Investment Strategies

Charlie Benson, Finance Editor

Confused by the options available to you? Lost in the myriad of superannuation schemes and investment plans? You need a financial adviser. But how do you know that you’re getting the best advice for your circumstances?

10 Things to Consider When Looking For a Financial Adviser

  1. Determine what advice are you looking for – exactly? Are you looking for basic budgeting and financial planning advice, or more complex advice on investing or tax issues? Not all financial advisers are equal.
  2. Don’t ignore word-of-mouth recommendations. Ask your solicitor or accountant, your colleagues, friends and relatives to recommend a financial adviser.
  3. Draw up a list of two or three possible advisers, but before you contact them check out their credentials.
  4. Make sure your short-listed advisers are legally entitled to offer advice. Contact the Financial Planning Association (www.fpa.asn.au) for a list of authorised advisers on 1800 626 393.
  5. The Australian Securities & Investment Commission (ASIC) recommends you obtain a copy of your short-listed advisers’ advisory service guides. All advisers must have this document and be willing to forward a copy to you for your information. This document outlines the adviser’s business and allows you to ‘get the feel’ of their business and whether or not your needs match their skills. For instance, can they buy and sell shares on your behalf? Do you need them to be able to do this for you?
  6. Check your proposed adviser holds a licence directly from ASIC. You can check out who is licensed, and who is banned, online at www.asic.gov.au.
  7. The adviser’s advisory service guide should indicate whether or not the adviser belongs to an independent, external complaints scheme approved by ASIC. The guide should also clearly indicate whether or not the adviser is connected with, or works for, an investment company or bank, and should also explain how the adviser is paid, ie by you or by the organisation he/she represents by way of commission.
  8. ‘Interview’ your two or three short-listed advisers. Most advisers will offer a short obligation-free introductory meeting. It is important that you feel comfortable and relaxed with your financial adviser and not bullied or intimidated. Choose carefully now, or possibly regret your decision later. This initial meeting should briefly cover your current financial situation and objectives for the future. Do not allow yourself to be pressured into doing anything the adviser suggests on the spot – take your time to consider the options.
  9. If you’re happy with one of the advisers you’ve met with, check out their qualifications further. Qualifications to look out for include a Diploma of Financial Planning, the FPA’s Certified Financial Planner status or the Securities Institute of Australia’s undergraduate certificate and graduate diploma course.
  10. Find out up front how you will be charged by your adviser. Some charge by the hour, some receive commission deducted from your investment. The applicable fee arrangement should be clearly stated so that you can easily work out how much the services will cost you. If your adviser is charging you a direct fee make sure you are reimbursed if he/she subsequently receives any commission on your investment. You shouldn’t have to pay two lots of fees.