Whilst not really one for new year’s resolutions, in January this year I decided that 2017 would be the year I gave something back. Ever since joining Capital in 2015, I’ve found myself constantly inspired when I meet clients who silently and selflessly give to charity, volunteer or mentor.
The trigger for action came in late 2016 when I was made aware of the Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) demand for pro-bono financial advisers after attending a conference hosted by our professional body, the Personal Finance Society.
Citizens Advice offer the over-50’s free pensions guidance through the government-backed ‘Pension Wise’ initiative, however the main issue that CAB face is the lack of qualified advisers willing to give up their time to offer this guidance.
Southwark CAB does great work within their borough, and last year helped nearly 15,000 people with over 27,000 problems. They have 42 full-time staff, 97 unpaid volunteers, 19 pro-bono solicitors and me, their only volunteer financial adviser.
Since January, I’ve been spending one day a month at the CAB centre in Southwark, and have met dozens of individuals requiring, on the surface, pensions guidance. People typically approach CAB with a specific problem that needs resolving such as; “how do I access my pension pot?”, although nearly everyone I’ve met so far has had a far wider range of issues, problems, and concerns, ranging from divorce, debt, health issues, racial discrimination, and redundancy.
I meet between five and six people per session, all of them with vastly different lives and stories to tell. I’ve experienced everything from tears of heartbreak to tears of joy. Most visitors have never had financial advice before; most have never even had someone to talk to in a safe and judgement-free environment.
I have gained insight into some of the real-life issues that the less fortunate people face on a day-to-day basis. If I can help those individuals in some small way, then that is time well spent in my opinion. My role at Citizens Advice Southwark is to simply educate, empower, share and listen.
At Capital, our purpose is to make a difference and to enhance people’s lives, to provide security, financial independence, and freedom from worry. Collaborating with local organisations is just one of the ways we can help.