General advice is no advice at all

Posted on 26 April 2019
General advice is no advice at all

(Money and Life)

Are all types of advice about financial products in your best interests? According to a recent ASIC report, the 'general' and 'personal' labels make it hard to know what type of financial advice you're getting.

Thanks to a new research report from ASIC, we may be seeing a much needed change in how different types of financial advice are understood by consumers. For many years, anyone working in the financial services industry has been required to describe advice services as 'general advice' or 'personal financial advice'.

But according to the ASIC findings, these terms are confusing to say the least. Their research shows that while 53% of customers could correctly identify general advice, only 19% could identify personal advice.

What's the difference?

As well as signalling the need for clearer communication on different types of advice, the research also throws up even bigger warnings concerning customer expectations of advice they're receiving.

So what are the differences between these two advice categories?

General advice does not take personal financial circumstances into account and you must be provided with a warning to this effect. So when recommending a product or service under a general advice arrangement, a financial services provider is not required by law to make a recommendation that best serves your interests.

Personal advice on the other hand must be based on a careful review of your financial position and goals and consider your best interests at all times. There are in place to make sure personal advice meets these requirements. These same regulations don't apply to general advice.

What needs to change

ASIC's Mind the Gap report highlights just how alarming customer confusion about different types of advice is. When acting on general advice, they might expect to benefit from consumer protections that simply don't apply.

"This disturbing gap in understanding whether the advice they are getting is personal or not means many consumers are under the false premise their interests are being prioritised, when no such protection exists," said ASIC Deputy Chair, Karen Chester.

The report also notes the increasing number of complex financial products provided under a general advice arrangement, leading to greater potential for customers to make choices that put their finances at risk. "ASIC is seeing increased sales of complex financial products under general advice models so not tailored to personal circumstances leaving many consumers, especially retirees, exposed to the potential risk of financial loss," says Chester.

This confusion about different types of advice was also flagged in a recent Productivity Commission report on competition in the financial services industry. In a submission to the Productivity Commission, the Financial Planning Association (FPA), included a number of recommendations designed to ensure clients can be clear about whether they're receiving the best advice for their circumstances.

The most important of these recommendations included:

  • Only using the term 'advice' when the financial service and recommendations provided take into consideration personal circumstances.
  • Renaming general advice to remove the confusion. The FPA suggested 'general product information' or 'financial product information' as alternative phrases.
  • All licenses and regulations that currently apply to general advice should remain in place, regardless of the name change.
  • The renamed 'general advice' services should continue to carry a clear warning that information provided is not financial advice.
  • A product recommendation without understanding your goals, objectives and financial situation is not personal advice.

What to look for

There are all sorts of life stages and events we go through and the right financial advice can have a significant impact on how we experience these changes.

"Australians are looking for support with things like debt management, cash flow and budgeting," says Dante De Gori, CEO for the FPA. "It's essential that more people seek the help they need with these financial challenges because getting it right can set them up for a more secure future."

That's why it's so important to understand the difference between personal financial advice and general advice. A product or service recommended in a general advice context might seem to be a good option for your situation. But without knowing what the alternatives are, you may not be making the choice that's in your best interests, now and in the longer term.

So how do you know what is and isn't personal financial advice? Here are a few guidelines to help you understand what to expect from a personal financial advice service:

  • Personal financial advice can only be provided by an individual, not a financial institution.
  • The person providing advice must be a qualified financial planner listed on the Financial Adviser Register. All FPA members are qualified financial planners and you can use the FPA Find a Planner search to find one near you.
  • Personal financial advice will always include a Statement of Advice (SOA), with a number of recommendations tailored to your circumstances.

Want to make sure the financial advice you're getting is right for your situation? Here are five questions to ask a financial planner to make sure they're qualified to provide the advice you're looking for.

