I’ve had a wonderful week at home with Lady Barton St Mary, during which we’ve continued with our retirement practice, ‘Sorting Stuff Out’ and ‘Getting Things Done’.
‘Sorting Stuff Out’ means revising all the clothes in drawers and wardrobes and giving/throwing away anything that is worn out/stained/on reflection a lousy choice. This was something Lady BSM was very keen to do, since she appears to think I am encroaching into her area of the big wardrobe with all my shirts, which may be a valid point. To be fair, her clothes do occupy 75% of a triple wardrobe, a 6 drawer chest of drawers, a blanket box and a bedside chair known as a chairdrobe. Nevertheless, my increasing sartorial interest has put her on her guard.
I did manage to reduce my clothes territory slightly, but still not quite to the satisfaction of her ladyship, I feel.
‘Getting Things Done’ is also an excellent exercise in having a fulfilling life, but includes the one particular area that leaves me at a disadvantage – namely, finances.
You see, not only is Lady Barton St Mary a beautiful and intelligent alpha female and responsible for running a multi-national company, she’s also a fully qualified chartered accountant, which means that
- She likes to be in control and
- quite rightly, she deals with all of our finances.
This also means that I have to make very little effort when it comes to dealing with financial matters. Let me put that another way. I make no effort when it comes to financial matters.
This week, we had two financial ‘Getting Things Done’ things that needed to get done. Firstly, visit the bank and speak to a financial adviser. Secondly, file the huge piles of paper that had accumulated in the kitchen and file it away as necessary. What follows is a typical example of my experience in dealing with finance.
Visiting the Financial Adviser
“Come in, come in,” said the cheery young man in a grey three piece suit, shaking our hands.
“Duncan,” he explained, leading us into his office on the top floor of the bank and offering us a seat.
He gave us a brief history of his career before explaining he ‘liked to ask lots of questions’. Oh dear, I thought, I’m sure these questions aren’t going to be about the next series of Game of Thrones or whether Deal or No Deal has been better since they introduced box 23 and Noel started wearing suits… They’d be about finances.
Duncan looked at me.
“So, what sort of savings accounts do you have?” he enquired of me. I stared back at him. I’m sure his shirt was a Pierre Cardin. Lady BSM answered. His glanced over at her and then back at me.
“How much do you have in your current account?” he continued, a thin smile on his lips, an attempt to hide the look in his eyes. Yes, definitely Pierre Cardin. He wore a purple tie to go with the fine purple check of his shirt. I suddenly worried that I’d relaxed my jaw and was gawking at Duncan with my mouth wide open. Lady BSM answered and Duncan, satisfied with this outcome, did what all financial advisers do to me when interrogating us as a couple. He shifted in his seat and faced Lady BSM for the rest of the meeting, whilst I struggled to fathom out what the hell was going on. The following conversation wasn’t exactly what was said, but how it was interpreted in my butterfly brain.
“Have you considered the fiscal culminultitude of index linked statutory elements of inheritance tax in the next five years? It may be better to invest in some short term inelastic fulmination of percentile increments to eliminate the possibility of a footsie platitude adjustment.”
“True, but we must wait and see how the latest budget projections and the changes in The Finance and Dividend Act which may counterbalance any monetary vicissitudes,” countered Lady BSM.
“Of course,” sighed Duncan, enraptured at Lady BSM’s sound business acumen, whilst I counted the buttons on his suit cuff.
We left Duncan’s office having ‘Got Things Done’.
Filing Our Piles
This is definitely an exercise I cannot carry out on my own. I realise that all these bits of paper with numbers on mean something, but which ones are important and need filing and which ones need throwing away is Lady BSM’s department.
I must, at this juncture, point out that she doesn’t think she’s like an accountant at all. She certainly doesn’t look like a stereotypical accountant, but she does show the classic characteristics of one. For example, the other day she was tapping away on her laptop whilst watching TV, creating a spreadsheet. Not for work, but primarily, as far as I could tell, for fun.
So when it came to filing our piles, I just tried to categorise them and allow Lady BSM to do the rest. We appeared to have insurance documents dating back over the past 10 years, along with pension statements, bank accounts, ISAs, shares, electricity and oil bills.
Each piece of paper was considered by Lady BSM; at one point, she held a sheaf of oil delivery invoices, smiling benignly.
“Do we need all of them?” I asked. She frowned momentarily.
“Well, no, but I do like to look back in the fluctuations in prices and see how we’ve done,” she replied, dewy eyed.
That’s when I realised she really was an accountant. All this financial paperwork was interesting and exciting to her – ‘amusing bank statements’, ‘annual pension annuity forecasts I have loved’, ‘my 5 greatest index linked ISAs’…
Of course, I did my bit by shredding all the confidential papers that were surplus to requirements.
Again, we were successful, disposing of a couple of trees’ worth of paper and getting our filing system into some sort of order.
I avoided asking the question I really wanted to ask until today, merely because I know that I rarely manage to listen to the answer – namely, get an understanding of where our money is.
“So,” I asked casually over breakfast, “how many accounts do we have?”
Lady BSM looked at me, wide eyed.
“Depends,” she said.
“Do you mean a relationship with an individual financial institution or actual accounts?”
I looked at her, wide eyed.
Since she was already in the process of playing on Excel, she shifted her laptop screen to face me and brought up a list of names and accounts. She eyed me suspiciously.
“You’re bored already, aren’t you?”
I denied it.
I am aware that my wife is a financial genius who can generate an income out of anything,but by the time we got to the second page of her spreadsheet and the 24th account, I’d drifted off.
But at least I’m not panicking about her birthday present this year.
I’m going to collect all her favourite utility bills and put them in a folder. It will keep her amused for hours…