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Marriage, divorce, single parenthood, being gay and cancer made me a fighter

Marriage, divorce, single parenthood, being gay and cancer made me a fighter

Kath Wilkinson

I had a little bit of a thing for a female teacher at school at 15, but I thought everybody went through that.

For my generation, there was little information available for LGBTI people and no internet.

A few years later I was working for a large financial institution and got that same feeling about a member of staff. But I tried to block it from my mind, as I was dating a soldier.

After Bosnia, my soldier became an aggressive man

A man in uniform is supposed to be every girl’s dream. To be honest, I didn’t feel that way. But I went along with it as everyone appeared to be so happy for me.

I now know I was conforming to society to keep everyone happy. That was what people tended to do then. After all, there were no real role models for an alternative life.

So I married the soldier, and within weeks he was sent to Bosnia, to fight.

He had a very serious head injury following an accident there. And that took my life in a slightly different direction. I had to nurse him, and fight for recognition for his bravery and compensation for his injuries.

But the soldier had changed from my husband to an aggressive man.

During this time, I also got myself pregnant with him. I would say this was the only positive because 21 years on, I have the most amazing son. And my son has been my total inspiration to be the successful business woman I am today.

Within a year of my son being born, my husband was having an affair with one of his nurses. He was quite aggressive with both myself and my son. So now was the time for my boy and I to build a new life.

My parents were horrendous, it felt like I had shattered their lives

Years went by and I was working again in a large financial organisation when somebody caught my eye. There was something about this woman I was attracted to. And I knew all those feelings I had when I was younger were real and made me feel happy. This was the deciding moment for me, when I realized I am gay.

What would my family possibly think of me if I was to tell them? How would this affect my sons life? How would my friends react? What on earth would my clients think?

My son was fantastic and still is very supportive in every way. He is very clever and I am sure will be a household name someday. My friends were great and said they knew anyway.

But my parents were horrendous. And when you are a close family and you feel like you have completely shattered their lives, it’s not easy.

Because my parents are a major part of both mine and my son’s life, I found myself living two separate lives to protect them.

It’s only now, 15 years down the line, that I feel they kind of accept it. We never talk about the fact that I have a partner, but they get on very well with her and she is a major part of all our lives.

‘Who is going to take advice from a single mom?’

Being a financial adviser, I was in a very male dominated industry. It still is to a degree. It’s always been an uphill battle, especially being a single mum, let alone a gay one.

I remember a certain gentlemen interviewing me and asking ‘who is going to take advice from a single mom, with short hair and an earring in the top of her ear?’

Boy did I make him eat his words, as 12 months later I was the top performing financial adviser in that organization across the whole of the UK. I continued to be so, for the next 10 years.

The secret of my success is that I build long, trusting, face-to-face relationships. My wealth management clients sometimes have virtually nothing. But I believe in them and help them move in the right direction.

Helping them helped me, there’s nothing more satisfying than feeling you have changed an individual’s life for the better.

Cancer taught me to live for today but plan for a long future

But it was something bad which happened which triggered the next big change in my life.

I had a run of bad health and had to have several operations after suffering with a cancerous tumour in my neck. I decided that was it, I was going to be proud of the person I had become. After marriage, divorce, single parenthood, being gay and cancer, I was a fighter, and I was a survivor.

For years I told my clients to live for today but plan for a long future. Now it made new sense to me, after my own health scare.

It was time to make that big leap and set up my own wealth management business. I did that by becoming a partner in St James’s Place. This means all my clients feel the love and guidance of a small business, along with the security and expertise of a large one.

Today, my business is a success. But I still help people the same way I always have. I draw

seven bubbles on a piece of paper, mapping out my clients lives. And over the years, we grow those bubbles bigger. It works. From being able to save £150 per month to investing millions I can help.

Many of us LGBTIs have started planning late but we can still help

Now I’ve decided to focus on supporting LGBTI clients in particular. I’ve found many of us have had journeys like mine, and may not have planned properly for their future.

For some of us, it was hard to imagine the kind of life we now enjoy as out and proud LGBTIs. Because we didn’t know we’d end up here, we haven’t planned for today.

Many of us have started planning late or not at all. And we may find that enjoying an LGBTI retirement can be more expensive. That’s especially the case if we dream of retiring somewhere with a vibrant community.

I’m proud to be launching the first specialist LGBTI Financial Planning operation in Manchester and the North West. I’m working with Equality Wealth to bring their LGBTI expertise to my clients too.

Join the Equality Wealth event in Manchester

To start us off, we’re running a launch event on 6.30pm on Tuesday 10 October at the LGBT Foundation in Manchester to discuss LGBTI retirement. Equality Wealth wants to help the community and individuals and we’ll be introducing how we will do that.

If you’d like to attend this or other events, please register here and you can also register for the free retirement guide.

Kath Wilkinson is a partner advisor for Equality Wealth, specialist advisors to the LGBTI community. If you’d like Kath’s help or advice on your finances, you can contact her here.

Equality Wealth is a Gay Star News client.