Metfriendly new joiner Simon Horgan talks about why he’s passionate about helping police officers.
To help you understand why we’re the Met Police’s financial services provider of choice, we've been doing interviews with some of our team members to find out a bit more about them and their lives.
Today we're speaking to Simon, a Field Officer who joined us in August 2019. Here are a few facts about him:
- Simon has been helping police officers with money matters since 2006, providing guidance and information on a range of financial issues.
- He runs pension and retirement seminars and courses to help police officers make the most of their money.
- His areas of expertise include savings investments and tax.
- He has spent a lot of time speaking to new recruits about subjects like pensions and financial planning, and also worked closely with police federations to help members plan their financial futures.
We spoke to Simon about a range of subjects, from his personal career history to what he views as the most important financial considerations and priorities for police officers at the moment.
We also asked Simon to draw on his years of financial experience and offer some top tips for police officers and staff who want to improve their money management. You can see what he came up with at the end of the interview.
Metfriendly: You've worked closely with the police since 2006. Can you tell us about some of your experiences and career highlights from that time?
Simon: I've given presentations to the police on a wide range of financial topics, including pensions, tax codes, mortgages, protection, investments, all sorts of taxation, like inheritance tax, capital gains tax and income tax. I've also provided information on how to manage debt, ideas on how to save money and budgeting.
I've run new starter courses for new police officers joining the force, where I talked about pensions, tax codes, budgeting and making the most of your money. I also used to run retirement courses for officers thinking about their retirement options and things to consider.
Predominantly I've worked in a presenter role, talking to the police about all sorts of financial issues, depending on where they are in their careers. I've spoken to all ranks as well, from new PCs all the way up to senior commanders, so I've really spoken to everyone through the courses.
I was a tax adviser for a while and also a telephone and face-to-face financial adviser prior to working as a presenter from 2006, but when you start presenting you don't give advice, because obviously there could be 20 people in the room, and everyone is in a different situation.
M: How has your past experience prepared you for the work you do now at Metfriendly?
S: A lot of it is all positive transfer, because Metfriendly work with the police, we run the courses at Hendon for new recruits, and I've got years of experience in talking to new police officers, so it's a good fit. Also I speak at “Options”, the retirement seminars that we do.
I couldn't find a job that's better matched to what I was previously doing. My background has really prepared me well for working at Metfriendly.
M: What do you consider the most interesting and fulfilling aspects of your day-to-day work?
S: I just like people - I like talking to people, I like working within the police, and I like to impart my knowledge to make people feel more empowered to make financial decisions.
I used to be a tax adviser, so I was sitting at a computer looking at spreadsheets, and within an hour I was bored. Now I work with the police the days fly by, and before I know it it's time to go home. I'm not clock-watching, I enjoy what I do and I like educating members of the police family.
Police officers are very intelligent people who are in a stressful and demanding job, so when it comes to finance, they appreciate that extra guidance and help that we can provide. It's very rewarding when you leave for the day and you've helped a lot of people reach their personal financial goals.
They've got a lot going on as police officers, so when they get home it's nice if they understand things a little bit better and feel more empowered to make financial decisions, whether it's about their pension or starting a savings policy.
I was at Hendon recently and five officers came up to me and said: "Thanks for that, I've been overpaying tax and I've never realised. I'm going to claim all that back." I really enjoy that - I'm very much a people person.
At the same time I'm a natural finance-type - I love maths and I'm very financially minded, but I can't just sit in a room with that financial knowledge, I like to impart it. I like to run courses and help officers understand things, it's extremely rewarding.
M: What do you think are the most significant trends taking place in the UK at the moment, as far as police officers' finances are concerned?
S: I went to a World Mental Health Day awareness event recently, and I was quite shocked by the mental health concerns raised in the presentation. One in four of us will have a mental health condition, and the biggest killer of men under 40 is suicide - I couldn't believe it.
There were lots of guest speakers coming on, and members of the police family stood up and said they had considered suicide. One of the guest speakers said we know who tries to kill themselves, we've got the figures, but we don't always know the triggers.
Sometimes it's caused by things like family issues, but another common reason is financial worries. We know that people kill themselves for all manner of reasons, but I did sit there and wonder how many suicides are a result of financial worries.
Every single case of debt is solvable - every single case. So after leaving that presentation, my biggest question was, how many mental health issues are related to financial worries like paying a mortgage and debt issues?
I don't know the answer to that, but I do wonder, going forward, if police officers totally understand their financial position and they're happy with budgeting, making the most of their money, shopping around for deals, really giving themselves as much disposable income as they can, could it alleviate mental stress? You can't help but think that may be the case. One of the biggest challenges is educating officers.
Another big thing that I've picked up on over the years is, if you speak to a police officer who is not on the property ladder, that is their biggest focus: getting on the property ladder. Obviously we can help with the Lifetime ISA, and I feel very passionately about that, because I think it's a wonderful vehicle to get officers on.
