Owning and managing a growing business can become all consuming, even when you’re enjoying it. Work, relationships, life; sometimes it’s good to check yourself and perhaps ask “is this good for me?” It’s something we could all benefit from doing from time to time.
However, running a business brings high levels of stress and in the last year she’s looked to modify her working hours to allow her a better work/life balance. Something I think all of us are considering these days. We’ve featured this dynamic and lovely lady in Vale Life before but caught up with an even more relaxed Gretchen recently to find out what’s changed in her life.
You have recently reduced your own working week from five days to four. What was the reason for this?
It’s been as aspiration of mine since starting the business. The main drive is about my overall wellbeing but also to spend time being more creative. I love financial planning but it’s not my only passion! At school, inspired by some amazing art teachers, I fell in love with ceramics. At university I obtained a BA (hons) in Ceramics and spent three years absorbed in the life of a potter, with clay in my hair and dungarees as my daily attire.
In the last twenty-two years of work life, I’ve not been able to pursue ceramics. I’ve chosen instead to dedicate time to professional examinations (I have the highest qualifications available in the UK for a financial planner), and then more senior roles which typically have meant much longer hours. So, I turned to other craft including making large macrame pieces and crochet that I could do at home. I’m always making something. But now, running my own business, I’m able to be a little more flexible and work four days a week and get to the pottery once a week (most weeks!).
To be able to make this time adjustment in your business, what changes did you need to make?
I’ve had to think about the structure of my working week a bit more, tending to have face-to-face meetings and client work on specific days of the week. I’ve always been pretty good at time management, so I haven’t found it too hard, but sometimes things have to flex.
Tell us in a nutshell, what Magenta offers its clients.
We help people understand their finances and confidently navigate through life events, letting them live stress-free and knowing they are in trustworthy hands.
You work a great deal with women. Is the financial planning for women different to that of your male clients?
Financial advice is financial advice regardless of whether you are male or female. It’s not gender specific, but what may be different is the approach women want, and things we need to think about for them. My experience is that women come to me when they have either had a negative experience elsewhere and felt they weren’t taken seriously, didn’t feel listened to, or were bamboozled with financial jargon.
Generally, I think the structure of a woman’s financial life can be different from a man’s, we tend to display different financial behaviours, and we can face a combination of different demands on finances, both from personal circumstances but also societal pressures. I love working with women and seeing them feel more empowered to make great decisions in their lives!
Do you think people take their financial futures seriously enough?
Planning for the future is scary and overwhelming, and easily put off. Also, this stuff is complex! I think people know they need to take it seriously but push it back and delay making decisions because there always seems to be something more pressing in the here and now. In reality, we all have to take stock, understand where we are now, what we have or don’t have, and how this will look in the future – if we want to feel secure and happy. With the closure of most final salary pensions, the pension landscape for anyone in their 40s and 50s now is very different to the retirees before them.
Lockdown life clearly changed the working landscape with hybrid working becoming ever more popular. Have you personally experienced this in your own office and with clients?
Absolutely, but I also think things were already changing. The reality is that workers now are dealing with so much more information daily than previous generations. We have so much to think about (digitally, a 24 hour news cycle, instant messaging etc.) and we need more time to recover and manage our energy so we can perform well. I see this in myself, and staff, and the hybrid model of work gives us a better chance of this. I don’t think this has affected clients, we’re still able to deliver a great service.
With inflation dominating personal finance, what advice can you give the modern family?
Try and limit your news intake! Focus on you, what you can control. Try and budget and make cost savings where you can. Concentrate on categorising necessities and discretionary spending. I find this really helps focus what you can squeeze and what you can’t. The reality is, some hard choices may need to be made, we may not be able to do everything we did last year.
Many of the younger generation are now prioritising careers over relationships and living, which possibly means living longer at home with their parents. How can this generation maximise the situation financially?
