I’m Laurence, a guy who writes about peer to peer lending and DIY investing for a living. I worked in the music business as an A&R executive, touring DJ and music producer for most of my working life and I used to detest anything to do with investing or finance. I imagine it makes little sense for guy who writes about financial investing to tell you he hated finances, but keep reading.
It took me years to make sense of my financial life so I write about my investing journey so new friends like yourself can avoid the same fear of action and struggles I experienced.
People often ask me why I started the Financial Thing website. It was because of a book and my dad’s death.
The Book / It Took Me Decades To Understand My Finances
I had no intention of creating Financial Thing; as I said, I grew to detest anything to do with finance and investing. Allow me to explain why.
When I was a child, I always dreamed of becoming a stockbroker. I had no idea why, other than all stockbrokers on television drove really nice cars and had good looking girlfriends with big hair (it was the 1980’s). When I turned 16, my school enforced a mandatory work experience program. Each student had to find some
sucker lucky company to host them for three weeks; unpaid of course. I signed up to work at a stockbroker’s office and was so excited to learn how I could make billions trading BP shares. Then the company phoned the evening before I was supposed to start and canceled my work experience. I was 16 and had nowhere to go for three weeks.
Out of options, I asked my friend Henio if I could be his assistant for my work experience. He agreed under one condition; I had to bring him tuna sandwiches every day. I reluctantly caved to his negotiations and was promptly hired with no pay.
Henio was a custom windsurfing board maker who worked out of a dusty farm shed in Dorset. Despite being an avid windsurfer and having the utmost respect for Henio, I had no aspirations of shaping windsurfing boards for a living. I just needed somewhere to go for three weeks and he needed sandwiches. It was a win-win for all. I spent 15 days sweeping the floor, making tea and listening to Bob Marley tunes. It all went by too quickly.
After the work experience ended, I lost my appetite for tuna fish and for stockbroking. I decided that if a financial company was willing to leave a young man in the lurch, all financial companies must be evil and this wasn’t an industry I wanted to work in. A 16-year-old’s rationale isn’t always the most sensible.
Fast forward decades later to 2014.
After bouncing around several entrepreneurial business attempts, I was career-less and lost. One day I decided to search Amazon for books about day trading stocks. Instead of finding a book about binary options, a “recommend reading” advert popped up that changed my life in unimaginable ways. The recommended book was:
The Little Book of Commonsense Investing: The Only Way to Guarantee Your Fair Share of Stock Market Returns (Little Books. Big Profits) written by Vanguard founder, John Bogle.
I clicked on the Amazon ad and started to read the glowing user reviews. A little voice in my head yelled, “order that book”.
I read Bogle’s book cover to cover in one night and then I acted like a crazy person, emailing and calling everyone I knew in order to preach my new found investing knowledge. I finally understood how to invest.
(Vanguard is one the largest investment firms in the world. John Bogle not only founded Vanguard, but also created the very first index tracker fund back in the 1970’s. His book explains a simple way to invest that anyone can understand. If you currently invest or are considering investing in the stock market, I can’t recommend this book enough. It explains why investing in single stocks is so much riskier and costly and why index trackers funds have and will likely continue to outperform nearly all actively managed funds and unit trusts. You can read more about this topic here.)
While researching John Bogle’s claims about index trackers, I began to understand how the financial world is confusing by design. If there were only a few financial investment products, most financial advisors and hedge fund managers would be unemployed. There are thousands of U.K. and U.S. unit trust / mutual fund products, designed to confuse the average investor for a reason. Some of these funds offer exactly the same investments but charge different fees. It’s incredibly frustrating.
My Dad’s Death
Later in 2014, I received some devastating news. My father, my best friend, was diagnosed with bladder cancer. He was 81 and lived a great life but as this was his second bout of cancer, I wasn’t sure he was going to survive. Knowing this, I decided to take two months off work so I could spend as much time with him as he battled this horrific disease.
My dad owned a retail shop for most of his life and had an admirable entrepreneurial spirit. Dad inspired me to be a better person and to work hard and I love him for that. While Dad was sick, we spent hours walking and talking about the future. We spoke about many things including business, the importance of family, and saving for retirement. Dad wasn’t an investment guru, he just always preached about the importance of saving for the future.
My dad had been telling me for years that I needed to organise my financial life, but I always found some avoidance excuse. Most of the excuses were based around a bad experience I had with a financial advisor who had managed to earn me a 1.5% annual return on my small unit trust portfolio over eight years year.
I didn’t trust financial advisors and I couldn’t think of anything worse than scouring company financials, looking for value stocks. But after discovering John Bogle’s book and finally understanding how simple investing could be, I decided my financial life was going to change.
During a free day when dad was having chemo treatment, I started sifting through old financial statements and began to realize just how big of a mess my financial life really was. Something clicked that day and I made a promise to myself that I would organize myself and finally (at 41), I decided to become a responsible adult.
I dusted off some old childhood gifted stock certificates and researched the few managed unit trusts I owned. I sold all of the shares and actively managed unit trusts, fired my financial advisor and purchased two simple index tracker funds.
Then came peer to peer lending.
In 2012, I had been investing in property but was finding it difficult to obtain financing. Despite my dad suggesting peer to peer lending as a solution, I avoided looking into this as debt scared me. During the 2008 property crisis, I had too much real estate debt and could no longer afford the payments so I had to file for bankruptcy.
Bankruptcy is a hard thing to publicly admit but that time in my life is a part of my financial awakening. Going bankrupt was painful but it taught me many important lessons about risk and leverage. I learned from my mistakes and I’m not ashamed of what happened.
