The way we talk about cost of living – as a “crisis” and full of doom-and-gloom – may be doing more harm than good.

While it’s undoubtedly important for your employees to understand the significance of inflation and interest-rate increases, focusing too much on the negative creates a sense of inertia, and risks employees switching off because it all seems too hard. 

But putting their heads in the sand and avoiding taking action is one of the worst things employees can do.  So, employers have an important role to play to help their teams feel empowered, not disengaged in the face of cost of living increases. And it starts with how you communicate and frame the situation or help available. 

Think about the language you use  

Almost all employers will be thinking about what they can do to educate and support their employees as costs rise. Given the quantity of headlines focused on cost of living impacts there is a risk that people are getting over-saturated and disconnected. Getting the tone of communications right is key – make it understandable, relevant and accessible for all your employees. 

It’s also important to make sure your language is as inclusive as possible. So it’s clear to ALL your employees that support is available. “Sometimes people think financial wellbeing programmes are only for people with lots of money. They think talking about money is only for the rich!” says Shah Abbasi, Head of Coaching, Octopus Money Coach. 

When you’re engaging your own employees around financial wellbeing – through your communications, surveys, or events – always lead with questions about their hopes and goals. People will feel more inspired to act when messages are positive and connected to their life goals. 

Keep long-term financial health in mind 

Just because the current focus is on the present day changes to cost of living, that doesn’t mean people can afford to stop thinking about their longer term financial health. 

At Smart Pension, Amanda Hall, head of customer engagement and financial wellbeing says:
We try to help people remember this balance by talking about 3 Future P’s – People, Planet, Profit on balance with the 3 present day C’s, which are Covid, Cost of Living and Chaos caused by political uncertainty. We want to change the narrative to focus on empowering communities, employers and members to make small micro actions. Over time these actions  can make a big difference to their sense of wellbeing, financial futures and avoiding the hopelessness, and helplessness, instilled by the news headlines covering the ‘3 Cs’.

Find new ways to keep financial wellbeing visible

Offering regular sessions on general topics, or tailored sessions on specific products to help make finances a part of everyday working life and a ‘normal’ topic to engage with at work continues to be important. “Persistence is key” Michaela O’Neill, Head of Reward and HR Analytics at global market research business Ipsos told us in a recent webinar

But to avoid employees ‘switching off’ it’s important to refresh your approaches to customer engagement and find different ways to engage beyond the standard internal communications. We often see uptake rates of 60% for financial coaching (compared with 5% average benchmark for financial benefits) through our focus on multi-channel communications. 

As an employer you could: 

  • Introduce financial wellbeing ambassadors or “first-aiders” to put a human face to money conversations. 
  • Create a Slack or Teams “channel” where people can volunteer to become ambassadors and others can ask questions. 
  • Find ways to personalise messages to specific groups or ‘milestone moments’. 
  • Leverage your existing internal networks and create events bespoke to their needs and worries (e.g. Parents or D&I networks).

Be a bridge to resources

To help combat the volume of news coming out, employers can be a trusted resource to help employees filter through the headlines or challenge the way things are reported to get a truer sense of the impacts. 

Amanda Hall at Smart Pension says: “We delivered a 10-day financial detox to help our colleagues review and recalibrate their finances. For each day we provided a short written guide, a video with a relatable colleague story, and links to more information. We also created a Slack channel where people shared stories of how it worked for them. It really helps to create engagement and bring money conversations to the table so teams can share challenges and successes. Our internal financial wellbeing channel is popular and our colleagues are happy to talk and share their views and ideas on personal finance.”

One of the few times people will engage with their finances is when they look at their payslip each month. Increasingly these are being delivered in an electronic format. Employers could use them to alert staff to some of the changes affecting them, opportunities available to help them with their money, or resources and guides.

1:1 financial coaching

Money is still a taboo subject but there really has never been a better time to start this conversation. We know from our own research that 89% of people want someone they can talk to about money who will offer genuine, practical, and impartial advice.

