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Viewing posts from: November 2000

Let’s deal with the facts

By Paul Roberts
This article is published on: 9th October 2023


Over the summer I read a fascinating book called ‘Checklist Manifesto’ by Atul Gawande. It’s a book about how the systematic use of checklists can help improve outcomes in a wide range of activities.

Gawande, a surgeon, explored the use of checklists in medical procedures and found that developing and complying with detailed checklists has an extraordinarily positive effect on medical outcomes. His book is well worth a read – some of the sections that describe how problems arise and are dealt with when things go wrong in an operating theatre or a cockpit on a passenger flight are truly incredible.

It is an unlikely page-turner, with a lot of practical examples of how adopting good working practices can have a hugely positive effect on outcomes. Here is one example;

In 2001, Peter Pronovost, an intensive care specialist at John Hopkins Hospital, was frustrated with the incidence of central line infection in intensive care. He created a simple checklist of the steps that needed to be taken to prevent infection.

As simple as the steps look, the ICU nurses noted that doctors were often in such a hurry that they ignored a step or two. With this information, Pronovost persuaded the hospital administration to allow nurses to prevent doctors from putting in central lines if they ignored a checklist step.

The nurses were also encouraged to ask doctors every day if they could remove the patients’ lines so they would not stay longer than necessary.

This step reduced the likelihood of untreated pain from 41% to 3%. Pronovost was described as a “genius” by his colleagues because he had the idea of integrating a task list or a checklist into the daily routine of everyone working in the ICU.

It has been interesting to reflect on the power of checklists and very reassuring to note that at Spectrum we have our own set of checklists that ensure we are disciplined and methodical about how we work. This approach, which we apply as part of our standard business practice, helps to secure positive financial outcomes for our clients.

retiring in Spain

Let me explain how this works with a couple of simple examples;

All potential clients do a fact-find with us as a first step in our financial planning process. The fact find is our checklist of questions that allow us to see where the person is, financially of course, but also in terms of life-stage, planning priorities, tax situation, etc. We build up a comprehensive picture of individual circumstances, what assets they have and what they are looking to do, well BEFORE we offer any advice.

With Client A, we had spoken at length about what he wanted to do and had agreed on a plan of action. When we got together some time later, I followed our Spectrum checklist and asked him if anything had changed with his situation since we had last spoken and the conversation that ensued filled me with concern. He had been contacted by a boiler room operation that had targeted him and who were in the process of getting him to transfer a high five figure sum into an offshore bank account. It was a scam. I was able to stop this before it went any further. He never made the transfer and he still has the money. I was so pleased that I’d followed the checklist and had done my job properly.

Client B is a young family member who is saving up to buy a house. He and his girlfriend have around 85000€ saved up. I asked him what return he was getting on that money. Answer – zilch. I was able to encourage him to explore the options at their bank on the basis that 2-3% was probably there for the taking, explaining that spending a few hours looking into it and taking some action will be the easiest couple of thousand euros they will earn this year.

These are two simple examples of the value that can be created in my business by following a reliable and clearly defined advice process. At Spectrum we are of course appropriately experienced and authorised for the financial planning services on offer. Beyond that, we care about doing a good job. We always offer a no fee, no obligation, face-to-face fact find meeting to anyone who is prepared to invest a couple of hours in finding out more about the planning opportunities available to them. If prospects go on to become clients, we also arrange at least annual review meetings (again at no cost), to revisit the fact finding exercise and to ensure that our original advice recommendations remain suitable, or where necessary to revise arrangements in response to changes in your circumstances.

As an aside, we know that banks generally don’t call their customer to suggest that surplus cash be placed in interest bearing deposit accounts. They just don’t do this sort of thing, because bank employees work for the bank. At Spectrum we work for our clients.

Please feel free to book an introductory appointment with a financial planner at Spectrum and see where it takes you.

UK State Pension & Voluntary Contributions

By Paul Roberts
This article is published on: 24th July 2020

This guide is compiled to help you find out more about your UK state pension entitlement and explain how you can top-up your entitlement by making voluntary contributions.

Most of the leg-work can be done on-line using the HMRC sites.

The sites are a joy to navigate, so don’t be fearful! Let’s go.

• To get some general information about UK state pension entitlement / the amounts you will receive and how to claim it etc, click onto the following link;

• To check when you will be entitled to receive your UK state pension, click onto the following link;

• To check how much UK state pension you will get , you need to click onto the following link, but before you can get onto that link; you need to open up a “government gateway account” by clicking on this link and following the instructions;

….and to set up the government gateway above you will need your National insurance number, your mobile phone and your passport to hand. It is a straightforward process. Once you are set-up you will be given a password, a user ID which in conjunction with an access number, given via your mobile phone, allows you to access your HMRC data and check your state pension entitlements by clicking onto;

• If you can’t remember what your National Insurance Number is then click on the following link;

Your UK Pension entitlement depends on how many years of national contributions you have made

To see the exact number of years that you have contributed, click here;

If you want to investigate how to fill in the gaps by making voluntary national contributions (and this is the interesting bit) then click onto the following link;

You can make top up by paying Class 2 NIC’s very inexpensively; provided you meet the conditions:

If you scroll down on – to living and working abroad you will see the following information;


If you qualify, this is the one to go for:

You can check out the following (excellent) site for a well written account of what you might get and who might be entitled to get it.

To pay Class 2 NIC’s go to the following link and click on PAY NOW and follow the instructions

There is a bit of form filling to do but the benefits are well worth the effort, or at least that was very much my case where I was able to backdate my contributions by 7 years at a cost of around 1000 GBP. These 7 years contributions entitle me to around 7/35 of the state pension which is something of the order of 175 GBP a week from the age of 66 in my case. If one assumes that I get there and live to be an average age, then I’ll pass away age 85ish.

So, what will I gain?
Investment 1000 GBP. Average benefits 7/35 x 175 GBP x (85-66) x52= 34,580 GBP. Wow! And that is all indexed linked. AND, apart from backdating you can set up an annual payment and keep making contributions easily and automatically by direct debit. All well worth looking at .

Good luck with it all and let me know how you get on.