Money & Life contributors draw on their diverse range of experience to present you with insights and guidance that will help you manage your financial wellbeing, achieve your lifestyle goals and plan for your financial future.
In the first in a series of personal stories from financial planners and their clients, we meet Anne Graham CFP® of Story Wealth and her client Karen Cramer. These two remarkable women tell us how they hit it off and now enjoy a friendship that goes from strength to strength.
My husband Ron and I were introduced to Anne through a mutual friend of ours. He’s a practical person but very caring too. So when we were facing a terrible blow to our future – a terminal cancer diagnosis for Ron – he quietly took us aside, asking if our financial affairs were in order. And while we were pretty responsible with finances, we’d put off getting professional advice, thinking we’d get around to it when we retired.
So after hearing about Anne from this very kind friend, we had our first meeting and I fell in love with her instantly. My first impression was that she was easy to talk to, but terrifically practical too. Given the situation we were in, she knew how hard making decisions would be, so she made it really simple. She would see the big picture, point to the right goals and then go back to the beginning and talk about the little steps we could take or she could do for us. Her whole approach was incredibly reassuring.
I knew Ron was as comfortable with her as I was but he’s always been a very gracious and pragmatic man. When I asked how do you feel about Anne’s advice, he said “she’s lovely but that’s not what’s important, you’re the one that’s going to be dealing with her.” He wanted to be sure I would be moving forward with people I can trust and we both knew from the very beginning I would have that sort of relationship with Anne.
It’s really remarkable just how much Anne knows about people and their money. A few years ago I came to her with a new idea and she came right back to me with all these questions. The things she asked showed how astute she is about my situation and what would lie ahead of me if I took this path. She didn’t tell me what to do, but it took me no time at all the make the best decision based on what she was asking me. And that really demonstrates the value of Anne’s advice. She’ll look at your circumstances, knows what got you there and what kind of plan you need and then she’ll put it all before you, with no pressure whatsoever. She knows she can’t change anything for you unless you want it to change.
In 2015 I became a Marriage & Civil Celebrant, which was something I’d talked about with Ron. He was very supportive of the idea and it gave him the assurance that I’d be keeping busy meeting people and doing something rewarding. Anne was really encouraging too and has been one of my referees and a terrific support and advocate for my new business.
Having Anne in my life gives me such peace of mind and confidence in making the right choices for the future. When you’re not used to making decisions on your own, it’s wonderful to have a sounding board, especially one who understands my craft obsession. She knows I’ll always need to have enough income to keep topping up my yarn stash for crochet!
Essentially Karen and Ron were looking for a fairly typical financial health check in the lead up to retirement. But with the very difficult circumstances they were facing with Ron’s illness, their advice needs were anything but routine. I recommended a number of actions for them but they weren’t ready to take it all on at once. They needed to do things at their own pace and make their choices based on Ron’s health. But I felt a sense of trust between us from the beginning and I knew Karen would be ready to act when the time was right for her.
Karen already has good financial habits so guiding her towards sound decision making hasn’t been a challenge. It’s been more about keeping her on track, being a sounding board for her ideas and supporting her to feel confident in making her own judgements. When she’s had plans in mind, I’ve simply asked the questions that can help her choose the path towards a retirement with no financial concerns.
Being there to help Karen enjoy that peace of mind about her future has been very rewarding for me as her advisor. That and her quirky crochet gifts! As a Director and Trustee of the Future 2 Foundation, I took part in our annual fundraising event for 2017. I told Karen of my concerns about the chilly conditions we could expect for our five-day hike around Mt Anne Circuit in Tasmania. Less than a week later, the postman delivered two crocheted beanies in the vivid yellow colour of the desert wattle that inspired our Future 2 logo. I was so tickled and touched by Karen’s thoughtful gift and wore mine with pride – and no small degree of comfort – on my Tassie adventure.
My impression of Karen has always been one of a calm and capable person. And even though she’s been on a personal journey with a huge amount to process, both emotionally and practically, she’s shown incredible strength and wisdom throughout. That wisdom includes knowing when to ask for help and advice, from me and from other people she knows she can trust. I think it’s a quality that’s helped her feel both independent and supported during an extraordinary transition in her life.