I think it’s about understanding how mortgages, investments, pensions work and the tax savings some of products can offer. Then maximising efficiencies, so if you are saving for a house, think about how big the deposit needs to be and consider possibly the Lifetime ISA (extra money from government if you save £4,000 pa in this) for this deposit. If not, maybe you will increase savings into your pension, over and above the standard amount your employers’ minimums are, as this is very tax efficient too. In some cases, ISAs, which are very accessible will be most suitable. It’s all dependent on an individual’s aims and plans.
What are the benefits of working with a company such as Magenta as opposed to going it alone online?
There are plenty of DIY solutions out there, but many people don’t know where to start and need someone to guide them. At Magenta, we remove the worry and indecision that people often face, because we can provide advice and guidance for every financial decision. You’ll benefit from highly qualified advisers, providing regulated advice and financial coaching.
We’re also really friendly and not in any way intimidating!
What five financial planning tips would you give to:
a) young people starting out in their careers…
1. Join your employer pension. 2. Live within your means, don’t get into debt. 3. Think about your credit score. 4. Save anything you can. 5. Educate yourself about financial products.
b) someone in their 30s or 40s with a younger family…
1. Ensure you pay into a pension.
2. Live within your means, don’t get into debt. 3. Check your insurance and family protection plans. 4. Consider overpaying your mortgage if you can. 5. Start to consider the future longer-term plans (retirement age, children’s education etc.).
c) someone approaching retirement who has perhaps not been fortunate to make the pension contributions they would have liked…
1. Establish current financial position and if there is any short-term planning to be done. 2. Undertake any urgent gap filling whilst you are still earning. 3. Consider ‘phased’ retirement giving you more flexibility with spending. 4. Understand what you need (and want) to spend in retirement. 5. Work on a plan for best efficient ways to fulfil your desired retirement income (including tax planning).
And d) someone with a healthy portfolio who just wants to maximise their return.
1. Establish current financial position and what your financial plan looks like. 2. Consider any tax planning needed. 3. Make sure you can feel empowered to take action to achieve your goals (for example work less if you can afford to!). 4. Check your portfolio suits your requirements now and in the future. 5. Work on a plan for best efficient ways to fulfil your desired lifestyle, helping those you may want to help financially too.
When did you realise you had a passion for pottery and ceramics?
I was probably about fifteen and made a large sculpture of a mermaid based on a famous pre-Raphaelite painting.
Did you have any formal training?
I was lucky enough to have a passionate A level teacher with ceramics experience, went to college and then University. I’ve a 2:1 in Ceramics.
Are there any ceramicists or styles that you admire?
I’m a massive fan of Vicky Lindo, but also non ceramic artists like Louis Wain and Yayoi Kusama.
What do you get out of this hobby?
I’ve recently joined the amazing Cardiff Pottery Workshop Foundation and I try to get there once a week. Clay is my safe haven and when I’m working with it, I forget about almost everything else, so it’s a great stress reliever and it’s my ‘recovery’ time.
Where would you like to take it? Do have any aspirations beyond it being a hobby?
I envisage I will, at some point, want to spend more time making. Maybe I’ll apply for the Pottery Throwdown!
What keeps you sane?
My home and my cats. I rely so much on my home as my sanctuary to escape the work pressures, and time with my cats on a Sunday – maybe in the studio, in the sunshine, listening to country music, it’s just the most special time.
You live in Bridgend. What do you like about the town and do you have any favourite haunts?
Bridgend has so much to offer for those who love good food and drink. My favourite spots are La Cocina or El Prado. I love Lizzi’s gifts too and we always get fresh Welsh cakes from the market for the office.
If you’re not working and throwing pots, what do you do to relax?
Walk, eat, drink, listen to music, preferably with friends and family!
Describe yourself in three words.
Kind, creative and organised.
“We help people understand their finances and confidently navigate through life events, letting them live stress-free and knowing they are in trustworthy hands.”
“There are plenty of DIY solutions out there, but many people don’t know where to start and need someone to guide them.”
Could you be a cover star?
For more information about Vale Life features or advertising, please contact Jennifer Hobbs-Roberts on 07766 106701.