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Financial advice: to seek, or not to seek?

Living pay cheque to pay cheque and consumed by fears of how to keep up with their constant stream of bills, Simon and Felicity Doherty were sinking.


Simon had changed jobs from firefighting to policing, initially taking a 60 per cent pay cut, and with Felicity caring for their two young sons, they struggled for years on one pay cheque.

“You can’t function in day to day life when you’ve got this weight on your shoulders that just doesn’t go away,” Ms Doherty said.

“You’re thinking about it when you go to bed and as soon as you get up in the morning – it just becomes a burden.”

Finally, it was a batch of bills they didn’t know how they’d pay that pushed the couple to see a financial planner.

The decision changed their lives.

“I’d always wanted to get financial advice but it’s one of those things we’d put on hold, we didn’t have the money to go and pay somebody to give us the advice,” Mr Doherty said.

“As soon as we walked out of our first appointment, we both had big smiles on our faces and a weight off our shoulders,” Ms Doherty said.

“It makes your life so much happier.”

Seeking financial advice can be a daunting experience for some, and it’s not hard to see why.

If you’re already struggling to make ends meet, paying a financial planner seems like another cost you don’t need.

Then there’s the dodgy operators who have given the industry’s image a battering, including the case of seven Commonwealth Bank (CBA) planners banned by ASIC for dodgy practices that saw multi million-dollar losses for their clients.

Since then, the government has worked to clean the industry up with its Future of Financial Advice reforms, which became mandatory on July 1 and make it compulsory for financial advisers to act in the best interests of their clients.

Financial adviser and director at Hillross Bendigo Ash McAuliffe said the process shouldn’t be daunting, as long as you find the right planner.

He recommends interviewing a few before choosing an experienced planner you can connect with on a personal level.

“People are reluctant to see financial planners but it’s important that people don’t feel intimidated or that financial planning is not for them,” Mr McAuliffe said.

“People say, `when I’ve got heaps of money I’ll come and see you’, but hang on, I can help you get that.

“It’s not about having huge amounts of money and getting advice on how to invest it, financial advice is about achieving your lifestyle goals, whether that’s retiring at 55 instead of 65 or buying your first house or your tenth house.”

Consumer group Choice spokesman Tom Godfrey said the CBA case served as a timely reminder for consumers to ask the hard questions of their advisers and get clear answers in writing.

Free online financial advice is available for Financial Planning Week until September 1 at www.fpa.com.au/askanexpert.

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