If I took 100 young officers now and asked them what was their biggest objective over the next five to ten years, they would all tell me they want to get on the property ladder. I think they get very frustrated if they're in the rent trap, so if we can offer them a solution, and sit down and educate them about subjects like mortgages, it's good for their financial and personal wellbeing.
Also, stats have shown that the subject people find hardest to talk about with their partners is money, so it all links back to financial welfare being so important for officers.
M: You have a young family yourself - do you have any particular savings priorities of your own at the moment?
S: I want to make sure that my children, Max and Sophie, if they want to go to university, that the financial burden is taken care of. I was speaking to one superintendent recently and he had the same view: he wanted his children to go to university, but he said he wasn't going to tell them he was going to clear the fees until after they had finished studying!
If your children want to go to university, let them go and take out student loans, but if I've got a vehicle in place to take away the debt at the end, psychologically that's very reassuring. Or they might be able to use that money for a house deposit.
If you've got young children and when they turn 17 or 18 you want to buy them a car, or pay for driving lessons, if you only start thinking about it a year before it's going to be quite expensive. If you start putting a little bit away as early as possible, it takes away the stress because you've got a lot more time to build up the savings.
Giving the kids a lump sum in the future for university costs is important to me, and possibly a car, depending on how they turn out!
M: In your view, what is the biggest advantage Metfriendly can offer when it comes to helping members make the most of their money and prepare for the future?
S: We understand the police. We only deal with police officers and their families.
All the people I speak to now are police officers, and I understand things like the group pension scheme and what tax code they should be on. We have that in-depth knowledge because it's the only market we deal with.
Also, we have products that are purely tailored towards the police. So in the case of a young officer, we'll talk about the Lifetime ISA for example, in terms of protection we have the income protection plan which beautifully complements the Police Federation's Reg 28 - it's a perfect fit.
We update our website with relevant information, so for example when the new pay rise was announced, we sent out emails to inform officers. We can completely tailor everything for the police family.
We're extremely competitive. I come from a finance background, where I was setting up investment products, life cover products and critical illness policies, and I thought I found good prices, but at Metfriendly the products are so competitive.
Also I think a lot of people have lost trust in banks. It's a sad thing to say, but with things like the PPI issue, people don't want to talk to banks and they've dented their trust.
People are looking for savings and investments with companies they trust, and that's why I think Metfriendly stand out, because it's a brand people can trust.
Simon's top financial tips
Simon came up with some ”top tips” for police officers and staff in all sorts of areas, from budgeting to borrowing. Here are some of his top tips, in his own words:
- Set a budget and stick to it
"I like to talk about budgeting and the importance of keeping within your budget - working out a budget can prompt us to look around for better deals and make any changes to our spending habits. If we can reduce outgoings, we're effectively getting a pay rise.
"Treat your non-essential spending (coffees, lunches, entertainment, takeaways) the same way you reduce your essential outgoings (gas, electricity, mobile phones, insurance).
"Most people will use comparison tools, switching or other methods to make sure they pay less on their bills. This area is usually hidden spending and we sometimes don't realise how much we're spending on certain things. Something as small as a daily coffee can add up to hundreds of pounds over the course of a year."
- Check your tax code, especially if you're new to the job
"It’s not uncommon for tax codes to be wrong and we just assume it's correct. It's important people know the codes to avoid and have an understanding of the right tax code and how it's made up.
"If you're in receipt of a dual income, for example, do you understand what tax codes you should be on? This is an area that so many get wrong and it can be costly."
- Understand the dangers of credit cards
"The temptation can be high to buy certain things on credit cards, but if you spend £3,000 and only make minimum repayments, it will take over 20 years to repay!
"For regular events like MOTs, car servicing, holidays and Christmas, start to think about paying for them before they happen to reduce the financial stress.
"If you have the savings, great. If not, try to put a little bit away every month into a separate account so when the event comes along, you have the money to pay for it, rather than putting it on a credit card."
- Get to grips with your pension
"Understand the pension scheme you're in and how this falls into your long-term financial planning. It's important to know that the pension percentages quoted are from your gross pay and you obtain tax relief at 20% or 40%, depending on how much tax you pay.
"Also, it's good to have an understanding of all the other benefits connected to the pension scheme, like life cover, tax relief, ill health pension and employer contributions.
"You should understand your pension income and how this differs from earned income, as a lot of officers make mistakes here."
- Keep track of your savings in terms of inflation
"If you're working for 30 or 40 years, it's important to save some lump sums in the first third of your career to pay for certain life events, such as bringing up children, a wedding, car or house deposits or celebrating a special birthday.
"It helps to have a real understanding of inflation and how this affects long-term planning for the future. The Government has a target of 2%, however many things go up by more than 2% - train fares, council tax etc, so are our savings actually keeping pace with inflation? £100,000 today is a lot of money, but 25 years ago it would have bought two houses, so you need to understand how inflation can impact on your savings in the long term."
Team members like Simon - who combine an in-depth knowledge of finance with a desire to help police officers reach their financial goals and make the most of their money - are critical to what we do here at Metfriendly.
If you'd like to speak with Simon about the products and services we offer, you can book a one-to-one consultation.