I’ve never been a great saver, let alone an investor. But in the short time I have been working at Scottish Friendly, I’ve come to realise that investing financially in my future is something that I really should be moving to the top of my priority list.
I remember when I got my first real job. I was full of good intentions when it came to starting a pension plan. I was living in Glasgow at the time, but working in Edinburgh and had got hold of some glossy sales literature from a number of pension providers.
It’s a long time ago now (last century no less), but I can remember brochures from Scottish Widows (they had a nice lady in the advert and had Scottish in their name – so they must have been good!) and The Prudential (prudence – good word association). I packed the brochures into my bag with the intention of poring over them on the long bus journeys that blighted my working weeks back then.
Needless to say I lasted until about Haymarket on the bus back to Glasgow that night before I stuffed the glossy brochures back in my bag and stuck some tunes on my old portable CD player. (This was in the days before iPods and MP3s, kids.) I seem to remember a favourite song of mine at the time being ‘The Sunscreen Song’ by Baz Luhrmann, but I digress.
There was just too much to take in. All the figures and options, it was just confusing. My problem was, I was fully intent on getting the best possible deal available from the most reputable provider on the market. However, I didn’t have the willpower or the inclination to go over all the facts and figures. This was of course, in the days before internet advice forums such as Money Saving Expert.
But little did I know that by delaying my decision, I was actually making any deal I would eventually settle on worse by the day.
And so the glossy pension brochures became destined to reside at the bottom of a drawer for many years, never to see the light of day again. I continued on with my working life, happily enough, but always with that gnawing thought at the back of my mind telling me that I really should have a pension in place.
That’s the way it remained for a good number of years until I started a new job back in Glasgow. The great thing about this job was that not long after I started, there was a staff meeting about an option to take out a stakeholder pension.
I immediately took the option to invest. It was pretty easy. I just signed on the dotted line when the man from the bank came in to tell everyone about the pension. It was ideal for me. I didn’t have to think about it too much, and I was pretty sure that it was a reasonable deal. The fact that a good number of my then colleagues also took out the same plan reassured me too. Safety in numbers, I thought.
I do however remember asking the pensions man if there was any way that I could lose my money. He smirked and said that every bank in the UK would have to go out of business for me to forfeit my investment. We both laughed and rolled our eyes. There was no way that was going to happen! (I should add – this was 2004).
Anyway, I did start putting some money away every month. Not as much as I should have, but it was something – and today it has actually amounted to a not inconsiderable sum. And I am so glad that I signed on the dotted line that day.
Apart from a Cash ISA (which I have since plundered), my stakeholder pension had been my sole foray into the world of long-term savings and investments.
To get back to my original point – it’s from actually working at Scottish Friendly and familiarising myself with the company and products that I have come to realise the main points that have spurred me on to properly invest in my future.
1. In my opinion, Scottish Friendly are an extremely reputable company. Of course, working in the office with such fantastic colleagues reassures me of this point. But I only have to take a look on the web at stories such as these to press home this point:
2. The best possible thing to do when saving or investing is to act sooner rather than later. Because each day I take procrastinating and being indecisive means less reward in the long run.
So. I put away an amount that I am comfortable with every month, hoping to reap the benefits ten or fifteen years down the line. The way I look at it is, if I don’t put the money away, I’ll only spend it anyway and I’m probably not going to miss it.
The fact that it’s also a separate plan, out-with my regular bank makes it much less likely that I will try and dip into it in the future. (Online banking is great – but it can be far too easy to access savings).
That’s why I have so far taken out not one, but two plans in my short time working at Scottish Friendly – one for my young son and one for me. And I fully intend to take out more investments for my family and myself. Not to mention increasing my stakeholder pension payments.
It might even be fun taking out different plans and seeing which one gives me the best return on my investment. Ah how times have changed.
I would finally like to point out that these are my own personal viewpoints gained from my own meandering experience and they in no way constitute ‘advice’. As Baz Luhrmann put it – “Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth. But trust me on the sunscreen.”