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The service we offer is what is referred to as a “holistic” financial planning service.

Most people don’t go to see an adviser to talk about managed funds or insurance, they want to talk to someone about money. People want to know what to do about their mortgage, they want to know if they are paying too much for their car loan, they want to know if their existing investments are all appropriate and only occasionally do they want to know where the adviser thinks they should invest the money they have saved up in a bank account.

Large numbers of advisers offer a somewhat less than holistic service. In order to earn any money out of a client they need to sell them a managed fund or insurance policy and generally speaking they receive no money at all for giving any kind of advice other than funds and insurance (or occasionally mortgages).

This means many financial advisers tend to specialise in a very limited range of services, and give practically no attention to the rest of it. It also gives rise to a common belief by many members of the public that financial advisers are just investment advisers and that every service a financial planner does can be bought more cheaply via a discount broker giving nil entry fees on managed funds.

Actually, investments are a fairly minor part of personal finances. For most people while there may be some potential to add a bit of performance in the long term with a better superannuation policy, the best strategy to use is often just to focus on mortgage reduction. Getting rid of your non-tax deductible debts is usually a better investment after tax than investing your money in almost anything else.

A common question that people ask me is how much money do they need to invest for me to want them as a client. For a number of advisers that would be a valid question to ask. Since these advisers only deal with managed funds or superannuation, and since many of those advisers operate on a commission basis obviously the adviser would need a client to have a certain amount of money to invest in order for the commission to be worth the work.

The big difference between these advisers and holistic advisers is that for the latter the amount of money you want to invest really doesn’t matter. It is possible to write a valuable financial plan for someone with no money to invest at all, and this plan could be of great benefit to the client.

A holistic financial planner isn’t specifically there to get you into managed funds because many goals can’t be solved with managed funds (or other investments).

What sort of goals could these be?

  • Do you need guidance in forming a realistic budget?
  • Do you know what type of mortgage is best for your needs?
  • Do you know how you can get your mortgage paid off more quickly, and should you, or should you invest elsewhere?
  • Do you need insurance, if so, should you buy it through your superannuation fund?
  • Are you invested in an appropriate superannuation fund, or if you can’t choose your super fund are you at least invested in an appropriate investment option?
  • Are there any simple and fairly conservative ways to save tax?
  • Would you benefit from salary packaging? Do you know how it works?
  • Are you getting all of your social security entitlements?
  • Do you know if you are doing the right thing with your estate planning? Have you set up the nominations for your super fund correctly to the right people, do you need a Will, do you need something more than just a simple Will?
  • If you run a business or are in a profession, have you done all you can to structure your affairs in a manner that limits the risk of litigation or business losses costing your family home?
  • Does your business have a succession plan, would you like to know what is involved?
  • Do you want to get married or divorced, have children, choose a nursing home for an invalid relative, change jobs etc and you want to know how these things affect tax and tax offsets (rebates), social security entitlements, insurance, estate planning etc?
  • Do you want a second opinion on an investment or strategy that another adviser has offered you?
  • If you have no money to invest, but have equity in your home, is it really a good idea to borrow against your home to start an investment portfolio, including buying a rental property?
  • If you are soon to graduate university or about to be promoted, would you like expert guidance on setting goals so when you do get the money you’ll already know what to do with it?
  • Do you just want to know approximately how much you ought to be saving in order to retire when you want to on the income you want? Do you know how much the Age Pension pays, when you can get it, how to qualify for it, and how much extra funds you need to live off, even though you are still many years from retirement?
  • Is your job security low, and you want to know how to set up an emergency reserve just in case?
  • Would you like a coach who can teach you to invest, giving private lessons in what to look for in stocks and funds, suggesting books to read, showing you how to read financial statements and value companies?

Getting advice on one or two of these things is “limited advice”. If you want advice on several or more of these you quite quickly get to a document of such complexity that it constitutes a financial plan. My comprehensive plan covers all of these things, in addition to the investment advice you normally expect to receive from an adviser. Holistic advisers don’t need “high net worth” clients to make money. It doesn’t particularly matter if you haven’t got any money to invest now.

It is actually better to have a comprehensive plan in place before you have money. I’ve done financial plans (at concessional rates) for university students about to graduate. It is a good start to have a financial plan in place before you start to earn the big income, it can save you from 20 years of mistakes and give you a somewhat more considered view of how much you need to be saving right now, before you make too many overzealous purchases. The financial plan can readily be designed from a long term strategic point of view, with estimates of how much you need to save to retire at a given date, and with some judgement if the whole scenario is realistic.

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