"[It's] like a sandwich. Don’t buy the product, buy the plan." - Anand Srinivasan

We’re always saying ‘good advice is gold’, because we know it can be so valuable to people as they make big money decisions. But what advice makes the most difference?

We spoke to a handful of financial advisers in the planning, insurance and mortgage space about what helps their clients most.

‘Focus on what’s important to you’

‘Our emphasis is on financial wellbeing,’ says financial adviser Jessica Jamieson. ‘It’s where we can make a major and positive impact.’

She explains that this means focusing on what’s most important to her clients, and what they want their life to look like (and not just what everyone else is doing).

‘For some it’s wealth creation, for others it’s supporting family members. For a few it’s materialist things like a particular car, for others it’s supporting charities or giving back to the community,’ she says. ‘Money is just the tool that enables us to structure our life the way we want it to be.’

She recently had a client who had a lot of anxiety issues around her lack of financial education. Her children were pressuring her with ideas on how to manage her savings, and nothing seemed right. She was so unhappy she couldn’t even sleep.

Running the figures with Jamieson, she was able to move into a conservative fund. This was perfect for her in that she was retired, and it was accessible when she needed it.

‘She absolutely has enough money for the retirement lifestyle she’s after, and extra.’ After focusing on the figures, she could now sleep. ‘The change in her behaviour has been wonderful.’

‘An insurance plan is like a sandwich’

Over the past six years, Anand Srinivasan, a financial adviser specialising in insurance, has helped his clients through many challenging times. This has meant that they’ve been able to receive $3.1 million in insurance claims to tide them over.

‘It clearly shows that the industry is paying,’ he says. ‘For me the focus is to put an insurance plan in place to get claims paid.’

While many of us may focus on a specific insurance product like life insurance, that is a limited way of going about it. ‘Insurance is like a sandwich,’ he says, explaining how the best plans have a variety of insurance types. ‘Don’t buy the product, buy the plan.’

This means his clients are much more protected for the variety of risks they face in life, not just one. One extreme case, an electrician, was particularly able to benefit after suffering from severe osteoarthritis, prostate cancer and then loss of hearing in his ear due to a tumour. The client received an insurance payout for each, totalling $1.3 million, plus income protection going forward.

‘I’ve learned from experience what’s working and what’s not. Every time you lodge a claim you should get a payout.’

‘Understand your borrowing power’

One of the most valuable things Vinessa Orsbourn, a financial adviser specialising in mortgages and planning, helps clients with is to understand their borrowing power when it comes to buying property. How much they can borrow depends not only on clients’ financial position – which she helps them see in depth – but on lenders’ various requirements and guidelines. Many loans, for example, are stress-tested by banks at much higher interest rates of 6% or 7% these days.

‘A lot of people don’t understand that,’ she says. ‘Without needing a full-blown application, I quite often say to them to send through their expenses.’ She crunches the numbers to see what is possible, making sure they do not overextend themselves and end up in a vulnerable position.

Recently she did a loan for a couple, then found out that they were expecting their first child. This changed their situation entirely – they would have found it quite difficult to pay their mortgage on one income. She was able to advise them, and in the end they decided to wait until they returned to a double income before buying.

‘The beauty of having an adviser in your corner is that they can check how your situation looks with different banks,’ she says. ‘It just means clients don’t have to do that legwork.’

‘You do you

Many clients, finds financial adviser Sonnie Bailey, often have a bit of shame in relation to their money situation, feeling that they should be in a better place financially than they are. Advice helps.

‘The real value that many people get out of the process is psychological,’ he explains. It’s a pat on the back, an external validation that they’ve actually made really good decisions so far and can make many more. ‘A lot of the time, there are no “best” decisions,’ he says, ‘just a raft of really good ones to choose from.’

Recent clients, for example, ‘had been making decisions all along according to their values and priorities,’ and he was able to help them see that. ‘It made them feel much better about the choices they’ve made and their life in general.’

Another client had an opportunity to invest with a family member in a property venture. ‘The family member was advocating for this investment based on their own circumstances and goals, but for the client it wasn’t suitable for their cashflow needs and the situation they were in.’ He was able to help his client realise it wasn’t the right direction for them even if it might have been the right decision for their family member, come to peace with that, and communicate it confidently.

‘Use your circumstances – and what you want out of life – to be your North Star with the big decisions you make,’ he says. ‘You do you.’

‘You’ve got to have a “why”’

Advice can often help people be more confident, clear and comfortable with their money, an outcome that financial adviser Lisa Dudson focuses on for her clients.

‘Most people go into remote control with their finances.’ She advises them to take a step back and breathe, ‘instead of letting your habits make a decision for you’. Helping clients set goals for their future is key. ‘You’ve got to have a “why”’, she says.

When it comes to money, she has realised that ‘people know a lot of things, but they often don’t know how to stick them together’. They are like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle floating around, and advice helps them piece it together.

One recent client, for example, was in ‘an absolute pickle’ about getting a financial plan in place. He was focusing on having a plan for the next 20 years, focusing so far in the future and making it so complicated he couldn’t do a thing. Dudson was able to reframe the idea of a plan to include tasks for this week and next. ‘Got it,’ the client said. It was exactly what he needed.

‘If I had a dollar for every time someone said, “I wish I had seen you years before!” Dudson says. ‘I hear that all the time.’

When you’re ready to talk with a financial adviser, our guide to getting advice can help you shop around and find the best one for your needs.

 

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