Why I use a financial planner

On 12 December 2017, I will have been working in the financial services sector for 50 years.

With all that experience you would think I had all the answers and didn’t need to use a financial planner. I should by now, know everything I need to know to ensure I have my money under control and a very fat superannuation balance.

However, I am sure you have heard the story of the plumber who has leaking taps, and the painter whose house needs painting.

Some years ago I bit the bullet and decided I needed a financial planner.

I knew all the theory. In fact, I can recite the benefits of dollar-cost-averaging and compound interest in my sleep.

But despite knowing the theory, I needed discipline. I needed someone who could guide me and make me accountable for the decisions I wanted to make. Like a sounding board – a counsellor.

Selecting a financial planner is not necessarily an easy process. I had specific needs.

I needed someone who could keep me on the straight and narrow, someone who would challenge me when it became necessary, and someone who experienced financial success in their own life. Not ‘in your face’ wealthy, but someone who was financially comfortable and had mastered their own work/life balance.

Someone who practised what they preached.

And they had to be younger than me, or someone who at least had a robust business succession plan in place – as I didn’t want a planner who would be retiring when my wife and I needed them most.

On top of all that, I needed to find someone my wife was comfortable to deal with, and someone who could guide her if there came a time when I was no longer around.

As I work in financial services, I have access to a vast number of financial planners – many of them excellent at what they do and each with their own very loyal clients.

But my search lead me to one particular adviser. Someone I have known and respected for a number of years.

Most of our modest family wealth is held in our family home, and in superannuation. We are typical Australians in that regard.

When looking for a financial planner, I didn’t need someone who could tell me about salary sacrificing into super, making spouse contributions, claiming the government low-income co-contribution, or even the benefits of commencing a transition to retirement pension.

What I needed was someone who could guide me on investment selection. What managed funds should I be using, what shares should I be buying, and the fixed interest and hybrid securities to consider?

At the time I first engaged with my financial planner, I had a self-managed superannuation fund. Why? I am not really sure.

The SMSF has now gone and, on my adviser’s recommendation, I am using a public offer super fund that gives me access to all the same investments I could access through an SMSF but without me having to do a heap of additional compliance work. And the current super fund has ended up being cheaper to run than my SMSF.

A couple of weeks ago I met with my financial planner for our review.

Now, we didn’t need to discuss the investment returns as I keep on top of that through my online access to my account. But we did discuss the state of the market and general concerns about the investment decisions that might need to be made in the coming weeks and months. On a more global basis, we discussed the outlook for both the Australian and international sharemarkets.

However, the dominant conversation revolved around what my wife and I wanted to do with our lives, rather than with our finances.

Given my circumstances, the conversation naturally turned to our retirement plans.

Anyone who knows me well will know that I enjoy my work. But I am often asked when I intend to retire.

When this question comes up, I am really good at ‘kicking the can down the street’. By that, I mean I either brush the question off or say something vague like ‘in a couple of years’. It is quite confronting and frankly, it is something I don’t really want to think about at this stage.

After chatting about this with our financial planner, things became very clear in my mind.

If I enjoy my work and my life, and if I am able to continue to deliver a quality service to my clients, then why should I have a fixed retirement date in mind? After our conversation, I felt liberated.

No doubt there will come a time when I will say ‘I have had enough’, or I feel I am no longer adding value, or I now want to do other ‘stuff’, but until that day comes, I will continue to do exactly what I enjoy doing. The fact I am paid a salary to do it is an added bonus.

Having a financial planner who is willing to have some of the more awkward conversations is, to me, where the value lies in the relationship. They are a counsellor or coach first, and a financial planner second. To me, my financial planner is worth their weight in gold!

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