Having a coach helps employees translate and connect the technicalities of financial planning to their real life. Coaches are especially valuable when circumstances change (for the worse or better) because a lot of the financial advice is generic and not tailored to individual needs. When employees are able to talk openly about money worries, and their goals, they are better able to find solutions that are tailored to them. This is at the core of how our coaches provide bespoke advice to each individual’s situation.

Our coaches have shared some of the money mindsets they’re seeing – and what the cost of living crisis could mean for them. 

The rate of inflation has now reached a 40-year high. And while the Bank of England is committed to bringing inflation down, it’s forecast that costs of living will remain high throughout 2023 before easing up in 2024.

Helping your teams take positive steps to build their financial health will be an important way to support them. But the cost of living crisis is going to challenge many of us to reassess our mindsets and beliefs about money and how we prepare to weather the next year of increased costs. 

What is a mindset?

A mindset is the way of thinking about or framing yourself and the world around you, and it’s informed by your personal beliefs and values. For example, if you develop a mindset that says ‘I am bad with money’ you might avoid taking actions to improve your financial situation because of that belief. 

Our coaches have shared some of the money mindsets they’re seeing – and what the cost of living crisis could mean for them. 

The Powerless Pessimist

This person thinks the cost of living crisis is something out of their control, so feels disconnected from the need to take action. They believe the effects of rising interest rates and inflation are the responsibility of the government or their employer to solve. 

We asked our 2,600 LinkedIn followers how they felt about cost of living increases, and 42% confirmed that they felt pretty pessimistic. 

How they’ll be impacted: 

  • Without any investment in their financial health now, this person might struggle more later down the line. 
  • Most employers won’t be able to raise wages in line with inflation, and any government support will likely be focused on the lowest earners. 
  • They’ll need to lean into the situation more and start thinking now about how they’ll be impacted, and the small steps they could take to improve their financial health.

The Daily Budget Hustler

Someone who thrives on finding a discount and takes pride in never paying full price for anything. Knows where every penny goes month by month. They’re ready to take on the cost of living crisis with super restrictive approaches and excessive frugality. 

How they’ll be impacted: 

  • While balancing income and outgoings is a critical part of good budgeting as costs increase, there’s a risk that this person gets too focused on managing day-to-day costs and forgets to keep longer term money goals in mind. 
  • Our LinkedIn poll results told us that 38% of people feel positive about their budgets. But we know from coaching over 8000 employees that only 20% of people have an emergency savings fund to fall back on if unexpected costs come up. 
  • So, while this person may be more prepared than most to weather increasing costs based on their strong saving mentality, typically this approach isn’t sustainable in the longer term. 
  • Our coaches typically recommend avoiding an overly restrictive approach to budgeting. It’s important to focus on giving ourselves space in our budget for small luxuries and treats and stuff we enjoy, so we’re not solely focused on what we have to cut. This is especially true at the moment when larger life goals might be put on hold because of the impact of inflation or rising interest rates.

The Relatively Relaxed

Someone who feels fairly at ease despite the headlines. Already lives within their means, is a middle or high earner and is pretty confident they have good money habits, so doesn’t feel the need to change behaviour much. 

Eleven percent of people in our LinkedIn poll confirmed they were not thinking about how cost of living rises would impact them yet. 

How they’ll be impacted: 

  • Similar to the Powerless Pessimist, this person might get caught out given the length of time inflation and interest rates are predicted to last (the Bank of England estimates rates will remain high through to 2024). So simply maintaining good spending habits might not be enough. 
  • Speaking to someone could help this person put their current spending habits into context, and look further into the future to understand how they’ll be impacted and adjust accordingly.

The YOLO

An impulsive personality type who doesn’t think twice about spending on something they want. Act now, and ask questions later. May struggle to balance short-term desires with long term goals.

How they’ll be impacted: 

  • A cousin to the Powerless Pessimist (in that they don’t think they need to take action), this person’s downfall might instead be their optimism that things will work out somehow without them having to change their behaviour.
  • But sometimes it really is as simple as making sure people are aware of how to balance their income and outgoings. And most people will have access to simple tools to help them review their outgoings more regularly via a banking or savings app. 
  • Suzanne Wildblood, one of our financial coaches says “The accepted wisdom about budgeting tends to focus on cutting back – which can often turn people off. Coaches can help challenge this mindset and help people think more about spending better.”

