LET'S TALK ABOUT IT
CHIARA, CITIZENS ADVISER
16 YEAR OLD ME LEARNT QUICKLY THAT YOU NEED NOT BE FRIGHTENED OF CHANGE. WHAT SHE DIDN'T REALISE WAS THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING FINANCIAL SECURE
Life can begin again at any age you want it to. I’ve reinvented myself a number of times – law student, commercial banker, investment banker, primary school teacher, school librarian, GCSE English tutor, money adviser and, most recently, Chief Officer of a Citizens Advice office in East Suffolk. I’m still the same person, but each experience has reflected a different part of who I am or what interests me or a different time of my life.
But ultimately, I’m still me – the girl who flew to the UK on her 16th birthday with one suitcase and a name that rhymed with an orange drink. I had dreams then of having a career and a family, of making a home and having friends, of belonging. Forty years later I have that; the boys are starting their own lives, I live in a house and a community where I belong and I have a new career to sink my teeth into.
However, the journey I’ve taken to get here was not always the one I planned for myself and I’ve learnt the best thing you can do in life is to be prepared for change, to be flexible in your expectations and to take opportunities when they arise. I have also come to realise that financial security gives you the freedom to be flexible.
Despite my background in banking, I haven’t been the best at financial planning. I found it hard at 20 to think about what I would need at 60 or 65. By the time my parents were in retirement and I realised, from their mistakes, that planning for the future was important I was already many years into my working life. 16-year-old me learnt quickly that to invest in the future you need to work hard, be curious and not be frightened of change. What she didn’t take on board was that you also need to invest financially.
I wish I hadn’t been frightened by something that was such a foreign concept to me at the time. I wish I had sat down with someone and said: when I’m really old, say 56, I’d like to be financially secure, with the option to work or retire, the ability to spend time with family, maybe travel, have a home that is all mine and money for treats – should I be doing something now so my dreams can some true?
Instead, 56-year-old me is finally sitting down with someone and saying – I don’t feel old and I love my job and there are still things I want to do in life. This is where I’m at – is there anything I should be doing to make my future dreams come true?