Financial planning is a step in the right direction: here's how the process works

Posted on 28 May 2020
Financial planning is a step in the right direction: here's how the process works

Money and Life
(Financial Planning Association of Australia)

Nearly half of all Aussies plan on seeking financial advice in the future1. If you're one of them, you might be wondering how it all works. Here's our comprehensive guide to the financial planning process.

If you've never worked with a financial planner before, it can all feel a bit daunting. How do I find a financial planner? How much will it cost? What then?

The good news is, it's a relatively simple and easy process. There are lots of resources available to help you, and you'll have plenty of opportunities along the way to evaluate both the planner and the advice you're receiving, so you're not locked into anything you're not comfortable with.

Why do I need a financial planner?

There are many reasons why people seek advice from a financial planner. In general, the main triggers are marriage, having kids and planning for your family's future or other life events such as changing jobs. Perhaps you're concerned about your retirement and need to understand what the next stage of life could look like whilst we're experiencing this global pandemic. None of us know how long the COVID-19 outbreak will affect us and what the long term consequences are, so it may be worth checking in with a financial planner to safeguard yourself and your assets as best as you can.

Whatever the reason, if you've been thinking about getting financial advice, now is a great time. It's never too early to start planning for your financial future.

What is the financial planning process?

1. Preparing to see a financial planner

Consider your needs

Before you meet with any planners, it's a good idea to think about what you want help with. Do you want help investing money? Budgeting? Or planning for retirement? Knowing what you need help with will help you find the right financial planner for your circumstances, as planners can have different areas of expertise.

Understanding the types of advice

There are two types of financial advice available to consumers. General financial advice doesn't take into account your personal circumstances, while personal financial advice is tailored to your individual situation and goals. A financial planner can give you tailored personal financial advice about a single issue, such as superannuation, or ongoing advice, including regular monitoring and review of your financial affairs. Read more about the difference between general and personal financial advice here.

2. Choosing a financial planner

What should I look for in a financial planner?

When choosing a financial planner, you want to make sure that they have the right qualifications and experience. Members of the Financial Planning Association of Australia (FPA) also adhere to higher standards than non-FPA members, including a strict code of professional practice and code of ethics. You can find out more here.

Tip: Financial planning is an ongoing relationship, not just a one-off meeting. Look for someone that you're comfortable with and can work with over the long-term.

Meet and compare financial advisors

Once you've shortlisted your top two or three planners, it's time to meet with them!

Most financial planners won't charge you for an initial meeting, so this is a good opportunity to meet with a few different advisors and see if you find a good match.

Ask plenty of questions and don't be afraid to ask about anything you're unsure of. A good planner will listen carefully, answer your questions clearly and explain what kind of advice they can offer you.

They'll also ask about your current circumstances and what you're hoping to achieve financially (your financial goals).

This is also your chance to ask about their fees, if you have any questions.

Tip: Remember, you can go away and think about it, you don't need to commit to anything at the first meeting.

What does it cost to get financial advice?

There are a few different ways planners can structure their fees. The cost depends on the complexity of your situation, as well as the method the planner uses. The fees might include an upfront fee to identify your needs, develop a financial plan and implement their recommendations. There may also be ongoing administration and/or services fees.

Ask the financial planner how they charge for their services at your first meeting. Make sure you're comfortable with their fees before you agreed to receive any services from them, or sign any documents. Find out more about fees here.

3. Getting financial advice

Preparing the financial plan (also known as Statement of Advice)

Once you've agreed to go ahead, your financial planner will request more detailed information from you, so they can prepare your statement of advice. This usually includes information about your income, assets, debts, expenses, insurance, wills, superannuation etc. It also sets out their advice, details of the financial product provider and information on payments to the financial planner.

Once your statement of advice has been finalised, it will be presented to you in a follow-up meeting. Take the time to go through your plan carefully and make sure you understand it all. Check that it meets your financial goals and that you're comfortable with the level of risk.

There is no pressure for you to accept the recommendations in your Statement of Advice. If you're not comfortable with the plan, discuss your concerns with your planner.

Once you're happy to go ahead with the SOA, the financial planner will usually ask you to sign a service agreement, or authority to proceed document.

Implementing the recommendations

Once you're ready to go ahead, your financial planner will help put your plan into action. That could mean setting up investments, choosing insurance/s or working with your accountant and/or lawyer.

Reviewing the plan

It's important to review your financial plan regularly, to make sure it still meets your needs. If you're paying for ongoing financial advice, your planner should meet with you each year to review your financial situation, discuss the progress of your plan and advise you of any legal or regulatory changes that could affect you.