The Doom-Scroller

Characterised by late night phone scrolling, consuming too much news, and constantly threat-scanning for what could go wrong. This person may struggle to sift through the headlines in order to know what advice to follow, or how to apply it to their own life.

How they’ll be impacted: 

  • The negative headlines are going to continue so this person will need help to cut through the complexity, so they can feel empowered to take action. 
  • Negative information overload might lead them to either inertia or fear based decision-making, both of which could mean poor outcomes for their financial health. 
  • There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to financial education or advice but we know that having someone to talk to about money is the number one way to help people feel better about their financial future. 
  • And providing financial education that’s tailored to lifestages can also be a great way to help make guidance relevant and relatable to your employees.

We’re curious…what’s your mindset about money at the moment?

We spoke to our coaches and wealth managers at Brewin Dolphin to get their top 4 recommendations for your employees!

Cost of living increases are affecting everyone, regardless of salary or wealth. There’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ when it comes to financial help – especially when there are external factors at play like inflation and rising interest rates. Everyone will feel the impact differently based on their individual circumstances, mindset, and life goals. 

But there are some tried and tested money fundamentals every one of your employees should be considering to build their financial health and resilience through the current economic uncertainty.  

Simple Budgeting Techniques  

Sometimes it really is as simple as making sure people are aware of how to balance their income and outgoings. 

Building a budget is the first place all of us should start. Most people will have access to simple tools to help them review their outgoings more regularly via a banking or savings app. But often it’s not something people have a good handle on. 

Emma Cowley, an investment manager at Brewin Dolphin says: “The first step to creating a sustainable approach to spending and saving is just being aware of where your money is going every month. The second is to make sure that any new budgets are realistic. If you’re feeling under pressure the temptation might be to eliminate all unnecessary spending. But making sure little luxuries are built in and some joyful spending remains will help you stick to it longer.” 

Our coaches also recommend avoiding an overly restrictive approach to budget. It’s important to focus on giving ourselves space in our budget for small luxuries and treats and stuff we enjoy, so we’re not solely focused on what we have to cut. This is especially true at the moment larger life goals might be put on hold because of the impact of inflation or rising interest rates. 

Emergency Savings 

As a general rule, our coaches recommend having a minimum of three months’ salary in emergency savings. But still, only 20% of employees we work with are actively looking to save. They typically have other priorities for their money. But emergency funds are one of the single biggest contributors to financial resilience. 

While day-to-day costs are increasing, the inclination to save ‘for a rainy day’ might feel counterintuitive. And it can feel daunting when you’re starting from 0 (and have other things to save for) but starting very small and building from there is better than never starting at all! 

Short, medium and long-term goals 

There is a lot of uncertainty about how long we’ll be feeling the effects of inflation and interest rate rises. And that uncertainty can make it hard to plan, feel in control or accept shifts to your life goals. 

But a key part of financial resilience is being able to prioritise your goals, and that means being clear on the short, medium or long term trade-offs you might need to make. Breaking your goals down into stages will help you get clear on what behaviours you might need to change, and for how long.

Emma Cowley, an investment manager at Brewin Dolphin says: “There are no hard and fast rules about what works best, so it’s important to keep your money mindset flexible. There will be some months where you might exceed your budget, or not hit your savings target. Life isn’t always predictable! So you need to allow your plans and goals to evolve as things change. But working towards something will help to make sure you’re making progress, even if it’s not perfect.

The Right Support 

Money is complicated. And the advice available can sometimes seem inaccessible and complex. But knowledge is power, and the more you know the better able you’ll be to make money decisions that are right for you and your circumstances. We also know from our research, having someone to talk to about money is the number one thing that helps people feel better about their financial future. 

Now, more than ever, it’s important to be honest about what you don’t understand – rather than put your head in the sand and hope it’ll go away. 

Emma Cowley, from Brewin Dolphin says: “The biggest red herring we see is the assumption that financial advice is too expensive, or not available to everyone. But that doesn’t need to be the case. Talking about money is one of the most important ways to improve your financial health and knowledge.” 

