By Rita Cool a certified financial planner at Alexander Forbes.
The events of 2020 highlighted the need for financial advice but it has also provided a catalyst for a new approach to financial advice. Old processes and servicing models could be questioned and improved where necessary. A year ago the whole industry was convinced that the only way they could do business was with face to face meetings. Within weeks these assumptions were challenged and now we know that it is possible to interact very effectively with clients electronically. Not only the way we do business is being revised but also what is really important for clients and how fees can be charged.
In South Africa there is a very diverse population with different requirements and communication methods and the advice goal going forward is to reach more people, with the right advice, at the right time. This is not something that can be solved quickly or easily but with the new ways of thinking about the advice, it is possible that better solutions can be found to get more relevant products in front of the right people.
When people think about financial advisers, they often think that only rich people have them. They think that they do not have enough money to invest and that a financial adviser only deals with stock market investments and choosing the best portfolio to invest in. In reality, financial advisers add much more value than that, especially during uncertain times when we don’t know which way the markets and investment are heading.
In the internet age, the facts about finance are readily available and people ask why they need to engage an adviser and pay money for the service if they can get the information free. The information might be available, but it won’t consider your requirements. Often, the information is out of date or not correct if read in isolation.
The value of advice
Research* suggests that engaging with a trusted and qualified adviser and making the correct financial planning decisions can add 1.59% per year to a client’s returns over time, compared to someone without an adviser.
This is not just due to the adviser’s knowledge on investments and choosing the best portfolios each year. It’s also because people with financial advisers have a sounding board, an expert that helps them take emotion out of the equation and decide based on fact, not on popular thinking or hearsay.
People with advisers don’t change portfolios as often as those who make investment decisions based on gut. Making regular changes to portfolios to avoid short-term losses will destroy long-term value, and this is something a financial adviser will tell you: invest for a longer time and in products that suit your needs.
Getting rid of debt and saving for a dream holiday
An adviser is there to help you understand financial jargon and to look at your and your family’s goals and how to achieve them. Those goals are not always as far away as retirement, but also include short-term goals like how to best get rid of your debt, save for the dream family holiday, or for your children’s education. Financial advice should not be a once-off interaction, but a journey towards your financial well-being.
The South African financial industry is a fast-changing sector with new legislation being implemented almost every year. By getting the correct information and applying it appropriately, it often saves you money, even after considering any advice fees paid.
A good financial adviser is also there in times when things don’t go as planned. If you get retrenched, they can help structure:
- a budget for the period when you are not working
- your severance payment to maximise the benefit
The adviser can advise on facts, stripping out the emotion during this period.
Divorce or death
During other life events such as divorce or death, an adviser can add value by looking at the bigger picture. For example, you might need to change a will or need to know how to best include your retirement funds in the divorce settlement agreement. An adviser can help a bereaved spouse to understand forms and processes and advise family members on what to do with an inheritance.
You can’t really measure the value of ensuring that your loved ones are financially secure as a result of proper professional risk and estate planning.
By being with you on your financial journey, from the beginning, your adviser can lead you through various financial life stages. From your first job, when you need to decide on which investment portfolio to choose and how much you should contribute, to when you change jobs and need to make investment decisions.
Financial advisers can advise on the best investment route for your accumulated retirement funds so that you do not lose value or pay unnecessary tax. Are you protected should something happen to you or a family member? They will look at your risk cover to see if you are over-or underinsured. They will also change the cover as your needs change and your family structure shifts over time.
The value of a financial adviser might be priced in money, but it goes far beyond the amount you see on your statements. The value should be defined in intangible terms, such as peace of mind or achieving your financial well-being.
*“Alpha, Beta and now… Gamma” David Blanchett and Paul Kaplan – Morningstar