Ther­a­pist who says she can cure your ney trou­bles

Hokum? FLIC EVERETT (no pen­sion, no prop­erty and sad­dled with debt) hops on her couch

Daily Mail - - Inspire - by Flic Everett VISIT fi­nan­cial-coach­ing. co.uk for more in­for­ma­tion.

My name is Flic, I am 46 years old and I don’t have a pen­sion — nor do I own my house. For most of my adult life, I’ve been con­tin­u­ally weav­ing my way in and out of some quite se­ri­ous debt.

Di­vorce, taxes, and some re­ally good par­ties are what got me here. But, I ad­mit it, my prof­li­gate at­ti­tude to money hasn’t helped mat­ters.

Like most of us, my deal­ings with my fi­nances have been shaped by my child­hood. my dad was a jour­nal­ist, and my mum a play­wright. It was feast or famine. Some­times we’d be liv­ing on beans be­cause a cru­cial cheque hadn’t ar­rived and bailiffs were pound­ing on the door, and other times we’d swish off to Har­rods to buy me a new coat.

It was in­con­sis­tent but ex­cit­ing, and I’ve sim­ply re­peated the pat­tern.

If this is all start­ing to sound a lit­tle like a psy­chother­apy ses­sion rather than fi­nan­cial plan­ning, that’s be­cause it is.

I’m not sit­ting down with my bank man­ager. In­stead, I’m putting my hope in the hands of ‘fi­nan­cial coach’ Si­monne Gnessen.

Part fi­nan­cial ad­viser, part ther­a­pist, Si­monne prom­ises to help even the great­est fi­nan­cial- car- crash client get a grip, through a com­bi­na­tion of prac­ti­cal ad­vice and much deeper ther­a­peu­tic ex­er­cises.

Si­monne co-au­thored She­co­nomics, the pop­u­lar fi­nan­cial ad­vice book for women, in 2008. She is fully trained in neu­rolin­guis­tic pro­gram­ming — a type of think­ing used by psy­chother­a­pists to chal­lenge as­sump­tions and re­set old brain pat­terns — and has 20 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence in fi­nance. She now com­bines her two ar­eas of ex­per­tise to help clients over­come money prob­lems.

She’s go­ing to have her work cut out with me. my at­ti­tude to cash hov­ers be­tween ‘ter­ri­fied’ and ‘over­whelmed’.

But I’m not alone. Si­monne tells me that many of her clients are fairly suc­cess­ful peo­ple who have found them­selves in mid-life with­out a pen­sion, or drown­ing in debt.

Last year, the Debt ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee found that 10 per cent of UK women have at least £10,000 of debt. and last month the Bank of eng­land warned that con­tact­less cards and on­line shop­ping were fu­elling a boom in house­hold debt.

Si­monne first aims to un­cover the root of her clients’ prob­lems with money, then helps them to find prac­ti­cal so­lu­tions. She works from a charm­ing Brighton mews, and, as she greets me at the door, she’s warm and like­able.

She of­fers me a cup of tea and we get down to ex­plor­ing the labyrinth of my fi­nances.

To my enor­mous re­lief, Si­monne doesn’t even re­quire me to switch on my lap­top — we’re just go­ing to talk.

SHe­ex­plains that, like me, most of her clients come to see her be­cause they’re not in con­trol of their money.

‘Peo­ple of­ten talk about stuff they’ve never dis­cussed be­fore,’ she says. ‘Tra­di­tional fi­nan­cial ad­vice is about look­ing at sav­ings and pen­sions, and is full of jar­gon. But that just scares peo­ple. I want to em­power them to have a bet­ter re­la­tion­ship with money.

‘ no­body teaches us about money. We don’t dis­cuss it with friends the way we talk about re­la­tion­ships.

‘We’ve had the sex­ual rev­o­lu­tion — now we need a fi­nan­cial one, where talk­ing about money isn’t shame­ful or em­bar­rass­ing.’

She’s right — I am ashamed to ad­mit the re­al­ity of my fi­nan­cial cir­cum­stances. I live with my part­ner in Scot­land most of the time, but I also rent a flat in manchester close to my fam­ily and friends, which I visit on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.

I earn slightly more than the av­er­age wage — enough to eat out some­times and go on hol­i­day in the UK, but I’m not even tug­ging at the hem of ‘well off’.

I never feel se­cure fi­nan­cially, and even though my monthly debts are man­age­able (I have around £3,000 of credit card debt), I still live in fear of an un­ex­pected bill. The re­al­ity is that I could have paid the credit card off years ago if I’d been more care­ful. But bud­get­ing has al­ways been a mys­tery to me. For years I’d sim­ply spend un­til the money ran out — then bor­row more.

I dreaded find­ing brown en­velopes on the mat and couldn’t bring my­self to open them, so would in­stead hide them in a drawer.

In the end there were sum­monses and county court judg­ments. Then, in 2004, I re­ceived a tax bill so huge, I had to sell the fam­ily house. It took a year to sell and in the in­terim there were bailiffs at the door. The guilt was crip­pling and even today I find it dif­fi­cult to sleep prop­erly.

I’m much bet­ter now, but the fact that I still have debts is tes­ta­ment to my chaotic ap­proach. Be­fore we met, Si­monne sent me some work­sheets. One of these con­sisted of state­ments, like: ‘ In my fam­ily, money meant . . .’, ‘ Peo­ple that make lots of money are . . .’ and ‘ I’m scared that if I

have money . . .’ I sur­prised my­self by feel­ing quite emo­tional as I filled in the gaps.