Sam Spurell, head coach at Octopus MoneyCoach says: “Our research shows that 89% of people want someone to talk to about money, and it’s the number one thing that helps people feel better about their financial future. Financial education and 1-to-1 financial coaching also consistently rank highest as most wanted financial benefits.”

A new partnership between Animas Centre for Coaching and Octopus MoneyCoach 

We’re on a mission to give more people someone they can talk to about money.

Every day, our money coaches bring together the power of transformational coaching with the expertise of a financial planner to transform the lives of their clients. To create long-term financial wellbeing, we believe in helping clients connect their financial goals to their individual beliefs, values and purpose.

That’s why, we’re excited to announce a new partnership with Animas Centre for Coaching, opening up access to our training to some of the UK’s best life coaches, executive coaches and more.

Animas is a leading coach training school, training coaches in the UK and internationally. They have trained over 3,500 coaches across the world and graduates coach in every area of life and work, including life coaching, executive coaching and employed internal coaching.

Through this partnership, we are giving Animas graduates another route to develop and extend their practice through our own free training programme. Our programme has been independently certified by the London Institute of Banking and Finance and the Initiative for Financial Wellbeing.

Money touches all aspects of our lives – work, family, relationships and more – and this partnership helps us give even more coaches the tools to support clients to create the lives they want for themselves and their families.

Curious about whether becoming a money coach could be right for you? Take our quiz and find out!

Our coaches share alternative ways employers can help their teams to build better long-term money habits.

With costs of living continuing to rise, employers may be considering direct cash payments or salary increases to support their people. PwC and Barclays are two recent examples of companies who’ve taken this decision.

But paying more to compensate for increasing costs of living isn’t the only way employers can support their employees at the moment. It’s also not a viable solution for those who are already operating under tighter budget constraints.

In fact, it might not even be the best way to support people. Long-term financial resilience is about building new habits and changing spending and saving mindsets. A short term injection of cash may help pay bills now, but is less likely to change behaviour for the future.

Here’s five alternative ways employers can support their people.

Office life and working patterns  

For some, working one less day in the office and reducing petrol, train ticket or parking costs could make a big difference to their budgets. 

And for those that do need to keep coming into the office, consider whether an investment in upgrading kitchen equipment or coffee facilities could help many make more cost effective choices around food purchases. 

Where that’s not possible, engaging with local businesses to create discount arrangements could help both your team’s money go further, and support the local economy through inflation! 

Resurfacing the support that’s available 

We know that most employers rank the engagement they get with financial benefits as low – our latest research showed 91% think it’s average or poor. 

So now would be a great time to make sure existing financial perks (like a discounts platform) or opportunities for salary sacrifice benefits (like cycle to work schemes) are being resurfaced to help employees make the most of the support available. 

Facilitate money conversations 

Breaking down the taboo of talking about money is one of the most impactful ways you can support your people. Our research has found that 9 out of 10 people want someone to talk to about money, and talking about it is the number one thing that helps people feel more confident in their finances. 

You don’t need to have a detailed financial education programme to be able to support your employees. At the moment, consistency and normalising financial worries are the most important elements. 

Money is an emotional issue that’s already hard for people to talk about. So it’s better to focus on providing support that is simple and accessible instead of trying to have all the answers/solve every challenge” says Matt Downs, employer partnerships. 

Tailor your support to different demographics 

There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to money worries. So the more employers can do to support different groups within their workforce, the better.

Increasing costs will be impacting people very differently. For example, consider those earlier in their careers. Some may have started work during Covid and built spending or saving habits in a time of lockdown that feel hard to adjust. Or they may be living at home, which on one hand may mean they’re inoculated from some rising costs, but the prospect of moving out may be on hold. 

Equally, be aware that the higher earners in your workforce will also be feeling the pinch. They may have more fixed outgoings and less ability to quickly adjust spending, and face bigger lifestyle adjustments as a result. 

Invest in 1:1 financial guidance

Employers recently told us that financial coaching and financial education are the number 1 and 2 financial benefits they want to offer employees. 

