Client Profile: Peter & Geraldine Birleson
Peter has kindly written the article below on their family, working life, retirement and their experiences as clients of GFM Wealth Advisory since 2008. We greatly appreciate Peter’s contribution to Trade Secrets.
Geraldine and I became clients of GFM in July 2008, the year before the Global Financial Crisis hit the Australian share market. This was an uncomfortable time and we are still grateful that we were so well supported then by the GFM team. Our hearts had sunk in February 2009 as the ASX fell by 54% and superannuation valuations dropped by a significant amount, but the GFM team reminded us about previous market corrections and the course of inevitable market recovery. Indeed, markets have since climbed back and most of our investments have done very well, but it was very nerve racking at the time. We remain grateful to the GFM team whose support enables us to be much more relaxed about our finances, as well as providing sensible advice and looking after all the compliance and paperwork involved in managing our SMSF.
I retired in 2010 at the age of 63 years, while Geraldine had retired three years earlier aged 60. Both of us worked in the Health sector, Geraldine as a part-time GP in Croydon. She also did most of the work in raising our three children while I had focused more on my job – being a typical adult male raised in the 1950s and 60s. We had migrated to Melbourne from Edinburgh in 1981 where we met while studying Medicine.
I had just completed specialist training in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, and took up my first consultant post at the Royal Children’s Hospital here. We came over to look at somewhere warmer than Scotland, and after a year here liked Australia so much that we stayed. Flying across the world with three children aged six years, four years and four months was quite an adventure, made more interesting by the fact that our arranged accommodation fell through just before we set off. However, friends helped us to survive that challenge and we now enjoy a quiet retirement in Canterbury. Our grown up children have left home to live their own lives and we have five lovely grand-children so far – three girls and two boys.
Work as a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist was always challenging. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry is the Cinderella of Health Services, not well-enough funded or supported by governments and often under-valued and poorly understood by other medical specialties. This is surprising when we know that 50% of all life-time mental disorders are first evident by the age of 14 years, so early intervention seems wise. Despite this, working with children, adolescents and their families was a great privilege as my clients taught me much about life, resilience and courage. In 1994, I left the Royal Children’s Hospital to take on the role of Director of Travancore Child and Family Centre and enrolled in a health services management course at RMIT to learn how to manage a service properly and make my service as effective and efficient as possible. This role at Travancore led to a secondment to the Health Department to review the Victorian Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) System and write the policy directions for the Victorian Child and Adolescent Mental Health System.
In 2006, I was encouraged to return to the Royal Children’s Hospital to be Director of Psychiatry and Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Melbourne. During this time I was pleased to increase service efficiency and service outputs there, but changes in the Hospital leadership meant that promises of increased research funding and support for a more integrated mental health service suddenly disappeared, so retirement seemed more attractive. Luckily, by then we had become clients of GFM on the advice of my accountant. The importance of being money-wise had only dawned on me when I was about 50 years old, at which time I decided to buy a few shares and subscribe to Ian Huntley’s ‘My Money Weekly’ to better understand the ‘stock market’ and financial services. Through buying and selling a few stocks every year and following the market, I had accumulated a useful nest egg as well as acquiring useful financial knowledge. When I met with GFM, I was impressed by the confidence and experience of their team and took their advice to establish a SMSF with money transferred from my previous super fund, my own shares and an inheritance from Geraldine’s parents.
Geraldine doesn’t take an active interest in how our finances work, and is happy to leave me to attend review appointments and various educational seminars, but she does see the wisdom of the major joint decisions we’ve made over the years. She prefers to invest her time into activities like horse-riding, wrangling grand-children, walking, travelling, movies and learning Spanish and Mandarin. But, we are both delighted with the personal level of advice and support we have experienced at GFM, which has blended friendliness with professionalism. As someone who believes in the concept and practice of lifelong learning, goal-setting and outcome measurement, I have found a very good match with GFM. I’m very pleased to recommend GFM to anyone who wants to play an active, but not onerous part in running an SMSF, so they can focus most of their time on doing the things they always wanted to do in retirement.