With constantly changing rules and regulations to taxation, investment and other financial matters, it is well worth seeking the services of a professional. A financial planner can help you understand your current financial situation, develop a strategy for your money and provide guidance on numerous issues.
A Certified Financial Planner with 13 years' experience in the industry, John Broughton is a principal advisor at his financial services firm. He said a financial planner, while dealing with tangible products and funds, could also provide intangible benefits. "We essentially help clients with meeting their goals," Mr Broughton said. "We can assist with taking the financial stress away for clients to give them peace-of-mind and feel more in control of their life."
This can be done by providing advice across the following areas: superannuation (including self-managed super funds), retirement (including Centrelink), investments (wealth creation), personal insurance (life/disability/income protection), debt management (including mortgage brokering), budgeting, cash-flow and aged care.
There are many advantages to engaging the services of a financial planner. "In practice I see two clear benefits for clients," Mr Broughton said. "One is that they can get ahead [financially] compared with how they might otherwise, through using strategies in which we are experts to achieve their goals.
"The second is that they have peace-of-mind knowing we are there to help look after their finances. People typically worry about money a lot if they don't feel in control of it."
Mr Broughton said anyone in any stage of life could get value from the advice of a financial planner, but typically people sought their services when they had "a particular need or significant life event coming up, like starting a family, buying a house or planning for retirement.
"In fact the earlier you can start planning your finances and setting goals, the more likely you will be able to achieve them at all stages of life. Financial planners can be an integral part of this process to educate clients and coach them along the way to ensure appropriate strategies are used to achieve their goals."
Not all financial advisors or planners have the same qualifications however, Mr Broughton warned. "The highest qualification is to be a Certified Financial Planner with the Financial Planning Association, which will generally mean the financial planner has a related university degree and a few years of specific study in financial planning to be highly knowledgeable across all areas of financial advice," he said.
"Financial planners can have as little as several weeks training, via the diploma of financial planning, to be qualified to give advice so it's important to check. The government is assisting with this where the new Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority regulations will bring all financial planners up to a much closer education standard to the CFP over the next few years, and will drive some financial planners, who don't meet these standards, out of the industry."
He noted clients should also ensure the planner has an Australian Financial Services Licence and ideally has several years' experience in the industry. "Once you have met the financial planner it is important you feel you have a good rapport with them, you can trust them and that they understand you and your needs," he said.
You should feel confident to ask your financial planner about anything, and if they are not qualified to answer, they will point you in the direction of someone who is. "A financial planner often acts as a pivotal role in that way," Mr Broughton noted.
Every financial planner will have a Financial Services Guide to provide information about their services and products. "They will give this to you at the time of the first meeting and often it will be available on their website."