More important than saving, charges or advice

If you’re reading this, there is a reasonable chance you will be obese, if not now then in the not too distant future. According to a report published earlier this month by the National Obesity Forum, at least half of the UK population will be obese by 2050. In fact, the experts claim this forecast is an underestimate of the true scale of the problem.

Obesity brings with it a host of problems and challenges, not least a whole raft of chronic diseases. That it is entirely preventable by adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle makes the likely appearance of a ‘Fat Britain’ something quite shameful for our nation. Move over smoking, the NHS has a bigger (no pun intended) health crisis coming down the tracks.

I write this as someone who was, for a short period of time, technically obese. As measured by the not always reliable Body Mass Index (BMI), I tipped the scales to a BMI of just over 30 at the end of 2011. This was thankfully all the motivation I needed to turn my health around, drop 70lbs in the space of nine months and discover the various benefits of regular exercise.

The word ‘holistic’ gets thrown around a lot in the world of Financial Planning. In the past, I’ve been slightly critical of the shift by some advisers towards Life Planning, with its hippy mantras and propensity for practicing yoga. As someone who usually aims to avoid making their clients cry during meetings, it has always felt like too much of a leap from the more money focused Financial Planning.

But perhaps some form of Life Planning is needed and can have a bigger impact, particularly for retirement planning, than Financial Planning in isolation. For all the advice we can deliver helping a client accumulate sufficient wealth to live a desired lifestyle in later life, what good is it if they are eating themselves into a miserable retirement loaded with chronic health problems and an early grave.

It probably isn’t the role of the Financial Planner to dish out diet and exercise advice though. Even the yoga pants wearing Life Planner might consider this too much of a stretch. What options does this leave us with?

Perhaps we should all be more selective about those we choose to work with. Following a Financial Plan to achieve specific goals requires a lot of dedication. Asking that of someone who lacks the willpower to eat healthily or visit the gym more than once a month is probably destined to failure.

That is not to say we should fail to welcome through our office doors those who both need our help and express a desire to change their behaviour. We should however be realistic about the long-term impact we can make, even with the most technically brilliant Financial Planning, to those who choose to sabotage their life and health by making certain lifestyle choices.