Money may not buy happiness, but a sense of control over your finances, and working towards reaching your goals, just might.
Good financial advice can help with this, by giving you the opportunity to make the most of any money you earn in your lifetime – whether that’s a little or a lot.
It's never too early, or too late, to see a financial adviser. Here’s a bit more about what expect and how to prepare.
How a financial adviser can help
An adviser is like a personal coach for your money. They bring the knowledge, expertise and guidance to identify your financial goals and help you reach them.
They’ll spend some time with you up front to understand who you are and what you’d like to achieve, taking into account your entire financial situation. Then, they can tailor a plan to help you get there.
You can choose how involved you’d like an adviser to be. You may only want to meet with them when something happens that causes you to reconsider your finances, like buying a house or starting a family, or you may want a more comprehensive, long term plan.
Here are some of the specific ways a financial adviser can help:
Debt and cashflow
Form a strategy to help you better manage your debts and expenses, so you can make the most of the money you have.
Explain how different types of insurance work, what they cover you for, and help put in place the right amount of protection in case things don’t go according to plan.
Explain different types of investments, and help you choose those which will best help you reach your goals and fit with your appetite for risk.
Super and retirement
Help you work out which super fund is right for you and advise about your super investment options, or help you set up a self-managed super fund. If you know the type of retirement you’d like to have, they can recommend ways to help you achieve it.
What to expect when meeting a financial adviser
It’s always a good idea to think about your current personal and financial situation and future goals before working towards a plan to achieve them.
It’s also important to be honest and as accurate as possible so your adviser can give you the most relevant advice.
When you meet with an adviser, the steps they’ll take are:
- identify and agree on the advice you need
- collect information and discuss costs upfront
- define your goals and current position
- look at your attitude towards risk
- consider your options
- provide recommendations in writing
- discuss and agree on recommendations
- implement recommendations
- review your objectives and finances to make sure you stay on track.
Your personal and financial situation
Your adviser may ask questions about your circumstances depending on your goals and motivations for seeking advice, so it helps to take any documents along with you, related to things such as:
- mortgage or rental payments
- assets, such as property, cars, savings
- debts, such as personal loans or credit card balances
- family situation, such as number and ages of dependents
- career, employment and earnings
- spending habits and expenses
- insurance cover
- super balance
- retirement plans.
It’s also helpful to take some time to think about your goals before the meeting. Your financial goals could be long-term, short-term or both, and may include things like:
- Setting your kids up for the future
- Saving for your retirement
- Buying an investment property
Your expectations and the costs
You should also discuss whether you’d like their advice to cover one aspect of your life, or your finances more broadly. The range of advice to be provided is referred to as the ‘scope of advice’ and is an agreement between the adviser and yourself. The adviser must ensure that the scope of advice addresses your goals, objectives and needs and they must discuss this with you prior to proceeding.
Setting these guidelines clearly will also help the adviser to provide information about the cost of their advice.
While the initial meeting with an adviser may be free of charge, the costs after that vary depending on the complexity of the advice, frequency of advice and the types of financial products recommended.
The statement of advice
Using the information gathered at the first meeting and further research, the adviser will put together a written document called a ‘statement of advice’ with detailed recommendations to help you achieve your goals. You’ll have to pay for the statement of advice, and the costs will be explained to you and provided in writing before you agree to proceed.
If your adviser has recommended any products as part of their advice, they’ll provide you with the Product Disclosure Statement, which outlines the product’s features and charges. All advisers must only provide recommendations to products that are in your best interests (not theirs). This is called Best Interest Duty and you will see information about the research they’ve done and why they chose the product in your statement of advice. It’s recommended that you review the product and strategy in detail at home and only agree to commit if you fully understand it.
Once you’ve put a financial plan in place, reviewing it annually is important to make sure it continues to meet your needs and goals, which are likely to change over time. Be aware that an ongoing service fee will be applied for these reviews.
How to find a financial adviser
You could seek recommendations from family, friends, or colleagues, from another finance professional such as your solicitor or accountant (if you have one), or contact an industry association such as the Financial Planning Association or the Association of Financial Advisers.
Once you’ve got a shortlist, you can find information about their qualifications, training, professional memberships, where they’ve worked and what areas they can advise you on, using ASIC’s Moneysmart financial advisers register.
It’s a good idea to interview a shortlist of advisers before making a final decision. After all, you want to be working with someone you like and trust.
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