What is a financial planner?
A financial planner or financial advisor is a qualified professional who can help individuals or corporations meet their long-term financial and investment goals. They do this by working out where their client stands in terms of assets (what they own), liabilities (what they owe), potential investment opportunities, and insurance to protect those assets and investment opportunities. They then outline a program for the client to follow in order to achieve their financial goals.
Common life stages when people might decide to see a financial planner include when they have kids, when they take on a mortgage or an investment property, or when they are approaching retirement.
What does a financial planner do?
A financial planner or financial advisor – surprise, surprise – offers advice. They can suggest many useful ways to ensure your assets won’t diminish in value and prevent your family from suffering undue hardship if you couldn’t earn your usual income due to illness or injury.
They can be your gateway to wealth protection. However, getting the most out of your meetings with a financial planner depends on how well prepared you are for those meetings.
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How to find a financial advisor
Checklist for your first meeting with a financial planner
|Things to think about regarding life insurance||Things to take with you to the meeting||What they should give you|
7 Step Checklist: What to ask when you meet with a financial planner
Step 1: Planner presents their credentials
Check their licensing credentials and Financial Services Guide (FSG), which should be listed on their website.
Tip: Only deal with a planner who is a licensed, authorised or certified representative. You can check a planner’s licensing records on www.asic.gov.au
They must also provide you with a Financial Services Guide (FSG) which states their relevant qualifications, licence number and the adviser’s fees.
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Step 2: You outline your current position and goals for the future
If you decide to go ahead and set up a meeting, the financial planner will need to find out more about you. They will ask all sorts of questions so they can get to know you and where you are at in life with your financial affairs. This process is often called the “fact finding” stage.
You will need to be prepared so that you can answer these questions. You might want to bring copies of your recent financial statements along to the meeting – bank account statements, credit cards, home loan, personal loan, car loan, HECS debt or study loan, superannuation fund statement, and life insurance details.
Tip: To ensure you get the most out of this first meeting, think about your financial goals or wish-list beforehand. Don’t just answer their questions about your current financial situation – tell them where you would like to be in terms of your finances.
It’s a time when you can evaluate the planner, not just answer their questions – make sure that you feel comfortable with them. According to the Financial Planning Association of Australia, a sure sign of a good financial planner is that they don’t rush you. They should listen carefully to you and clearly explain where they can and can’t help you.
Step 3: Planner identifies what you need to do to reach your goals
The financial planner will identify your needs and highlight any issues of concern.
Tip: This is a great time to ask questions, so don’t hold back. As they’re outlining things you need to consider, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification. After all, they’ve had a lifetime of studying and working in the financial field and you probably haven’t, so if you’re confused, shout out!
Step 4: Planner recommends a strategy to reach your goals
The financial planner will then prepare their strategy and recommendations for you. They may give you some indication of this at the time, but they won’t give you their recommendations in full until they have fully thought it out and written it up in an official document. They may post this to you and organise a second meeting for you to confirm whether you would like to implement the plan or make changes.
Tip: All recommendations must be (ASIC law) in the form of a “Statement of Advice” which is a written document. Ensure your planner provides this.
Step 5: Planner discusses their recommendations with you
At a second meeting, your financial planner will discuss their recommendations with you in greater detail, and you can then decide whether you want to proceed or not with implementing that plan.
Tip: Make sure you understand the recommendations fully before agreeing. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions.
Step 6: You sign the paperwork
If you decide to go ahead with the planner’s recommendations, you must sign the relevant documentation to implement and proceed with their recommendations. This will require filling out the relevant application paperwork for the types of products you are considering (e.g. insurance application, loan application, superannuation rollover request).
Tip: Take along or know your full health history, family history and doctor’s name & address details, as life insurance applications will ask all these sorts of questions.
Step 7: Review process
Your planner will review your financial situation on a regular basis.
Tip: Agree with your planner how often your review may be required, e.g. annually or half yearly.
Some questions to ask your financial planner on the day
- In or out of super, what are the tax implications and cost savings?
- Why should you pay more for ‘Own Occupation’ definition in TPD?
- What waiting period is best for my income protection? I currently have some in my super.
- Can the sick leave I have accrued help reduce the cost of cover?
- What lifestyle risks should I cover and are there others I should consider?
- Are level premiums better for me?
- How much cover does my spouse need?
- Can I cover the educational needs of my kids?