How to choose a financial planner

Financial planners can help you put thought into action when it comes to your financial goals. Here's a three-step guide for choosing a financial planner.

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Financial planners (also known as advisers) can help you put thought into action when it comes to your financial goals – but how do you choose your financial planner? Financial goals and situations vary greatly between people and that means what you need from a financial planner will be specific to you.

We’ve put together a three-step plan to help you chose a financial planner you can have confidence in.

1. Visit ASIC’s financial advisers register

Once you have shortlisted a number of financial planners you can check their history, qualifications and current employment status on ASIC’s financial advisers register before you make contact with them.

You can do further research by searching online to find out more about the planner and the company they work for.

2. Check the planner’s qualifications

Financial planners are often originally qualified in accounting, stockbroking or another field of finance. Others have undertaken specialised training in investment and retirement planning, and many have completed a Diploma of Financial Planning or similar.

To give advice on securities such as debentures, shares, bonds and managed funds, planners need to be licensed by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission or be an authorised representative of a licensee. 

Ask your prospective financial planner about their membership with professional associations or bodies such as the Financial Planning Association of Australia and the Association of Financial Advisers.

Individual financial planners must undertake their duties and responsibilities in accordance with law, policy and industry standards.

Planners need to have access to research about investment products and information on issues in the business and legislative environment that may affect investment decisions. These might be included in an ongoing service in which the planner reviews your investment strategy and portfolio performance.

3. Review the financial services guide and ask questions

Guides can be found online or by contacting the financial planner or the company they work for. The guide will outline services offered, how they charge, who owns the company, whether they have links to certain product providers and their license number.

There’s a number of things you should ask a planner before signing up. While ASIC gives a comprehensive list of questions to ask a financial adviser, here are two important questions to bring up early on with your prospective financial planner.

What products can the financial planner give advice on?

Can the planner give you advice on your current products? Do they offer a product range that suits your needs. Look for a planner who has access to a number of products to ensure you are getting the most suitable products for your situation.

What is the financial planner’s pay structure and fees?

Your financial planner should outline fee details with you before you make your investment decision. Ask to have the pay structure and fees explained up front. Also ask the adviser to detail what services are included in the fees. For example, does it include a Statement of Advice (SOA), implementation activities and the ability to revisit the advice in the future?

It’s also just as important for you to be satisfied with the advice you are being given by your financial planner before entering into an investment strategy. If you are unsure, question your financial planner or ask for a second opinion.

Before you sign up with a planner, read ASIC’s information about financial advice costs.

Choosing a financial planner is an important decision. Heritage has teamed up with Bridges Financial Services to deliver professional and tailored financial planning services. All Bridges financial planners fall within the best practice specifics listed in this article. The advice of a professional financial planner can be critical in developing a strategy that will work for you.

Want to know how a financial planner can add value to your life? We’ll arrange your complimentary, obligation-free initial consultation with a Bridges financial planner. Find out more or make an appointment now.

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