As someone who has been in the financial services industry for more than 20 years, I have seen the best and the worst when it comes to financial advice and financial advisers.
High quality advice from an advice professional can genuinely be life changing; however, poor or unethical financial advice can be completely life destroying.
For me, financial advice is about making you feel supported through a significant life event or stage and, more generally, leaving you and your loved ones more financially secure. It’s the reason people like me get out of bed every morning.
One of the first questions people ask me when they find out what I do is “How do I pick an adviser?” or “Can you recommend an adviser to me?”. So here are my top five tips for finding the right adviser for you.
Ask your super fund
Start your search for an adviser with a profit-for-member or industry super fund. If the advice you require is about planning for your retirement and you have no other assets other than your home and your super, then intrafund advice could be all you need.
Almost all super funds offer intrafund advice to their members and the cost is either included within the membership fee or a small fee is deducted from your account to cover the advice cost. This advice is intended to be simple and to maximise your outcomes in retirement.
If you believe you need advice about more complex financial issues such as possible Centrelink entitlements, an investment property, estate planning, aged care or whether a self-managed super fund might be right for you, then you’ll need comprehensive advice. This comes at a cost and you will be required to pay a fee for the service provided to you.
Fees vary; however, in my experience, $3000 seems to be the average. Most super funds will allow a fee-for-service to be deducted from your super account for any advice that is directly related to your superannuation and retirement planning.
This is important as it means you don’t have to pay the full cost of the advice upfront, which many Australians struggle to afford.
Ask for someone who passes the ‘nanna test’
If you need comprehensive advice, ask your super fund if they can refer you to an adviser they have pre-vetted. At Sunsuper we do very thorough background checks of any advisers we refer our members to.
We describe it as making sure they pass the “nanna test”. It’s all well and good that they have the qualifications, a clean complaints history and operate fee-for-service, but we’ve learnt that the most important component of all is values alignment. In medical terms it is often described as “bedside manner”.
We find advisers who share our values, who are empathetic, non-judgmental and who are great listeners.
We like advisers who don’t need to show how clever they are, but are more interested in what success looks like for their clients and how money makes their clients feel. Our biggest test is: would we personally recommend them to a family, friend or our Nanna.
Meet with at least two advisers before you commit. Most Australians have had little exposure to financial advisers and don’t know what to expect.
Going on a couple of initial fact-finding meetings, just like a first date, will help you enormously when deciding what you like and don’t like, and what you need and don’t need in terms of the scope of financial advice.
These initial appointments are generally complimentary and only require you to give as much information as you feel comfortable giving.
Ask questions about the types of clients the adviser helps and ask them to provide some client case studies about how they’ve helped people like you. Most importantly, make sure you get a defined quote for the cost of the advice they’ll be providing.
Only pay for what you need
If you only need “moment-in-time” advice for a particular life stage or event, that’s fine, but equally be prepared to invest in ongoing advice if you think it’s needed.
Do something! Our research has shown that a young couple that gets financial advice today could be up to $240,000 better off in retirement.
Obviously it’s important to do your research when finding the right financial adviser for you and your situation – and I hope these tips help you – but the most important thing is to act.
A financial adviser is like a personal trainer, they’ll help hold you accountable to the goals you’ve set yourself – and make sure you follow through.