4. Ending financial advice

If for any reason you're not happy with your financial planner, or the advice you're receiving, you do have options. Check your Statement of Advice for details on ending the relationship, or contact the FPA for advice.

There you have it! Now that you understand how the financial planning process works, there's never been a better time to get started.

We've included lots of useful information and resources on Money & Life to help you in your financial planning journey, so take a look around and then try Match My Planner!

ASIC, 2019, Financial advice: What consumers really think


Posted in: News  

Australia seeks to expand exports to India

Posted on 25 May 2020
Australia seeks to expand exports to India

(Australian Associated Press)

Australia will pursue agreements with India aimed at expanding export markets when the leaders of both countries soon have a virtual meeting.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison was supposed to visit his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in January but the trip was cancelled due to the bushfires crisis.

Now the coronavirus has halted international travel, the leaders are planning a video meeting, although a date is yet to be set.

Australia has been looking to complete a defence agreement on reciprocal access to bases and cooperation on military technology projects.

A new education partnership is also on the cards, as are Australian plans to export more goods to India, including agricultural products.

"Australia and India are natural partners with deep people-to-people links," a spokesman for Mr Morrison told AAP.

"The prime minister looks forward to holding a virtual summit with Indian Prime Minister Modi in the near future as another step to advance our India economic strategy and cement India in the top tier of Australia's partnerships."

The summit comes amid the government's recent diplomatic upset with China, which has imposed prohibitive tariffs on Australian barley imports.

Posted in: News  

How to set up your budget

Posted on 22 May 2020
How to set up your budget


Having a budget helps you to feel in control of your money. You can put aside money for big bills when they arrive, and plan savings to achieve your money goals.

You don't need an accountant or special software to set up your own budget. Start by looking at where you are right now and where you want to be.

Set your money goals

First, work out why you want to do a budget. This can help you to decide where you want your money to go.

Ask yourself: what is my goal? It could be to stay on top of bills, save for emergencies, pay for your children's education, or save for a holiday or a house deposit.

See where your money goes

Having a clear picture of your regular expenses and spending habits will help you set up your budget.

To do this, track your spending over a week, a fortnight or a month. See track your spending for practical ways to do this.

How to set up your budget

Use how often you get paid as the timeframe for your budget. For example, if you get paid weekly, set up a weekly budget.

Then follow these steps to set up each section.

Use our budget planner

Set up your budget and save it online or use our Excel budget spreadsheet.

1. Record your income

Record how much money is coming in and when. If you don't have a regular amount of income, work out an average amount.

Make a list of all money coming in, including:

  • how much
  • where from
  • how often (weekly, fortnightly, monthly or yearly)

This money could be from your wages, pension, government benefit or payment, or income from investments.

2. Add up your expenses

Record your regular expenses, including:

  • what for
  • how much
  • when

Regular expenses are your 'needs' the essential items you need to pay for to live. These include:

Fixed expenses, for example:

  • rent or mortgage payments
  • electricity, gas and phone bills
  • council rates
  • household expenses, like food and groceries
  • medical costs and insurance
  • transport costs, like car registration and public transport
  • family costs, like baby products, child care, school fees and sporting activities

Debt expenses, for example:

  • personal loan repayments
  • credit card payments
  • mortgage repayments

Unexpected expenses, for example:

  • car repairs and services
  • medical bills
  • extra school costs
  • pet costs

To make sure you've recorded all your expenses, look at your bills or bank statements. If you tracked your spending, use your list of transactions.

3. See if you can save

Having some savings can help create a safety net for unexpected expenses. Set a savings goal and work out how much you can save each payday.

Use our savings goals calculator

Work out how long it will take you to reach your savings goal.

4. Set your spending limit

The money you have left after expenses and savings is your spending money. This money is for 'wants', such as entertainment, eating out and hobbies.

Make a plan for what you want to do with your spending money. This will help you to keep within your limit. Keep track of your spending so you always know how much you've got left.

Set up three bank accounts: a high interest savings account for savings, and two transaction accounts for spending and bills. Schedule transfers of your savings and direct debits for your bills to automate your finances.

Review your budget regularly

It's important to adjust your budget as things change. For example, if you find you can't cover all your expenses, savings and spending, you may have to reduce your spending limit, or change your savings goal.

For ideas to help reduce spending, see simple ways to save money. You can also look for ways to increase your income.

Posted in: News  

Making super and investment decisions: Four tips during COVID-19 and beyond

Posted on 11 May 2020
Making super and investment decisions: Four tips during COVID-19 and beyond


During these uncertain times, you might be nervous about your investments. It's important to consider your long-term goals and make well-informed decisions.

