Teenagers have a lot of information thrown at them at school from French verbs to calculus, from ox-bow lake formation to endless historical datas. What they don’t receive as part of their formal education is a grounding in the principles of financial planning. Given the total absence of basic financial education in schools around the world it is something of a miracle that anyone works out how to budget, avoid taking on bad debt, pay taxes properly and save for retirement. Unfortunately many people struggle to work these things out for themselves and end up in a spiral of bad debt, unable to pay for their child’s further education or with no retirement savings to speak of.
If you feel like you are stumbling around in the dark when it comes to finances, you’re definitely not alone. But help is out there in the form of a financial planner. Now I know some of you will be thinking ‘but I don’t earn enough for one of those’ but that’s simply not the case. Of course financial planners do help millionaires and billionaires to look after their vast wealth but more frequently they help ordinary people just like you to get their financial affairs in order.
They can use their in-depth knowledge to help you build wealth to ensure a comfortable retirement, put together an education fee plan to cover your kids’ university fees, find suitable life and health insurance to protect your family and much more. A good planner will advise on products which are best suited to your needs so if you are an expat living in Asia, that might include offshore banking, savings products in stable currencies or insurance which will be valid wherever in the world you move to.
So what exactly happens when you go and see a financial planner?
Well the first thing they will do (or certainly if they are any good) is ask you a whole host of questions about your finances to build an overall picture of where you are at. So go to your meeting armed with as much information as you can.
It’s important that you feel comfortable with the person you choose as you will be sharing some extremely personal information with them including your earnings, debts, savings and your financial goals. If you get a bad vibe from someone the relationship is never going to work so look for someone else. That’s fine, sometimes people simply don’t gel.
What this initial chat should reveal is where your financial priorities lie. Of course, we’d all like to live in a luxury home, take fabulous holidays and retire at 50 but the limited incomes which most of us earn mean that choices have to be made. Your adviser will force you to have a good hard think about what your life priorities are. And that’s no bad thing if you’ve never done it before.
Once you have identified your goals your planner can work out the route to achieving them. If you don’t already budget, now is the time to start so together you can ascertain how much you can afford to save a month. And saving needs to be way up your priority list after all your essential expenditure on necessities such as housing, food, insurance has been take care of.
A planner will also help you get to grips with the concept of investment risk. This will depend not only on whether you are a cautious person or a risk taker by nature but also on the timeframe you have to reach your financial goals and the amount you have to invest. Here at Infinity we use sophisticated tools to assess tolerance to risk as we think it’s really important that our clients invest their hard-earned cash within boundaries that they are comfortable with.
What should you look for in a financial planner?
As mentioned above, you will be putting a lot of trust in your adviser so you have the right to grill potential candidates and you absolutely should. Find out what qualifications they have, whether or not they undergo ongoing training and personal development, whether they are regulated and how they are compensated. Different advisers operate in different ways, some earn commission from the products they sell, others charge up front, but what is important is that they are fully transparent about fees. Anyone who is not happy to discuss the answers to any of these questions is probably not the person to choose to work with.
Financial planning can seem dull but I guarantee that you will feel empowered once you take control of your finances. It really does feel amazing to have clarity on what you are trying to achieve and be reassured that you are on track to reaching those financial goals. It’s a process which can completely transform lives.
So, in answer to the question at the beginning of this post: a financial adviser can help you get your finances in peak condition just as a fitness trainer can help you get physically fit.
If you think it’s time you got a financial coach on board, we at Infinity would be happy to explain our working practices and payment structure in as much detail as you like and talk through any reservations you have about working with an adviser. You’ll be under no obligation to work with us so you have nothing to lose, but potentially a lot to gain. Contact us today at email@example.com.
A leading provider of expat financial services and wealth management services across Asia.