It be­came very clear that I’m not com­fort­able around cash. My an­swer to how I’d feel if I had lots of money was ‘guilty’ — my fam­ily and friends don’t have that much.

I see money as a ran­dom act of God, partly due to hav­ing al­ways been self-em­ployed.

I’m also ad­dicted to the adren­a­line rush of sud­denly feel­ing flush (Hol­i­days! Presents!), and equally, sud­denly los­ing it due to an un­ex­pect­edly huge bill or house­hold drama.

We spend the first half of the two-hour ses­sion talk­ing about why I strug­gle to main­tain con­trol of my fi­nances. Si­monne asks gen­tle, prob­ing ques­tions, to un­cover what my sub­con­scious has been telling me.

‘I’ve been fully em­ployed for 25 years but deep down, I still think ev­ery job may be my last,’ I ad­mit. ‘So I’m scared to plan ahead, be­cause it feels like tempt­ing fate.

‘If I save for the fu­ture, I feel I might lose my job, or drop dead, and it will be point­less. It doesn’t seem as though I have any power over money.’

‘How does that make you feel?’ she asks. ‘Like a field of rab­bits scut­tling about, try­ing to avoid thun­der­bolts,’ I say.

I’m en­joy­ing this. So far, there have been no scary spread­sheets and no im­pen­e­tra­ble fi­nan­cial jar­gon. ‘What if we chal­lenge the idea that not plan­ning is some­how keep­ing you safe?’ says Si­monne. ‘Is that re­ally true?’

‘No,’ I ad­mit. ‘But if I save for re­tire­ment, I worry it’s wasted money as I might not live long enough to need it.’

‘What’s the av­er­age fe­male life ex­pectancy?’ coun­ters Si­monne, calmly. ‘About 80?’

On she goes, kindly dis­man­tling my as­sump­tions and mis­un­der­stand­ings. We con­clude that I don’t want to be a scur­ry­ing rab­bit any more. But I’m also at­tached to the thrill of my roller­coaster ca­reer.

‘It doesn’t have to be ei­ther/or,’ Si­monne says. She sug­gests we try some ex­er­cises to help me see where I re­ally want to be fi­nan­cially, and what’s stop­ping me get­ting there.

Take my ran­dom at­ti­tude to spend­ing. I buy my clothes from char­ity shops, and I don’t own a car — but I do spend a huge amount on so­cial­is­ing. When I’m in Manchester, I meet friends sev­eral times a week, spend­ing at least £50 each time. Adding this up, I feel quite faint at my profli­gacy.

I pay £450 rent in Manchester, half the util­ity bills in Scot­land (around £80 a month), and fork out £120 a month for satel­lite TV and broad­band. I also buy bot­tles of wine with­out ever hav­ing no­ticed that the av­er­age bot­tle price has crept up from around £6 to nearer £10, and I spend an enor­mous amount on fancy food at my lo­cal deli.

An­other £25 a week gets spent on driv­ing lessons. I have no choice now I live in the mid­dle of nowhere, but it’s not cheap.

The first of Si­monne’s ex­er­cises is The Time­line.

I’m asked to en­vis­age a line run­ning through the build­ing, to­wards the bright blue far wall of her of­fice: ‘Num­ber one is right back in the past, where you don’t want to be, and num­ber ten is the fu­ture, where you have enough money and the ca­reer you truly want.’

I have to go and stand where I think I am now. I pick six and a half, and hover in the door­way.

‘What’s stop­ping you fac­ing ten, and mov­ing to­wards it?’ she asks. Talk­ing it through, I re­alise it’s a lack of con­fi­dence.

ONce,

I ap­proached life like a spin­ning top, zoom­ing about, brim­ful of con­fi­dence. But break-ups and health is­sues over the past few years have made me feel more vul­ner­a­ble.

She asks me to en­vis­age what I’d re­ally like, and move to­wards the imag­i­nary ‘ten’.

I’d like to have enough money to be able to spend a day a week writ­ing a novel.

We dis­cuss how I might achieve that: more plan­ning around what work I take on; more ring-fenc­ing of my time.

Af­ter our con­ver­sa­tion, I re­alise that if I stopped go­ing out so much in Manchester, reined in my posh wine habit and passed my driv­ing test, I could free up around £300 a month.

If I saved that up, I could even­tu­ally al­low my­self an ex­tra day a week to start that novel, or pay off my mill­stone credit card debt.

The ex­er­cise I like best is called ‘If money came to tea’.

‘Imag­ine money is a per­son,’ says Si­monne, ‘ and it’s knock­ing on your door. Do you let it in? What does it look like?’

Some peo­ple see it as a mon­ster, she adds, while oth­ers may see it as a judg­men­tal fam­ily mem­ber. I en­vis­age an icy blonde woman.

‘Now,’ says Si­monne. ‘Imag­ine if you got to know her bet­ter — in­vite her in, ask ques­tions.’

Af­ter a few min­utes of this ‘con­ver­sa­tion’, I re­alise she’s not as ter­ri­fy­ing as I first thought.

I have al­ways been in­tim­i­dated by cash — Si­monne’s ex­er­cise sug­gests it’s some­thing I could be­come re­laxed around.

I feel en­thused and em­pow­ered af­ter our ses­sion and wish I’d met her years ago.

Si­monne’s gen­tle ther­a­peu­tic ap­proach is ex­actly what us fi­nance-pho­bics need to bring us out of the wilder­ness and help us re­alise that money is a ser­vant, not a mas­ter.

Money talks: Si­monne Gnessen and Flic (far right)

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