General versus personal financial advice

  • General advice is broad and does not consider your particular situation.
  • Personal advice includes recommendations based on your specific circumstances.
  • When advisers provide personal financial advice, they have higher obligations to look out for your best interests. They are liable for stiffer penalties if they mistreat you. As a result, personal financial advice is more expensive.

When you see a financial adviser, they will talk about general advice versus personal advice. This section explains the difference and why it matters.

general v personal financial advice

General advice

General advice is very broad and, as the name suggests, general in nature and does not consider your particular circumstances. This type of advice is usually given without detailed knowledge of your objectives, financial situation and needs. Further, it is based on an adviser not trying to influence your decision through things such as making a recommendation or comparing the benefits of different products.

Note: Advisers who give general advice about financial products or investments must hold an AFS licence or be an authorised representative of a licensee. However, they do not have to be a qualified financial adviser and can include employees of AFS licence holders, such as superannuation fund representatives.

Example: When general advice is not enough

Cy and Di want to check if their life insurance is sufficient to meet mortgage repayments if either of them pass away. They have death and income protection insurance through their respective superannuation funds. They contact their superannuation funds to confirm whether their insurance meets their needs.

The representative tells them they could only give general advice about the features and current level of cover and that they need to consider all their debts and expenses, not just their mortgage repayments. Cy and Di realise they need to have a comprehensive review of their financial situation to figure out their appropriate level of insurance cover.

Personal advice

Personal financial advice is more specific to your situation than general advice.

With personal advice, your information will influence what strategies an adviser recommends and which financial products will be more suited to your needs. When seeking such advice, it's important for you to use a licensed adviser.

In terms of delivering personal or general financial advice, advisers may have different styles and options depending on their personality, disposition and areas of expertise.
The above example compares the distinct types of information provided to Cy and Di in a conversation with their adviser over superannuation.

Example: Knowing what you get

Factual information

The superannuation guarantee (SG) is a compulsory amount that your employer must pay into your superannuation account as part of your employment conditions. For the 2023-24 financial year, the amount is set at 11% of your ordinary time earnings before tax.

General advice

Making personal contributions into your superannuation account will usually be a tax-effective strategy as the contributions up to an indexed annual cap are tax deductible and the investment earnings on your money in superannuation is concessionally taxed at a maximum rate of 15%.

Personal advice

As your current taxable income is $120,000 per annum, we would recommend that you contact your employer to set up a salary sacrifice arrangement whereby $15,000 of your annual salary is directed into your superannuation account. This action will mean you can save an estimated $5000 in tax on annual salary over a full financial year.

Types of personal financial advice

Personal advice can be:

  • scaled, or
  • comprehensive

Scaled personal advice

Scaled personal financial advice focuses on a single or limited number of issues where you do not want to provide a comprehensive picture of your personal and financial situation. It could involve something simple that you need clarified.

Comprehensive personal financial advice

As the name implies, this advice looks at your entire personal and financial situation and involves the adviser having the necessary information to provide recommendations on all relevant areas relating to the advice. This covers aspects such as saving, investments, insurance, superannuation, retirement and estate planning.


With scaled advice, you will be warned (by the adviser) of the risk of providing limited information, as undisclosed information may impact on any recommendations.

After identifying your goals and objectives, your adviser uses this information to develop a comprehensive financial plan and recommend suitable strategies to help you achieve them. Unlike general advice, your adviser should be making all recommendations that they believe are in your best interests.

Ongoing general and personal advice

General and personal advice can both be on an ongoing basis.

Your circumstances will keep evolving over time, and you can pay an ongoing fee to receive advice on a continuing basis. This involves your adviser monitoring and reviewing your financial plan regularly to help you manage your financial affairs and ensure you stay on track.

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