Here are some steps to take with your super or investments in shares to ride out ups and downs in the investment markets.

1. Avoid focusing on market volatility

When investment markets are volatile, it can be a good time to review your investment strategy. But don't make any rash decisions based on recent market falls.

Some investors panic when markets fall and decide to convert all their investments to cash. However this means you lock in your losses and you miss out on any investment market recovery. Markets typically recover over the long-term.

Diversification across a broad range of asset classes is the best defence to ride out the ups and downs in the markets at any time.

Super in an uncertain investment market

If you're concerned about your super balance taking a hit, remember super is a long-term investment. Over time it will recover from the ups and downs in investment markets.

If you're close (5 years or less) to retirement, understand your retirement income options, take your time and avoid hasty decisions.

Consider getting financial information and guidance from:

2. Don't try to time the market

It's not a good idea to sell shares or other investments based on daily headlines.

Even the most skilled and experienced investors have difficulty predicting the best time to buy and sell. You might sell your investments only for markets to recover soon after.

Holding onto your investments, even during downturns, can be an effective strategy if your financial goals and situation haven't changed.

3. Review your financial goals

Unexpected events can impact your financial goals.

Talk it over with your family, consider your long-term goals and only make well-informed decisions

If you've become unemployed, for example, you might need to cash out some of your investments for short-term expenses. Only do this if you have no savings to draw on and have explored all other options such government support and applying for financial hardship.

If you do have to draw on your investments, only cash out some of them, if you can. That way you can minimise your losses and still have some money invested when the market begins to recover.

If you're using a financial adviser, now is a good time to ask them to review your financial plan.

4. Beware of investment scams

Beware of cold-calls and unsolicited investment offers and the promise of big returns. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

Making hasty decisions, like panic selling or buying shares, can make you more vulnerable to investment scams.

Scammers exploit fear with fake investment offers promising to recover your losses.

Posted in: News  

$4b weekly hit strong incentive to reopen

Posted on 8 May 2020
$4b weekly hit strong incentive to reopen

Katina Curtis, AAP Senior Political Writer
(Australian Associated Press)

Australia's economy is shedding $4 billion every week businesses are closed and travel is shut down, giving leaders a very strong incentive to get things moving again as the coronavirus is wrangled under control.

Treasurers are looking at the best ways to boost economic growth, including a possible company tax cut, a focus on skills and training, and the potential for new, niche manufacturing industries.

There are a million Australians newly on unemployment benefits and another five million are receiving the JobKeeper wage subsidy through their employer.

One in three hospitality workers have lost their job during the economic fallout from the virus, new data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows.

The arts and entertainment sector is close behind, shedding more than a quarter of workers.

Overall, the economy lost 7.5 per cent of jobs and wages shrank by eight per cent over the month to mid-April.

Treasury has estimated the economy will take a $50 billion hit in the June quarter, equivalent to about 10 or 12 per cent of GDP.

But it's warned things could get a lot worse if restrictions to deal with the coronavirus stay in place.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the $4 billion-a-week cost is a very strong incentive for leaders looking at easing restrictions.

"That certainly puts enormous pressure, as it should, on the timetable as we seek to move Australia back to a COVID-safe economy," he said on Tuesday.

"We now need to get a million Australians back to work. That is the curve that we need to address."

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the focus should be on the sectors that enabled other areas of the economy to get moving faster.

"The quicker we lift those restrictions, the more economic activity we generate," he told the National Press Club in Canberra.

"Education, child care, transport and logistics even opening our cafes and restaurants will mean that farmers will have a home for their produce."

Treasury estimated that if schools and child care had completely closed down for three months, a million adults would have had to pull out of the workforce and the economy would have taken a $34 billion hit.

The federal government has been strongly advocating for all schools to return to in-classroom teaching.

Mr Frydenberg acknowledged some sectors, such as tourism, would be much slower to return to normal.

His thoughts are turning to the best way to boost Australia's economic growth once the health crisis is over.

The heads of Treasury and the Reserve Bank have told leaders economic approaches cannot be business as usual.

But Mr Frydenberg said the coalition intended to hold fast to its guiding values and principles.

It will look to tax cuts where possible, believes open markets are key, and wants the private sector rather than government to drive job creation.

The government didn't have a "shopping list of reforms" and would be looking at everything suggested in recent times for boosting growth and productivity.

But he still believed the company tax rate was too high at 30 per cent for big businesses and said Australia had to be as competitive as possible.

He wouldn't comment on whether the states have asked to look at GST, saying the nation's Treasurers regularly discuss a whole range of issues.

Posted in: News  
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