Posted in: News  

Budget's winners and losers

Posted on 5 April 2019
Budget's winners and losers

(Australian Associated Press)

WINNERS

Taxpayer - $158 billion of additional tax relief for those earning up to $126,000 a year

West Australians - Rules around $69 billion GST revenue distribution to the states have changed, with WA the main beneficiary

Older energy users - $285 million to help almost four million Australian pensioners and others cover their energy bills

Job Seekers - 80,000 new apprenticeships announced and extra 1.25 million jobs over the next five years

Small Business - Instant asset write-off increased to $30,000 and expanded to businesses with a turnover of up to $50 million

Sports Women - $150 million funding package for women's sport

Farmers - $6.3 billion in drought support and $3.3 billion for those affected by floods

The sick - $80 billion for better access to life-changing equipment, services and medicines

Schools - $300 billion for upgrades to libraries, classrooms and play equipment

LOSERS

Big Banks - $600 million boost for financial regulators ASIC and APRA to deal with banking royal commission fallout

Terrorists - $570 million boost for national security agencies and $328 million to fund prevention, response and recovery initiatives

Tax and welfare cheats - The Tax Office and other agencies to crack down on welfare cheats and tax dodging

Migrants - Migration cap to be reduced to 160,000 from 190,000

Posted in: News  

A summary of the 2019 Federal Budget

Posted on 4 April 2019
A summary of the 2019 Federal Budget

(Australian Associated Press)

ECONOMY

  • Budget surplus forecast of $7.1 billion, the first in 12 years
  • Surplus forecast rising to $11 billion In 2020-21 and then $17.8 billion in 2021-22 before dropping to $9.2 billion in 2022-23
  • Goal of eliminating Commonwealth net debt by 2030 or sooner
  • Economic growth as measured by GDP to rise to 2.75 per cent
  • Unemployment rate steady at 5.0 per cent
  • Inflation as measured by CPI to be 2.25 per cent

TAXATION

  • $158 billion of additional tax relief for those earning up to $126,000 a year
  • Up to $1,080 in savings for single income families and up to $2,160 for dual income families.
  • Tax rate lowered from 32.5 per cent to 30 per cent from July 2024 for all taxpayers earning between $45,000 and $200,000

SMALL BUSINESS

  • Tax rates cut to 25 per cent by 2021-22
  • Increasing access to finance with a new $2 billion fund
  • Instant asset write-off increased to $30,000 and expanded to businesses with turnover of up to $50 million
  • Additional $60 million for Export Market Development Grants

REGULATION

  • Additional support to the Tax Office to reduce tax cheats
  • Additional support to financial regulators in the wake of the Banking Royal Commission

INFRASTRUCTURE

  • Boosting infrastructure spending to $100 billion over the decade
  • Increasing the Urban Congestion Fund four-fold from $1 billion to $4 billion including a $500 million Commuter Car Park Fund
  • Providing $2 billion for fast-rail between Melbourne and Geelong as well as fast-rail corridors in other areas
  • $2.2 billion for safer roads
  • $1 billion to improve freight routes and access to ports
  • $100 million for regional airports

THE BUSH

  • $6.3 billion in drought support
  • $3.3 billion for those affected by flood
  • New North Queensland Livestock Industry Recovery Agency
  • New $3.9 billion Emergency Response Fund for natural disaster recovery efforts

YOUNG WORKERS

  • $525 million skills package
  • 80,000 new apprenticeships
  • Incentive payments to employers up to $8000 per placement
  • New apprentices to receive a $2000 incentive payment
  • $62 million to boost literacy, numeracy and digital skills
  • Funding to increase participation for women and girls in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) industries

RESEARCH

  • $9 billion for science, research and technology, including commercialisation
  • $400 million for genomics research to unlock the secrets of DNA
  • $160 million for research to improve the health of indigenous Australians

HEALTH

  • $80 billion for more MRI machines, more life-changing medicines on the PBS, more funding for mental health, better access to GPs, hospitals and dental services
  • Funding upgrades to regional hospitals, the first being in Townsville
  • Establishing Australia's first comprehensive children's cancer centre in Sydney
  • Helping to build a new Brain and Spinal Ward in South Australia
  • $461 million for youth mental health and suicide prevention strategy
  • $500 million for a Royal Commission into the mistreatment of people with disability

AGED

  • $725 million for 10,000 new home care packages
  • One-off Energy Assistance Payment for pensioners of $75 for singles and $125 for couples
  • $84 million to enable carers to leave a loved one in safe hands and take a break

ENVIRONMENT

  • $3.5 billion Climate Solutions Package, $2 billion of which will go to practical emission reduction activities, working with farmers and Indigenous communities
  • $100 million Environment Restoration Fund to deliver large-scale environmental projects

SCHOOLS

  • committing around $30 million to all schools for upgrades to libraries, classrooms and play equipment
  • new scholarship program for over 1,000 students a year to study in regional Australia
  • $453 million to extend pre-school education, enabling 350,000 children to receive 15 hours of quality early learning per week in the year before school

