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Tracey Evans: The art and value of storytelling

The majority of my client work is with baby boomers who are moving from accumulation to decumulation and often have a fear of running out of money, even when they have good levels of wealth and are fortunate to have final salary schemes.

Many of these clients are what I call “super-accumulators” – still accumulating after they have moved into full retirement without having to do so.

Through my Kinder Life Planning experience, I have found that asking about clients’ early money memories is invaluable for me to empathise with them. Some of the stories they share are very precious.

Tracey Evans: How to talk to clients about mortality

One story I regularly retell was from a client whose family were so poor that each week it was a struggle for his mother to put food on the table or pay the rent man. Many a week, when the inevitable rent collection day came around, his mother would feed the family but then lights would go off and they would hide in the dark behind the sofa.

The client said he felt ashamed his family did not have enough money to pay the rent and eat as well. Now retired, his experience has left him in a position where he has a regular mental battle about spending money and is desperately frugal even to this day.

Another client I worked with told me how his parents had once run their own very successful business when he was growing up. Unfortunately, the business later failed, meaning the family had to move from a nice middle-class home to a flat above a shopping parade, where he shared a bedroom with his brother.

The hard facts on soft skills

The client recalled that, on one of the rare days out to the seaside, his parents could only afford one ice cream between him and his brother. Being the elder of the two, my client offered up his to his little brother.

It became clear this had a massive impact on his life, as he was afraid of not being able to afford things, to the point of putting off buying essential items.

I have used these stories and others like them to help tease out details of other clients’ own experiences and illustrate how early money memories can hold us back from living our own life plans.

As author Vera Nazarian says: “The world is shaped by two things — stories told and the memories they leave behind.” 

Tracey Evans is joint business owner and principal financial planner at Juno Wealth

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