A sailboat on the water

Boats Don’t Buy Themselves

by Sebastian Elwell

How a boat trip in Greece changed everything

My wife and I had a financial plan, had worked hard to build our careers, buy a home, pay into a pension and save for our children. Then we went on holiday to the beautiful Greek Island of Skopelos. The highlight of the trip was a day on a skippered sailing yacht, followed by a barbecue and snorkeling in the pristine waters of the Sporades. That single experience started a conversation that changed everything.

12 months later my wife and I completed our RYA Competent Crew qualification. We spent the rest of 2019 completing sailing courses and working on a detailed plan for our first solo sailing trip, set for 2020 in Croatia.

Success – we have done it! We had the Day Skipper and radio licences and saved the money to book the trip. Nothing could go wrong.

How Wrong Could We Be

Sadly, you know what came next. Due to lockdown we cancelled and rebooked the trip for a later date. At the time it felt like a real set back. We had worked hard for the prize and through factors outside of our control, our goal was slipping away. As a financial planner, it’s easy to draw parallels with my own situation and the conversations I was having with clients who were worrying about the falling March markets.

As I reassured my clients their plans were still okay, I started to reassure myself about our holiday plan too. Sure enough, eventually travel opened back up and we were able to go a few months later than originally planned. After months in lockdown, it was a welcome break to get back on the water. But turns out the global changes were just the beginning.

Re-writing the Plan

Even though we were able to take the trip, we needed to change our financial plan. Why? Because “boats don’t buy themselves” (a new family motto). We have caught the sailing bug. Our long-term goals have changed and the consequences of that are more far reaching than market changes.

It was time to work up a new plan and it looked radically different to the previous plan we had been working on for years.

The ‘dream house’ seemed far less important. Perhaps we needed something smaller, cheaper, and easier to lock up if we went on an extended voyage around the world’s oceans.

Our retirement ages changed – we didn’t want to wait too long to see the worlds oceans, islands and bays. Maybe we would need to find a flexible way to earn income on a more ad-hoc basis for a longer period of time.

We needed to rewrite the business plan, systemising the processes, recruiting, growing and managing the business in a different way to accommodate our future travel plans. We also needed to create a succession plan for the business.

Finally, our capital and income needs in retirement shifted, as buying and maintaining a boat require a fair amount of both capital and income.

We are loving our new financial plan which is providing motivation to drive the business forwards and increase our savings. Dreams and aspirations sit at the very heart of financial planning.

Sebastian Elwell headshot
Courtesy of Sebastian Elwell

Sebastian specialises in providing joined-up advice across the professions. As an Independent Chartered Financial Planner, a Fellow of the Personal Finance Society, full member of STEP and a member of SOLLA he has worked with accountancy and legal professions to advise vulnerable clients for 15 years.

To find out more about how cashflow planning can assist deputies and attorneys to inform their clients and allow the best decisions to be made in light of capacity, you can always contact my team and me at Switchfoot Wealth.

The views expressed in this article are that of this author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Voyant.