SECURITY

  • $328 million to fund prevention, response and recovery initiatives
  • $570 million for the Federal Police and ASIO
  • Additional $680 million to support service men and women deployed abroad
Posted in: News  

What we know about the 2019 Federal Budget

Posted on 28 March 2019
What we know about the 2019 Federal Budget

Paul Osborne
(Australian Associated Press)


BUDGET 2019 WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR

BIG PICTURE

* Overall theme: "A stronger economy and a secure future"

* Federal election is due in mid-May

* Better than expected surplus for 2019/20 (MYEFO: $4.1 billion in 2019/20)

* 3 per cent growth for 2019/20 (MYEFO forecast)

* 5 per cent unemployment rate for 2019/20 (MYEFO forecast)

* Migration cap to be reduced to 160,000 from 190,000

* 1.25 million new jobs to be created over the next five years

* Expectation of a "stimulus" worth about $6 billion, adding about 0.4 percentage points to GDP

TAX

* Likely bring-forward of the July 2022 income tax cuts, on top of those already starting July 1 this year, as part of an already-legislated $144 billion plan

* Possible improvements to tax offsets for low-income earners

* Rules around $69 billion GST revenue distribution to the states have changed, with WA the main beneficiary

* Instant asset write-off extended to June 2020 and upped from $20,000 to $25,000. Allows small business with an annual turnover of less than $10 million to deduct the cost of assets such as cars and equipment

* Tax office and other agencies to crack down on welfare cheats and tax dodging

ROADS, RAIL

* $75 billion infrastructure plan over 10 years continues

* Business case for Melbourne airport rail link

* City deals for Adelaide, Hobart, Townsville, Launceston, Western Sydney, Darwin, Geelong, South East Queensland and Perth

HEALTH

* $220 million from Medical Research Future Fund for research into heart disease

* $496 million for Victorian cancer research, services and facilities

* $200 million to reduce out of pocket costs for scans such as ultrasounds and x-rays

BANKS

* $600 million boost for financial regulators ASIC and APRA to deal with banking royal commission fallout

SECURITY

* $294 million to upgrade security at airports in a bid to prevent terrorist attacks

* Australian Space Agency to be funded

ENERGY

* $2 billion for Emissions Reduction Fund, now called the Climate Solutions Fund

* $1.4 billion for Snowy Hydro 2.0

* $56 million for Battery of the Nation and Marinus Link projects in Tasmania

* $10 million business case for energy projects in north and central Queensland, alongside a shortlist of 12 further power projects which could be underwritten

EDUCATION

* $60 million for James Cook University's Cairns Tropical Enterprise Centre

* $60 million indigenous education hub in Melbourne

WELFARE

* $78 million to provide more housing for women and children fleeing family violence

$129 million to extend cashless welfare card to all of Northern Territory, and to Cape York communities in Queensland

RURAL

* $28 million to improve weather monitoring, especially in flood-prone areas

* $9 million extra (total package $20m) to deal with yellow crazy ants in north Queensland

CULTURE

* $12 million for Cooktown 2020 Festival (250th anniversary of Cook's landing) and replica HMB Endeavour to circumnavigate the country

Posted in: News  

The salary ceiling, it's not just about the money

Posted on 15 March 2019
The salary ceiling, it's not just about the money

(Money and Life)

Thinking of a new job? With wage growth staying low, better benefits and work-life balance could be something to look for in your next role. Find out about the latest workplace trends for supporting employees with their health, finances and work-life balance.

The salary ceiling

While the wage growth rate in Australia for 2018 may be up on last year, it's still very low with second quarter figures putting the wage price index at 2.1%. What this means is we're seeing salaries rising only a fraction faster than inflation, with just 0.3% growth in real wages. If you're in the market for a new job, this doesn't bode well for pay negotiations with potential employers.

That doesn't necessarily mean a new job has no new rewards to offer. Perhaps you're looking for the challenges and opportunities to learn that a different role could bring. And at a time when companies are under more pressure to innovate and grow, it's becoming more common for employees to look at new ways to attract top talent and keep their workforce engaged.

Flexibility is key

When it comes to choosing a place to work, flexibility is something many people value. Whether it's the option to choose their hours, work remotely or more variety in the type of work they do, employees are often on the look out for an arrangement that suits their lifestyle better than working nine to five in the same office every day. According to the Mercer 2018 Global Talent Trends report, 51% of employees would like their company to offer more flexible work options and 71% of people who are thriving at work say their employer provides flexibility at work[1].

