired at age 23.
Mike remembers his first day working for Pearl Assurance as if it were yesterday. His role at Pearl Assurance was essentially to collect premiums from his customers in Plympton and encourage them to invest in regular savings plans. Sadly, this type of saving has long gone which is a shame as it engendered a savings mentality. Mike remembers his first day in Plympton well. It was raining and miserable and he didn’t really have a clue what he was doing. He should have been joined by his supervisor to show him the ropes but was instead left to his own devices. He vividly remembers thinking to himself ‘What on earth am I doing here?’ But something inside of him made him keep going, day after day until he learnt more and more about the profession he was unknowingly falling into.
He then progressed to work for an insurance company and then Lloyds TSB. Mike began to see his passion growing for the finance profession and decided to take more exams and gained more qualifications to become what he is today, an independent financial advisor with over 30 years experience. He specialises in pensions and investments and is passionate about telling people the unvarnished truth about money without the useless jargon and how to invest wisely and reduce investment management costs.
You could say he is the Martin Lewis of the investment world.
To be an ‘independent advisor’ doesn’t mean he works on his own, far from it. Mike has a fantastic personal assistant called Sharon, and a great support team back in the office in Ivybridge. The independent part means that he has access to every single provider to ensure the best fit for the client.
8 years ago, Manning & Company, based in Ivybridge approached Mike and asked him to join them to which he told us ‘was the best move I have ever made.’ 4 years ago he became one of the directors of the company.
Mikes relationship with the finance profession goes hand in hand, except for the complex jargon that tags along with it. He believes there are ways to explain complicated matters that just instantly make sense and he proves this daily with his clients and did this with myself, the Editor and Myles, the managing director at our interview with him. To be able to understand how people think and creatively phrase the question or explanation has been mastered by Mike through his 10 years studying behavioural psychology. As he felt the profession needed some simplicity, Mike decided to write his book called ‘Your Money and Your Life.’
‘Your Money and Your Life’ is a collection of first-hand stories, examples, and simple steps to follow that have stuck by him through the years and things that he wished he had known when he was younger. The book is written on topics that have been widely discussed for hundreds of years, so it is no surprise that he can’t re-invent the wheel, however, Mike has developed a certain way in which it has been written that will make you think ‘Nobody has ever explained it to me in that way before – That makes so much sense now!’
The book is composed of two sections. The first half is largely about life lessons and it is important to note, this book is not only about money but also about life choices too. Chapters include Planning for the life you choose, the mistakes we make with our money and how to avoid them, wishes won’t bring riches, and how not to be a workplace prisoner. The second half of the book is focused on investing and your behaviour around money. There is even a section on regret. Flowing through the whole book is an underlying theme of ‘Life is not a rehearsal’ which is something Mike believes very strongly in.
Mike has also designed a website to educate his clients and readers to keep them on the right track when it comes to their finances and mindset. The website, www.saverbehaviour.co.uk is comparable to an educational tool, full of bite-sized information and easy to understand video content to educate yourself around money and investing.
Amongst some fantastic tools embedded into the website is a calculator which shows historically how much you would have amassed if you began investing just £1 a day in the stock market from the day you were born. We were both shocked when we did this for ourselves. We weren’t even close to guessing how much this would have been worth today. Mike likes to carry out this exercise with his clients and they are, more often than not, shocked by the results. Therefore, his golden piece of advice to anyone is ‘Start early’ because you are unlikely to ever be able to make up for the lost time.
The book and the website are not just about money, they are about changing your perspective on things. Mike has done this in a way that is thought-provoking, creative and motivational, highlighting all of the common financial ‘blind spots’ that we make daily without being aware of them. However, reading is one thing, but doing is quite another. If you don’t push yourself, nobody will do it for you. This is where the psychological aspects come into play. Mike will run through scenarios that help you to see things from a different perspective and in turn, reveal a more capable version of yourself and how to be successful.
Mike says the primary objective of any investment is to maintain its purchasing power so invest with prudence in mind, not performance. Anything above this should be deemed a welcome bonus. Investing wisely for your or for your children’s future can be done safely with the help and guidance of Mike. Your retirement funds should enable you to maintain your standard of living without fear of running out of money. Most people just think, I’ll save something over the years and that should give me enough, however, most people forget about inflation which erodes the purchasing power of your money over time. The £50,000 you managed to save over the years won’t be worth £50,000 in the future.
Think about it like this, if Mike said to a client, ‘I have a great investment idea for you, you put your life savings in here, and it is guaranteed to lose 2 ¼% each year.’ You just wouldn’t do it! This would be madness, but this is the effect inflation has on people who sit on cash for years in a low paying bank account.
One 1st class stamp in 1991 cost 24p. Today it is 85p. As far as planning is concerned, do you know how to accurately calculate how much money you are going to need for the rest of your life so you can live an independent and dignified retirement? In other words, do you know what your number is?