For employers who are able to invest directly in individual support, funding 1:1 financial coaching for all their employees is a great way to provide support here-and-now, as well helping teams build longer term financial resilience. 

For example, Phoenix group has been providing financial coaching for their employees as a salary sacrifice benefit since 2021. But as part of their response to supporting employees through the cost of living crisis, they will now be fully funding financial coaching for all of their 7500+ employees.

The New Financial Wellbeing Roadmap

Helping you reach a new and powerful phase of financial wellbeing!

Our new research and roadmap offers insights and advice to help you progress towards financial benefits which are:

  • More personalised
  • More measurable
  • More impactful

Moneysupermarket Group has partnered with us since 2019 to give all their employees their own financial coach.

  • They wanted a solution that would really engage people and help them plan for both short and long-term financial goals.
  • 35% of Moneysupermarket Group employees have used the financial coaching service.
  • Those who have used the full service have improved their household wealth by £3k on average within the first 12 months.

What’s great about Octopus MoneyCoach is that it helps make personal finance simple and jargon-free, meaning it’s as easy as possible for our employees to engage – which is something we really wanted

The Challenge

In 2019 Moneysupermarket Group, the FTSE 250 registered company operating leading UK price comparison sites for Insurance, Money, Home Services and other products, introduced financial coaching for its 750 employees, to proactively support their financial wellbeing. They wanted a solution that would really engage people and help them plan for all their goals, short-term (saving for holidays), and long-term (like retirement).

Tracey Quiggin, Head of Reward at Moneysupermarket Group said: “From a wellbeing perspective we want to help our employees be resilient in all aspects of their lives. Financial resilience is an integral part of that – because we believe it has a direct correlation to mental health and overall wellbeing. 

What’s great about Octopus MoneyCoach is that it helps make personal finance simple and jargon-free, meaning it’s as easy as possible for our employees to engage – which is something we really wanted.”

How we’ve helped

Octopus MoneyCoach offers all Moneysupermarket Group employees a free session with a financial coach and then the opportunity to take advantage of the full year’s 1-to-1 coaching service and powerful planning technology via salary sacrifice if it’s right for them. During that year the coach uses a proprietary planning tool to visualise how employees’ money is forecast to grow and whether staff are on track with their financial goals. The coach will then help employees create a tailored action plan to optimise spending, savings, investments, pensions, mortgages and life insurance arrangements. 

Tracey says, “Our brand goes a long way towards helping people make the most of their money, so we wanted to reflect that and focus our energy in helping our colleagues to do the right things too.  Especially in more complex areas such as pensions, protection and investments. Giving our teams access to a financial coach – a real, human expert – really helps them take action to improve their financial health.  Offering a free session with a ‘try before you buy’ approach to every employee is a real plus”.

I started my journey this year with my financial coach. It’s early days but I can already see how I can make small changes that will make a big impact!  I particularly like the digital planning tool as it’s now so much easier to track my income and potential investments.

“Giving our teams access to a financial coach -a real, human expert – really helps them take action to improve their financial health.”

The impact for Moneysupermarket Group

  • 267 employees have booked their first coaching session.
  • On average, household wealth has improved by £3k within the first 12 months and is projected to improve by £50k over 10 years.
  • Moneysupermarket Group employees have rated their financial coaching experience 4.8/5.

Tracey says, “We want all our benefits and wellbeing efforts to reflect our overall purpose and brand, which is ‘helping households save money’. Octopus MoneyCoach encapsulates that ethos and allows us to make sure our employees are able to save money in ways that are most relevant to them.

About Moneysupermarket Group

Moneysupermarket.com Group PLC is an established member of the FTSE 250 index. The Group operates leading UK price comparison sites for Insurance, Money, Home Services and other products. Our purpose is to help households save money on bills by giving them access to free online tools that enable them to switch and buy products.

We operate a marketplace business model, matching consumers to providers in an efficient way for both sides. Consumers can come to a single site, answer a simple questions set and let us do the work of providing them with a wide choice of deals to compare and switch to. For providers, it is a cost-efficient and flexible way to access millions of customers. With the recent acquisition of Quidco, the Group now helps users earn cashback on online spending whilst also providing an attractive customer acquisition channel to merchants.

