Danger Ahead - Internet Information Overload!

I recently woke up one morning and found that my little finger on my right hand had 'gone to sleep'. Obviously, I must have slept in an awkward position I thought to myself.

No doubt you've found that this has happened to you. Just a few minutes later and all is well as the blood gets going.

Well, this time a good hour later it still felt strange, akin to pins and needles with a certain numbness.

I still managed to play real tennis, but a few days later decided to be sensible and made an appointment to see my GP.

Before popping along I had the bright idea of looking up my symptoms on the internet.

I really wished I hadn't!

Amongst the results that flashed up were:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

I didn't like the sound of either of these and with some trepidation went to my appointment. Of course, as often happens by the time you get to see the doctor (in this case about 4 days) the weird feeling had almost gone.

My GP examined the finger and hand and asked me to grip his hand and push against it. He told me that he thought it was simply tendinitis.

So he thought that it was not serious, and that the condition can come and go with no known cause, although it can be associated with repetitive movements or exercise. I was to get back to him if it returned.

It hasn't!

Whilst chatting to my GP that I had 'Googled' my symptoms before coming to see him, he mentioned that this was now a very common occurrence. Some patients came armed with many printouts that they would present to him and expect that he would then confirm their self-diagnosis.

A few have become totally convinced of their findings, even to the point of being sure they had a rare condition and needed immediate help!

This occurrence has a knock on effect on his day as he needs to spend more time with people like this than is really needed, limiting time for patients who really need his help.

Walking back to the car, it occurred to me that this situation was occasionally also true with financial advice and planning.

Many times I have been talking to a doctor or dentist client who has lots of information on a subject that concerns them, but are lost with the complexity and possible options, not to mention the many articles that totally contradict with each other!

"Getting information off the Internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant." Mitch Kapor

What does strike me is that when we agree to work with a new client, you then get to see what actions have been (or have not been) taken.

Examples of inaction that spring to mind are:

  • No Wills or Lasting Power of Attorney
  • Lack of or paying too much for life, accident and illness protection
  • Not having life policies in trust, where appropriate
  • Keeping a poor value, inflexible mortgage
  • Potential inheritance tax problems that could amount to many hundreds of thousands of pounds for their children to pay
  • Not applied for protection against the pension Lifetime Allowance changes resulting in lost tax savings
  • Took an annuity on their pension that did not take into account health issues and so had a lower pension than they could have obtained
  • Kept poor value and tax inefficient investments
  • Living in 'paper chaos' as not organised
  • No planning or overall investment strategy
  • Not having thought through their goals in life

Then, of course, there are new clients who have taken action and sometimes we find that they:

  • Have too many protection policies, and so are wasting money
  • Are investing into additional pension plans which are not required and are therefore causing problems with the new Lifetime Allowance rules likely to result in higher tax bills
  • Have investments but get worried when the market falls and sell. Then when the market picks up they buy again. This sell low and buy high destroys wealth
  • Have used many different financial advisers over the years have been sold products that are 'flavour of the month/year'
  • Are taking too much risk with their investments

These clients are of course acting as many humans do.

Ranging from complacency or 'I will get round to it one day' to 'I have researched this on the net/talked to a colleague and know what to do'.

This may well work at times!

However, it could be a big mistake with costly consequences with a subject as important as Retirement Planning.

"If you think hiring professionals is expensive, try hiring amateurs" - Unknown

When we complete a new client's strategy and action plan, we ask for feedback. Amongst the most common comments are:

Peace of Mind

They now feel in control, and can see clearly where they are and where they are going with their own personalised plan, confident they won't outlive their money.

Organised

Everything is now tidied up ranging from sorting Wills to minimising paperwork.

Time Saving

Many of our clients are time poor with busy lives. They tell us that it's a relief that we deal with most things for them.

Trust

They now have someone who they can really trust and can have a relationship with over the years to come who emphasises with and understands their position and is a specialist planner for doctors and dentists.

So as much as the internet can be a boon, remember:

"Warning: the Internet may contain traces of nuts." - Author Unknown

Key Considerations

Clearly, search engines are fantastic to have at your fingertips and being free and fast (usually), they are an integral part of our lives.

However, beware being totally reliant on them when it comes to your all important Retirement Planning.

Action Point

If you have never discussed your financial arrangements with a financial planner before, we would certainly recommend that you at least consider contacting one so you can decide if such a service would be right for you.

Usually the cost of a telephone discussion of, say half an hour, is absorbed by the adviser.

If you talk about what is important to you and what you have done so far to help matters, then you can judge for yourself if the planner is adding any value.

Over to you!

at 7:34 PM
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