Mike teaches you how and explains this in detail in his book.
Another well-worded scenario Mike likes to ask his clients is ‘Do you believe you could save 20% of your income each month?’ Most people say no, however, later, he asks another question, ‘Do you think you could live fairly comfortably on 80% of your monthly income?’ Most people think they could. To be able to live on 80% of your income is effectively to be able to save 20% of it. It was just phrased differently. Mike tells us that a lot of the work he does with his clients is psychological and once you overcome that hurdle, you have passed the most difficult part. Unfortunately, emotions generally trump logic, and this is where Mike can help.
Trusting the stock market with your money is something humans are not well-equipped to do. It can be daunting. Mike tells us ‘One of the biggest mistakes investors make is that they confuse volatility with permanent loss.’ He then began to explain that the process of investing money into the stock market is comparable to a rollercoaster. As you strap yourself in, your mind is full of different emotions from fear to excitement and adrenalin and you experience the steep climbs and sharp drops and bends and loop the loops. This is volatility. Midway through a loop the loop and people are screaming ‘get me out of here!’, get me off this ride! – If you had managed to get out of your seat while upside down, that would be permanent loss. Yet you keep going until the ride reaches the end and you come out of it unscathed. Markets go up and down all the time, but long-term history has proven they go up much more than down over time. Explaining concepts like these to clients is key to managing their expectations.
Mike has only ever invested his clients’ money in things that have always worked. i.e., investing their money in a huge collection of the greatest business in the world. He will never invest their money in fads, flavours of the month, or things that just happen to be working now. This is not investing. This is speculating.
Mike prides himself on managing client expectations and being brutally honest with them. He makes it clear to his clients that their investments categorically will fall in value from time to time. Not might or could, they will. The important thing is to stick to the plan and to never be tempted to get off that ‘rollercoaster’ halfway through.
He recommends that clients take a ‘sloth-like approach’, to investing. Looking at the value every day will not help you in any way, just let time do its thing. This way you won’t be panicking about any temporary drops in the market and therefore won’t be tempted to withdraw it at the wrong time. Imagine if house prices were reported every day on the news. Thankfully, they aren’t so people don’t care to look.
Warren Buffett is regarded as the greatest investor that has ever lived and is a great example of someone who has great patience when investing. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos approached Warren Buffett and asked, ‘Your process is so simple and proven to work, why doesn’t everyone do what you do?’ Warren replied, ‘Because no one wants to get rich slowly Jeff.’
Mike has phrased his questions so well over the years that he can determine whether a client understands investing or not in no time at all. He asks his clients, ‘Do you know what Black Monday was in 1987?’ This was the single biggest stock market crash in UK history. And then he asks them, ‘Do you know what the FTSE 100 is?’ It is the 100 biggest companies in the UK. ‘Imagine you had £100,000 invested in the FTSE 100 and the news came on reporting the biggest stock market crash in UK history. ‘What do you think your £100,000 is worth right at that moment?’ Most people say ‘zero’. In fact, the stock market fell by 22% in 48 hours, but you haven’t lost any money because you haven’t cashed it in – remember the rollercoaster, don’t get out when you’re upside-down. If you thought you would have lost all your money, that would have meant that the 100 largest companies in the UK went bust overnight. And for that to happen, it would be Armageddon territory and your money would be meaningless anyway. Lack of understanding of the stock market means you could potentially make some bad decisions.
The stock market is now way higher than back in 1987. Stock markets will suffer big temporary dips occasionally, but they have always come back stronger to reach new highs.
Mike always works on a ‘no surprises’ policy by explaining everything important, very clearly so that the phone never rings with the dreaded, ‘You never said this could happen.’ This was the main reason why he wrote the book in the way it has been written to ensure everybody can understand it. The book is for everybody, whether you have just finished your education, halfway through your life or just about to retire. He is certain that everybody will learn something from it and if the reader follows it through with actions, then they will save tens or even hundreds of thousands through their lifetime.
And where does Mike see himself 5 years from now? ‘I love what I do, and I will continue to ensure my clients remain on the right track.’ He may reduce his hours and pass on clients to younger members of the team but ultimately, he doesn’t want to stop. Another book may make an appearance in the future focusing solely on how to be a better investor.
Director at Manning & Company, Behavioural Investment Coach, member of the Parliamentary Financial Review Team and the UK Leaders Council, 2nd in the South West for Top-Rated Advisor by client reviews on ‘VouchedFor’ and not forgetting, great friend to his clients, Mike has gained a lot of knowledge, understanding, and trust throughout his career that he would now like to share with you, the reader.
To buy his book, head to www.lulu.com or Amazon and other online book retailers. It comes in hardback, paperback, and Kindle versions with varying prices from £2.99-£29.95. He is also releasing an audiobook version very soon!
To purchase the book, head to one of these links