What financial planning and the Forth Bridge have in common

During the 19th century, the presence of a permanent maintenance crew on the Forth Rail Bridge gave rise to a well-used colloquial term for a never-ending job.

‘Painting the Forth Bridge’ has become a common phrase for describing a task that, once completed, is immediately out of date. Even though it’s only just finished, you have to start again.

(Just as an aside, this was never true of the Forth Rail Bridge. The crew simply tended to more weathered areas of the bridge when required.)

In many ways, a financial plan is the same as the famous Scottish bridge. As soon as the plan is made it is out of date, so the work comes in maintaining the plan, just as it did in maintaining the famous cantilever construction.

Why your financial plan is probably out of date

Over the years, I’ve helped countless clients to make a financial plan. Establishing a client’s financial and life goals and devising a bespoke plan to help achieve their current and future ambitions is one of the great pleasures of being a professional financial planner.

What I’ve also learnt from years of creating financial plans is that they are out of date as soon as you’ve written them.

A good financial plan isn’t a rigid document. It’s designed to adapt and change as an individual or family’s life changes. On a personal level, births, deaths and marriages can all have a huge impact on a plan. Has a client become a parent? Have they inherited money from a relative passing away? Have they got married (or divorced)?

Each of these situations may trigger the need for a change to a financial plan. And, of course, many of them are completely unforeseen at the point a plan is created. No one expects to go through a divorce, to be made redundant, fall ill or lose a loved one.

Of course, it’s not just changes to an individual’s circumstances that can throw a plan off course. The day after a financial plan is made, it could be out of date because:

  • Stock markets rise and fall
  • Interest rates change
  • New legislation is introduced
  • Costs and fees change
  • Companies go out of business
  • Trade wars begin and end.

Going back to the Forth Bridge: once the structure was built, it was the regular maintenance that dealt with whatever unexpected factors occurred in subsequent years. And, this careful ongoing work is how the bridge is still in fine condition more than 130 years after it was built.

A regular review is vital

The point is this: there are a lot of issues that we have no control over. We can’t control the Brexit process, the Base rate or what Donald Trump tweets on any given day.

The key is to have a plan and to review it regularly.

Your initial plan is the foundation, and the planning process is the part that deals with any unexpected surprises life throws at you. The flexibility to adapt your plan will contribute to its success.

This is where a good adviser comes in. Having a financial planner on your side can help you to stick to your plan, to provide counselling and advice when you want to make major decisions, and to help you to avoid your plans being blown off course.

Back in 2011, the Forth Bridge was painted in a brand-new coating that will survive for 25 years, reducing the need for regular maintenance. While it may no longer be necessary to regularly paint the bridge, a regular review of your financial plan is as important as ever.

If you want to have a chat about your financial plan or you’d like advice in meeting your goals, please give me a call on 07769 156 250.

The value of your investment can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount invested.

Foster Denovo Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

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