In 2021, we helped our users to save an estimated £1.6bn on their household bills.

Last week was Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK, and this year’s theme is combating loneliness. The Mental Health Awareness Foundation says: “Our connection to other people and our community is fundamental to protecting our mental health and we need to find better ways of tackling the epidemic of loneliness. We can all play a part in this.” 

Breaking the taboo of talking about money is one way to create a supportive community around financial health and make sure no-one feels alone, or isolated with their money worries. Employees who don’t have someone knowledgeable to speak to are nearly 20% more likely to feel stressed about their personal finances.

Here’s four ways employers can create opportunities for people to engage on money topics and create a sense of community and connection around financial health.

Visible leadership

Money worries are universal and can affect anyone, regardless of how much, or how little, they earn. In fact, 95% of people worry about money. Giving a name to “financial wellbeing” and putting the topic on the table alongside other big issues like physical health and mental health helps to normalise it and shows your employees that you view it as a priority.

It’s also incredibly powerful when senior leaders share their own personal money stories. This helps to show that anyone, at any level, can benefit from talking about it more. It also helps to dispel any misconceptions that sharing your money concerns could have a negative impact on your career.

Normalise money conversations

Nine in 10 people find it hard to talk about money (according to MAPS in 2021). And our research has found that 41% of employees don’t think their employer provides support for financial wellbeing. 

So despite efforts being made, there is still a disconnect in terms of the impact felt by employees. Invest time in bringing your team managers into the conversation and equipping them with the skills and tools to speak to their teams about money and humanise the experience of seeking financial information.

The concept of a mental health ambassador or “first-aider” is becoming more and more common. Expanding this remit to include ambassadors for financial wellbeing also helps to put a human face to money conversations.

Connect with lifestage moments

Talking about money in the context of life-stage moments gives people something to relate to and reduces the sense that ‘it’s not for me’. Shah Abbasi, one of our head coaches says: “Many employees don’t understand how valuable some of the benefits they get are, until they see them in the context of their dreams for the future”. 

One way employers can get closer to this is to prepare “milestone guides” on financial wellbeing that managers can share with new parents, new homeowners, or other groups who share financial concerns or goals to inspire them to discuss their financial plans.

Employers could also look to leverage the networks that already exist – we’ve seen great success with promoting financial coaching through existing communities that support inclusivity in the workplace. “A global organisation we work with chose to create specific financial coaching briefings for the leads of all their D&I networks as part of our launch – it was a fantastic way to create engagement for our new service within networks people were already familiar with, and trust” says Neasa McNulty, Employer Partnerships.

Give your team someone to talk to 1:1

Our research shows that having someone to talk to was the number one thing that helped employees feel good about their financial future. Eighty-nine per cent of employees want help with their finances, and almost 60% want this to be in a coaching style: supportive and validating.

Even if employers create great visibility, and communities of interest around financial wellbeing, the pervasiveness of money taboos may mean some people can still feel alone with their worries. Comparing your situation to others without the full context (trying to ‘keep up with the Joneses’) can actually end up being more damaging for some people. 

Access to 1:1 coaching means employees have a human, non-judgemental starting point to open up about challenges, worries or concerns.

This kind of support extends to wider issues affecting mental health, beyond just finances. At Octopus MoneyCoach HQ we partner with fifty50, who provide 1:1 confidential coaching to help employees help build resilience and take a proactive and preventative approach to our mental health. 

Verity Symcox, Director of Coaching & Wellbeing at fifty50 says: “when coaching people within the workplace, we find that feeling lonely and being alone are often confused. Covid created physical isolation, social distancing and working from home mandates which left many people feeling lonely. However, as a global society, we have never been more digitally connected. Coaching can help employees distinguish between feeling lonely and being alone and identify proactive ways to help improve social interactions and boost wellbeing.”

Hear how financial coaching came to life within a socially responsible business

Certified B Corps are leaders in the global movement for an inclusive, equitable, and regenerative economy.

So, we wanted to find out how they make mental and financial wellbeing central to their strategy and what others can learn for their own businesses.

