I recently did some volunteering with the Personal Finance Society in helping facilitate its Discover Fortunes game at a school.
For those of you who do not know much about it, it is a two-hour session that encourages sixth form students to think about a career in personal finance and listen to a financial adviser speak for about 90 seconds – but for the most part it is an interactive board game that requires priorities to be established in five different financial planning scenarios described via a cool cartoon-based video.
As you can imagine, it is very engaging for the students competing in teams, with the ability to use a joker card and a prize up for grabs. I last did it over six years ago at the PFS’ inaugural event and the format has not changed. The kids still love it.
Like most advisers, I find it hard to find the time or to allow myself to be distracted but this particular session was nothing ordinary – it was with my old secondary school. Until now, the plausible excuses had got in the way: I had to get to get other things done, charity begins at home, the list goes on. For many years, I had done enough pro bono with first meetings that did not lead to paid work. I had enough excuses to justify sitting on the sidelines.
But it should not have taken a bit of nostalgia to get me going again. Volunteering and conveying your work skills is a valuable gift – in this case to young people. Plenty of advisers get involved in not only this but the Citizens Advice Bureau, Age UK, taking up positions in professional bodies, and so on.
In a world where keyboard warriors now find it so easy to criticise or moan, to go out and actually do something that is truly giving speaks volumes and is, in turn, enormously fulfilling.
There can even be some pounds and pence in this if you really want to leverage it. A photo and a bit of commentary in various places can be done gracefully. There is plenty who are humble or discrete about their volunteering but there is nothing wrong in spreading a bit of good news that benefits all concerned.
How else are potential clients going to find out how much you care, if that is what important to them? For others, it is a way of planting a thought. They might just volunteer for something that matters to them.
As I circled the circumference of the school to see what building work has taken place since my time there, I bumped into a group of students that had taken part in the session. Expecting an elastic band to whack against my ear, the encounter took me by surprise: “Thanks for taking time out of your day, sir”. Far more polite than me and my pals ever were.
And as I look at the paraplanners around the office going great guns, there is plenty of hope for the personal finance profession.
Mel Kenny is a Chartered Financial Planner at Radcliffe & Newlands