I recently caught up with Dan West, a client I’ve worked with for the past eight years. Dan’s a very positive person by nature, but he was in a particularly upbeat mood when we met, as he’d made an exciting and possibly life-changing decision.
Dan is in his 40’s and originally hails from Poole, Dorset. He now lives in Buckinghamshire with his wife, their two children, dog and two horses!
In his teens, Dan nearly made the grade as a professional footballer but it was his interest and education in technology that led him to a career in this field.
“My career really kicked off at Marconi in the mid-90’s and I quickly moved up to leadership positions at companies like Camelot, ASOS and New Look.”
Around five years ago, Dan decided to leave full-time employment and offer his expertise and leadership skills on an interim basis to large companies (including lastminute.com and KPMG) undertaking major technological changes.
“Advisory and interim leadership was great. It allowed me to remain involved with fast-paced and growing businesses, but I could be more selective about the work and my time, which was liberating and empowering in every sense.”
Being self-employed (under a limited company structure), Dan was happy with his work-life balance, but opportunity soon came knocking.
“Interim and advisory work really suited me but for many reasons, the chance to work at a global company like AIMIA (loyalty program operator – think Nectar points) was just too hard to turn down.”
As the company’s Global Chief Information Officer, Dan was travelling regularly and working long hours. Recently, however, major structural changes within the company has seen his position become obsolete.
“I’ve known for a while that my role was to be phased out, so I’ve had time to really think about what’s important to me and what my next move might look like.
“Going back to interim work comes with risks but I see this as a no-brainer. The more difficult but more exciting decision is to pursue my other passion, which is sailing. My plan is to further my sailing qualifications in the spring with a view to gaining the Yachtmaster Offshore Certificate.
“My hope is that this will open up a host of work opportunities in the marine industry, which in turn could open up further opportunities and experiences for my family.
“The stars feel like they’ve aligned in terms of timing and, importantly, I have my wife’s full permission to sail ahead and just go for it!”
What reaction have you had from other people?
“Overwhelmingly supportive. From ‘You only live once’ to ‘Follow your dreams’. Not one person has said that I’m mad and should find another full-time job in the corporate world.
“What’s also surprised me is the social media interest; lots of well-wishers and people wanting to follow my journey.”
This could be the start of a very different life, but it begs the obvious question; what about the financial side of things?
“If I’m honest, the decision both excites and terrifies me because I’ve no idea how things will work out. I therefore wanted to be sensible about how I approached the change.
“As well as getting my mindset right, I’ve engaged with financial planning in a much deeper way than I’ve done in the past. I had lots of questions in my mind and financial decisions to make.”
Dan and I have spent the past year or so answering many of these questions. What were his main concerns?
“How would periods without income affect our lifestyle and how much I’d need to keep by for short-term costs and emergencies?
“How will this affect funding the children’s education and getting them started in life?
“Should I pay down the mortgage or invest more in markets? What level of investment risk is right for me given my plans and attitude to risk?
“Will I need to reconsider my plan to retire early?
“It basically boiled down to understanding just how much money is enough to see all of our plans through.”
One particular exercise Dan and I undertook to help provide a framework for his decisions was Cashflow Modelling.
“Being able to visualise what your finances might look like at any given point in the future based on the decisions you make today is incredibly valuable. The process helped me prioritise my goals and made it easier to understand if and where compromises might need to be made.
“It gave me more clarity and confidence to take a different direction.”
It’s early days in Dan’s sailing journey, but what’s his advice to anyone thinking about embarking on a major lifestyle change?
“No-one can predict the future or what life might throw at you, so you have to have a plan. My advice would be to consult your financial adviser in the first instance, as they can help you see the bigger picture and understand the longer-term financial impact of your decisions.
“Hard work is essential but leave blind faith at the door. I’ve set myself certain targets over the next 12 months and if I don’t consistently hit them, I will adjust my plan or walk away before it has any significant impact on my family’s financial security.
“If my plan doesn’t ultimately work out, I can always go back to full-time work. At least I’ll have a good story to tell at the interview!”
This has been a big decision for Dan and his family, so from a personal and professional point of view, it feels very satisfying to be able to play some part in their journey. If you also want to follow Dan’s progress, please subscribe to his blog at www.westafloat.com.
Lastly, if you’re in need of some advice, whether that involves a major life change or you simply want to gain clarity about your financial future, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.