Jump forward to 2014 and my mission to become financially organised, I stumbled upon a Ratesetter advert offering compelling 7%+ p.a. interest returns. I began researching the peer to peer lending sector as a whole and became cautiously optimistic. After several months of research, I took a £500 leap of faith and invested in Ratesetter’s one-month loan product. After a few more months of receiving on-time payments, I increased my investment amount and then branched out into other lending platforms. Next came Wellesley & Co, Lendy, Moneything and Funding Circle.
While researching peer to peer lending in late 2014, I found there was very little information on the web. I also thought it would be fun to document my investing journey so if I ever spawned offspring, they could laugh at their old man’s
So I created Financial Thing, not ever thinking anyone would find or read my random ramblings. After six months of writing about my peer to peer lending experiences, I received an email from a reader telling me how helpful my reviews had been. At first I thought this email was from a family member masquerading as a reader in a poor attempt to make me feel important. Then a few days later I received another reader email, and then another.
Weeks passed and the emails kept coming and lo and behold, my humble little Financial Thing website attracted a readership base of people looking for investing information and a guiding hand.
After I read the John Bogle book I took being frugal to the extreme and wouldn’t spend money because I was fearful about not having enough money for retirement. Then I realised life isn’t meant to be lived that way. My dad was diagnosed with his first bout of cancer at age 66, the year he retired. You can work your whole life to save and never get to enjoy what you’ve been saving for. Now I sensibly enjoy life and cross off bucket list items when I’m able to. It’s hard to hike to the top of a volcano when you’re 80, so why not do it now.
If you are reading this wondering if I’m one of these wealthy people with a massive investment portfolio, I’m not. I’m comfortable and for me, that means living on less than I make, having a roof over my head, clothes on my back and food in the fridge. I also have a modest index tracker portfolio to which I contribute monthly and a small peer to peer lending portfolio.
I’m a long way from my financial dreams because I got started late in life. I didn’t begin investing for retirement until age 41. Remember it’s never ever too late to get started, no matter how old you are, how much money you make or how dire your current situation. This is why I created Financial Thing. So I can pay the information forward.
To be honest I’m a bit of an idealist. I think human beings are amazing creatures. I see this when I read about a new invention or watch someone play the guitar effortlessly. If we all helped each other to succeed, this world would be an incredibly better place to live. Life is short and money comes and goes; what’s important is the experiences we have and the legacies we leave behind.
As for my dad, unfortunately, he passed away on March 31st, 2015. I was lucky enough to be by his side for the last two months of his life. I sat by his hospice bedside for two weeks and slept in his room at night. It was both painful and humbling. I’ll certainly never forget watching him take his last breath while I held his hand.
My wish for all Financial Thing readers is that they are informed. There’s nothing that makes me happier than seeing someone succeed financially, and if I can be of some help to make that happen, then I will have lived a fulfilled and happy life.
So that’s how Financial Thing was birthed. I truly believe everything happens for a reason. If it weren’t for John Bogle’s book and my dad constantly hounding me to grow up and take care of my finances, and for uttering the words “peer to peer lending”, Financial Thing wouldn’t exist.
Currently, I only write reviews about peer to peer lending sites I’ve invested my own money through. I have been approached by other peer to peer companies who would like Financial Thing’s exposure, but I have so far declined. There are plenty of websites offering general information about all the peer to peer lending companies platforms. I want to believe that other review sites are unbiased and genuine, but I have doubts. If you are like me, you want to read about real-life good and bad experiences from people who have invested through these companies. That’s what Financial Thing offers.
I want Financial Thing to be a valuable peer to peer lending and self-investment resource to help people solve day to day financial puzzles. You know, the puzzles we weren’t taught how to solve, by our parents or in school. How do I invest for retirement? What to invest in? Where do I start?
I want to help make your investing path less time consuming and hazardous than mine was. I never envisioned making a single penny from Financial Thing but please know, by visiting my website and clicking on the ads or opening accounts through my links, you make a big difference in my life. Not only do you sometimes receive cashback bonuses or other offers, you are also helping me to live my dream of having a purposeful career while being of service to others. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
I hope you enjoy reading the articles as much as I enjoy writing them for you.
For anyone that is interested in a little personal background.
I grew up in Grimsby (yes, really) and Skegness (insert joke here)…
…before moving to Poole in Dorset when I was 13. I then became infatuated with America as a result of childhood obsessions with red Ford Mustang’s, The A-Team, Ponch (CHIPS) and WWF wrestling. In 1992, I packed my limited edition Hulk Hogan backpack and traveled to New York City where I had a Colin type experience, minus the American girls. I met two Scottish girls at JFK airport who told me to go to the top of the World Trade Center. At least I think that’s what they said (I still can’t understand the Scottish accent). That building I once stood on, marveling the sights of human creation, is now gone.
After two days of New York City sightseeing aboard an obligatory clichéd London double-decker bus, I headed off to the cultural shock capital of the world, Slippery Rock Pennsylvania, population 3,000. Slippery Rock was a dry town (no bars) so epic house parties were a nightly occurrence. Two years and many failed university classes later, I transferred to the University of South Florida, hoping to improve on my “C-” average. I graduated two years later with a degree in Communication, a degree I once thought to be useless. I now use this degree daily.
I still spend time in both sometimes sunny Poole, and mostly sunny Orlando. In my spare time, I write books about real estate, poker, write music and help others with financial coaching. My life goals are to give more than I take, retire at 60, and ride a motorcycle across beautiful terrain (not sure where yet). I am also the personal butler to a mini dachshund named Harley who likes to sleep on my head and distract me while I write.
If you have any questions about peer to peer lending, DIY investing, what to do in Skegness or anything else other than relationship advice, please feel free to contact me. 🙂
I am here to help.