What you should look for in a good financial planner


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"Can you recommend a good financial planner?" is one of the most common questions asked by Money Magazine readers.

Financial planners have had a couple of years of bad press about high costs and dodgy advice.

Not surprisingly around 27% of Australians say they don't trust financial planners, according to a survey by Investment Trends.

But the catch is that Australians need help about a range of financial matters.

A recent survey of self-managed superannuation funds by Investment Trends for Vanguard found that the most pressing advice needs are inheritance and estate planning, pension strategies, age pension and social security entitlements, offshore investing, strategies to avoid running out of money in old age, transition to retirement strategies, identifying undervalued assets and the list goes on.

One stumbling block for Australians when it comes to financial planners is the belief that they are only for the wealthy.

But Mark Rantall, CEO of the Financial Planning Association (FPA), says planners welcome people regardless of how much money they have.

Investment Trends found that some 8.5 million Australians need advice or 47% of the population, way below the 2.5 million Australians who used a financial planner in 2014.

Of those needing advice around two million Australians want advice about investing for a regular income and another two million are after retirement advice, according to research by Investment Trends.

With 5,500 certified financial planners around Australian, there are plenty to choose from but you need to pick one that suits your needs.

The FPA recommends looking for these attributes when searching for a good planner.

Top tips for choosing a financial planner

1. Licensed planners hold an Australian Financial Services (AFS) Licence issued by the regulator, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). Ask for a copy of their Financial Services Guide too.

2. Membership of the Financial Planning Association (FPA).

3. A Certified Financial Planner (CFP) qualification which is the highest qualification in financial planning.

4. Do you trust and have a rapport with your planner at your first meeting?

5. Is the advice concise and easy to understand? It shouldn't be complicated or difficult to grasp.

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Susan has been a finance journalist for more than 30 years, beginning at the Australian Financial Review before moving to the Sydney Morning Herald. She edited a superannuation magazine, Superfunds, for the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia, and writes regularly on superannuation and managed funds. She's also author of the best-selling book Women and Money.
August 26, 2015 11.30am

I am already using a major accounting firm to handle my affairs and am fairly happy with them so far, however, financial planners are a completely different story.

There were not many, if any, financial planners who are interested in younger people who have less than $200k of assets (ex-property), and it is very frustrating. They take a very condescending, patronizing view of you (some even having openly laughed at my efforts) or refer you to the junior members of their team...unfortunately, I know more about finances than they do.

They all want the 50-plus people with $1M in super, a $1M house and a $1M share portfolio, but fail to realize that their next lunch will be coming from the Gen-X and Gen-Y's, who, right now, are the small caps that will turn into the figurative blue-chips over the next 20-30 years, thanks to compulsory superannuation.

Financial planners cannot afford to neglect anyone "who is not a boomer" and should be paying more attention to the younger generations. They can't all have "the best" and "the richest" clients, and after all, their clients needed to start somewhere to get rich !

Carol S.
June 16, 2017 4.14pm

This is a good starting point in looking for a financial planner. There are retired people who have no choice but to depend on their children for financial support because their pension is inadequate or they somehow mismanaged their savings. Let's face it, the costs of food, petrol, utilities, medicine, and healthcare are constantly on the rise. So even though a person has some money set aside for retirement, they'll just quickly spend it all on necessities unless they invest it wisely. Therefore, it's good to have someone who can help you in managing your funds to allocate it appropriately and invest it in high-yield ventures.

Ross C
March 20, 2018 6.36pm

It's a very interesting read and actually still very valid till this day! I think Carol's comment about the cost of living consistently rising and how this is affecting the elderly and their mismanagement of their retirement savings. Thanks for the article!

Carol Stoker
March 18, 2021 7.16am

So I just about to retire. I have gone through all the necessary steps to select a financial planner following all the guidelines.

On 13 November 2020 we moved $178,108 from Aware Super to a Macquarie Wrap platform managed by my planner. To date, 17 March 2021 I have:

* contributed another $10,870.00

* paid fees of $3,040.00.

Resulting in my contribution less fees an amount of $185,938.

However, over this same time period my balance now is $181,115.

This is a loss of $4,823 over approximately 3mths on what is reported as a slightly growing market even at a Conservative platform of investment.

Should I be handing over my $1M SASS Super to this financial advisor to manage when it crystallises in June 2021?

Money magazine
March 18, 2021 9.06am

Hi Carol,

Thank you for your question. While our team can't answer it here in the comments section, we will pass it on to Paul Clitheroe for his consideration for a future Ask Paul.

- Money team