Can we prevent by predicting?
I ask the question because the NHS has launched a controversial calculator which predicts when you will have a heart attack or stroke – and compares a person’s heart age with their biological age. The issue is significant because coronary heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the UK and in 2013, more than 18,000 people died prematurely this way. Most deaths from coronary heart disease are caused by heart attacks with an average of 90,000 attacks in England per year.
The rationale behind the calculator is simple. By showing people their heart age and detailing their risk factors – smoking , weight, family history, diet – the hope is that they will make changes and give themselves a chance of a longer, healthier life. The individual wins and the NHS wins because they will save money on treating so many people with heart disease.
It made me think about the work I do with clients. We spend a great deal of time understanding our clients – their needs and aspirations, their challenges and shortfalls – and then we create a financial plan that addresses those needs and aspirations. It is essentially a prediction: if they do their best by spending less than they earn, investing consistently and sticking with the plan, they stand a very good chance of achieving their financial and life goals. Just as if we don’t smoke, eat sensibly, exercise regularly and avoid unnecessary stress we stand a good chance of living a long and healthy life.
So do most of my clients stick with the plan? The honest answer is –sometimes. It depends on the individual and their willingness to persist, which in turn is dependent on their commitment to their goals. My job is to invite them to articulate their goals and help them to understand their true significance for themselves and their families. And with their permission review progress at frequent intervals and to help them get back on track when things go awry – as they inevitably do. We work together.
I love this quote from the actor Steve Martin:
'I'd do anything for a good body except exercise and eat right.”
The correlation between health and financial planning is striking:
Eat fairly well Work hard and earn good money
Get some exercise at the week-end Make a pension contribution most years
Don’t smoke (except maybe the odd cigar) Very little credit card debt and we really needed that holiday
Don’t drink excessively
Isn’t red wine supposed to be good for you? We keep out of debt, except for my overdraft.. but I’m going to pay that off when...
I just don’t have time to go to the gym We’re hoping that my inheritance will help to put things right.
I believe we can do better by working together.