Hear from Chris Sheard, Owner and MD of SR2 Recruitment about their lessons learned bringing mental and financial wellbeing to life, and measuring the positive impact.

Learn practical tips that you can use to progress your company’s

One winter Friday afternoon, we sat down and got to know Dharmesh. Born and bred in Bolton, but currently living in London, we discovered exactly what the Finance Business Partner got out of his financial coaching experience with Octopus. 

Hi Dharmesh! We like to start our chats with a little bit about yourself, if that’s okay.

Of course. I’m Dharmesh, I currently live in East London, but I was born in Bolton. It’s been a crazy change going from smaller cities all of my life to this place! I live with my wife, we actually got married at the beginning of this year. It was a small wedding of 30 people – it  sounds cliche – but it was the absolute best day of my life! I currently work as a Finance Business Partner, in theory I do for the company what I should be doing with my finances. We’re expecting our first kid in May, so it’s time to start doing some planning of our own. 

Wow. So is that what got you interested in financial coaching?

Pretty much. My personal financial planning journey started around 12-18 months ago. We had a speaker come in to work, who gave a talk on financial freedom and it just really got me thinking. The key starting point was visibility and just understanding where you actually spend your money, like in bars or eating out. I then saw something for Octopus MoneyCoach through work and I thought it made sense for me and my wife to try it. I wanted to optimise what we’re doing, because people don’t tell you how expensive having a child is! 

Did you have any preconceptions about financial coaching before you started?

Honestly, not really. I was expecting it to be less prescriptive than it was. There was such a solid, detailed, plan which was completely tailored to exactly what I needed. I think I thought it would just be more of a general chat about investments and pensions. It was a really pleasant surprise.

Before coaching, was there anyone else in your life you would speak to for financial advice?

Yes, I have different people for different things! There’s one friend who I speak to about investments, pensions and longer term pieces, because she’s very much into the stock market etc. Big financial decisions I tend to talk to my parents as a sounding board. There’s lots of people in my life who are good sounding boards actually.

Was your first chat with your coach what you expected?

It was much more of a life chat, which I think is really important. It was nice to have that initial connection, so your coach understands a bit about who you are and why you’re there. I often find that’s missing in most consulting type things. My coach was really structured in the way she approached our chat and I think, especially when it comes to your finances, you sort of need that template/structure to work it all out. It started out a bit more free form – what is the state of your finances, why are you doing this. Then we moved onto my goals, which was really interesting. So often you’re engrossed in those mid term targets of 12-18 months away, but it’s great to think about further down the line and how you can get to where you want to be. In short, my coach was great and super friendly.

What are some of those big goals you’re working towards?

Financially it’s making sure there’s some money to help my kid with. Whether it’s for a house deposit or uni fees – I’d love to be able to do that. The second one is paying off my mortgage! Third is retiring at 55. On a personal level, I’d love to be a grandad one day. A really cool one.  

What’s the biggest thing you’ve taken from coaching?

I think the key thing is that it’s brought those events which are 20-30 years down the line, into things you can actually start actioning now. A lot of people will say retirement is far away, but actually if you want to have a comfortable retirement – that’s something that takes a lot of work now.

So is your wife joining your sessions?

The first session was just me, but then I asked for my wife to be put in the plan. It made sense as we’re having a baby!

Why do you think money is still a bit of a taboo topic?

My wife and I were literally discussing this earlier today. I think it’s the whole “stiff upper lip”. In British social circles, there’s almost a point of embarrassment if you earn more than your friends, you don’t want to say it because you feel like your wealth might make them uncomfortable. And if you earn less, you don’t want people to look down on you. There’s still this notion of hierarchy – you see it in the workplace all the time. People respect other people because they have certain titles and I think that trickles down to all parts of our psychology.

Do you think there’s a benefit to being more open?

100%. As soon as you bring things into the fore and make them visible, you create accountability for yourself or those around you. You then also share all your positive and negative experiences for people to learn from. My coach and I had a session on pensions and I learned things I never knew before – I thought to myself “I should message my friends about this”. Because it’s not advice people would often seek, so then they miss out. I don’t think I ever would have known if work hadn’t offered me financial coaching!

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