It's good news for Aussies that the flexible working trend seems to be catching on. In their latest report summarising five years of data collection, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency found more employers are making a commitment to flexible working arrangements.

Almost a quarter of employers (70.7%) now have a policy or strategy for flexible working, compared with just over half (57.5%) in 2013-14.

By the time a job offer is on the table, the topic of flexible working arrangement may something you've already discussed. But if it hasn't and it's something you're looking for, be sure to bring it up, particularly with your future boss. The Mercer report also found that while flexible working may be more common these days, it often happens in an ad hoc way and at the discretion of a manager[2].

Support for wellbeing

Flexible working is one of many ways employers can support health and wellbeing in the workplace. By allowing people more freedom to balance work and their other commitments, it's thought that flexible working can reduce stress, boost productivity and improve health outcomes for employees[3]. And it's definitely in the best interests of any business to invest in the wellbeing of their workforce. The 2017 Willis Towers Watson Global Benefits Attitudes survey reports that employees in poor health take more than twice as much time off work, and their rate of presenteeism is 25% higher too[4].

It's not just physical health problems that lead to this significant drop in productivity. The same report reveals almost a third of employees have suffered from severe stress, anxiety or depression in the last two years. So it's not surprising to learn that half of companies surveyed have introduced workplace programs to reduce stress or are planning to do so[5].

Financial stress is on the rise

Research from the report also shows financial stress is becoming one of the biggest factors in employee health and productivity. With almost a quarter (23%) of Australian workers being unable to raise $2,000 at short notice[6], financial insecurity seems to be a significant threat to health and wellbeing. Employees with money problems are twice as likely to be in poor health and also report higher levels of stress, absence and presenteeism.

So what can employers be doing to support their workforce towards a more stable financial position, less stress and better health? When surveyed by Willis Towers Watson on preferred financial support services from their employer[7], spending tools were the number one choice for workers. These would provide ways for workers to track spending, review their finances and set goals, giving them some practical solutions for addressing the immediate causes of financial insecurity and stress.

The second most popular choice of service is access to a financial adviser. While budgeting for their current situation and lifestyle may be more important, advice from a professional to secure their financial future is a big priority for employees worldwide.

Looking to reduce your financial stress levels? Get tips from CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professionals on how to plan ahead with your finances so you can worry less, here and now. 

[1] Mercer 2018 Global Talent Trends Study, page 16

[2] Mercer 2018 Global Talent Trends Study, page 20 "Most companies have pockets of flexibility based on individual arrangements with a manager, but only 3% consider themselves industry leaders when it comes to flexibility"

[3] Workplace Gender Equality Agency, Workplace Flexibility Strategy, page 4, "Flexibility is not only a beneft to businesses, it also benefts employees who can experience reduced stress, improved job satisfaction and better health outcomes through access to flexible working arrangements."https://www.wgea.gov.au/sites/default/files/Building_a_flexibility_strategy.pdf

[4] 2017 Willis Towers Watson Global Benefits Attitudes survey, page 11, "Employees who are in the poorest health report more than double the number of absences and more than 25% higher presenteeism than other colleagues."

[5] 2017 Willis Towers Watson Global Benefits Attitudes survey, page 6, "Mental health issues are widespread around the world, with around three in 10 employees reporting they have suffered from severe stress, anxiety or depression in the last two years. Around half of employers have either introduced initiatives to reduce stress or are planning to do so."

[6] 2017 Willis Towers Watson Global Benefits Attitudes survey, page 8, "Comparable percentages of workers in Australia (23%), Canada (29%) and the U.S. (37%) could not quickly raise $2,000 (local currency)"

[7] 2017 Willis Towers Watson Global Benefits Attitudes survey, page 26, "If your employer were to offer the following to help you manage your finances, which would you mostly prefer?"

Posted in: News  

Boutique financial consulting, advisory firm

Disclaimer

SP Financial Advice Pty Ltd as trustee for The S&NP Investment Trust ABN 60 597 526 905 trading as SP Financial Advice is a Corporate Authorised Representative No. 462691 of ClearView Financial Advice Pty Limited ABN 89 133 593 012 AFS Licence No. 331367.

Tell a FriendPrintBookmark Site