It feels wrong, but is it actually alright?

It feels wrong, but is it actually alright?

The smoke haze is distressing, and we are only 20 kms from Melbourne CBD, nowhere near the fires, nowhere near the disaster areas. This haze is a mild annoyance to us, but it is enough for us to feel empathy for those who are really suffering. And increasingly as well as empathy, some guilt.

Guilt can be a strange emotion. Why do I feel guilt during this type of tragedy? I didn’t start any fires. I do my bit for the environment and will obviously make an effort to do more now. I didn’t deny climate change, I haven’t blamed anyone who should or shouldn’t have done things. I pay plenty of taxes, and regularly visit and spend money in rural areas.

I feel guilty because my life is going on pretty much as normal whilst others are dealing with unspeakable tragedy and distress. Of course I have donated money, and I have offered assistance in the form of accommodation to friends in the fire zones. But I am not personally suffering.

I see the headlines and read the stories, see the anger and frustration and hurt from those directly impacted and I feel guilty for trying to move on. It feels like the whole world should just stop for a bit. I silently cry for the animals. At least people have access to media and social media and know what is happening, the animals are being blindsided.

I want to help, but I also have to run my business to pay my bills. If I don’t get on with things, that won’t help anyone in the bushfire zones. And if I was not financially secure and in a stable position, I couldn’t have made a donation that might make a little bit of difference to someone who is in dire straits.

I can see the pain being felt by people who have lost everything. I imagine the trauma, disbelief, panic, and angst of those who have lost loved ones. And as a former financial planner, I was frequently one of the first people called when a loved one was lost suddenly. I was the one who made sure people had things set up correctly prior to an unexpected event, and I was able to give simple instructions to the person grieving, and most importantly reassurance that they would be ok.

You see, people who have their Estate Planning, Personal Insurance, Emergency Funds, and asset structuring set up correctly can better deal with what they need to at such a horrible time. What they need is some instant cash access, information on what has to happen, and the knowledge that the rest is fine and can wait whilst the person who has passed away is treated with respect, and the people remaining can grieve and try to cope with personal loss.

When everything is pre-planned for emergencies, the grief doesn’t go away. But the stress reduces, especially if the person who has died is the one who did all the finance stuff. And knowing there is a caring, competent back-up person for the financial changes to come is a huge relief. When someone passes away, people try to help. They give information on what they think is correct to try to help. Sometimes it does, many times it does not as the information is not relevant to the person in question or is hearsay or out of date.

I know this because I had to help many times, and the people I helped told me how much of a difference the factual, practical, empathetic assistance made to them.

People will need a lot of help. Once the emergency is over (please make it soon), the recovery will be slow, painful and for many without the comforts of their home and their paperwork to fall back on. Whether it is just dealing with insurance claims, sums of money being received via insurance payouts or compensation, decisions around whether to rebuild, move, start over somewhere safer, or in the horrible event of a new life starting without a loved one, people need to know who can help.

Imagine dealing with all of this stress without assistance?

Thank goodness for the charities, volunteers, donations of goods and services, and government assistance. People are stepping up and it is fabulous. But this process will be long and hard.
It is alright to let people know that they can have help with all this stuff. We are hearing that many financial advisers are already helping clients start to deal with the inevitable processes they will have to deal with to get paid out for insurance claims.

It is alright to let people know that if they don’t yet have an adviser they can still get one. They can set things up efficiently and correctly with the assistance they need.
It is alright to let people know that whilst the future can not be foreseen, many things can be planned for and the stress can be reduced.

It is alright to let people know that they don’t know what they don’t know. Only 10% of the population are currently utilising financial advice, so they are actually in the majority if they didn’t have things set up optimally the first time.

And for everyone who does get help with all of the financial stuff they need, safely and in the right way for them, they will be better able to help during these types of tragedies.

If you are financially secure, financially relaxed, and financially prepared, you can let that be less of a burden to your energy, so you can focus on what you need to in your life, whatever that might be.

Please consider financial relaxation as a priority in your life.

Melinda Houghton
Adv. Dip FS (FP)
Insider Out – Understand and Trust your Advice

This information may be regarded as general. That is, your personal objectives, needs or financial situations were not taken into account when preparing this information. Accordingly, you should consider the appropriateness of any information we have given you, having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs before acting on it.

I am no longer authorised to provide financial advice. If you wish to receive financial advice you must contact an authorised provider.

https://www.moneysmart.gov.au/investing/financial-advice/financial-advisers-register

Ouch! – I am so grateful I can type this!

Ouch! – I am so grateful I can type this!

I can type. With both hands. (Just).

10 days ago, I was carrying a large heavy box of stuff to donate to the charity shop out to the car. I couldn’t see where my feet were going, but I thought I was ok to get the box in the car, as I had opened the back of the car, opened the gate, and had a clear path.

Unfortunately my foot just missed the edge of the path and went into the garden bed, and I lost balance and fell hard with the big heavy box, onto the concrete driveway.
I knew I had hurt myself and felt a bit shaky, so I just sat for a few minutes with a box of children’s costumes and teddy bears and books sprawled across the driveway. A friendly neighbour came over, picked up the stuff and put the box in the car for me, but I wouldn’t let him help me up. I wasn’t sure if I was really hurt or just a little bit hurt, but I knew it hurt.

After a few minutes I tried to put my left hand down on the ground, then very quickly decided that was not a great idea. So I put the other hand down and managed to stand up, thank my neighbour for his help, and make it to an armchair inside before the spinning in my head sent me tumbling again.

Now I have never broken anything other than a toe, (and I’m not sure that counts), so I didn’t think I had this time either, I thought I might have some soft tissue damage in my forearm, so of course – icepack, elevation, and rest.

But after a painful and sleepless night (I refused to face emergency in the middle of the night just to be told I had soft tissue damage) I decided to go to the GP.
He immediately referred me straight to the Public Hospital over the road for x-rays. He was not of the same soft tissue outcome opinion as I was and feared I had a broken wrist.

So a couple of hours later, I was told I had a dislocated elbow, ligament damage, and had broken the top off my radius (elbow). Ouch!
Then I was told it would be put in a sling, and I could see the surgeon at the hospital in two weeks.

Did you hear the bit where I said Ouch?

Well, the thing I said then was IhaveprivatehealthcoverandIwanttouseit (I have private health cover and I want to use it said very quickly without a break in the words and no breaths)
Within 30 mins I had surgery booked at a private hospital, was operated on and home by 11 am the next morning.

So now, after 10 days, I can type with both hands (just). But I am absolutely horrified that anyone without private health cover would be left in that degree of pain and broken for 2 weeks before even seeing a surgeon. And that I would today have still not been treated.

The “stories” say that you do not need private health cover in an emergency. That you will be treated the same way under the public system. Well, I consider all the money I have spent to be worth it in just this one incident. I am healing now.

I even managed to get the box of stuff delivered to the charity store today (although I didn’t carry it from the car obviously, they did that for me).

I would be a blithering, crying, painful, half badly healed mess without the cover, and you can forget Christmas, I would probably still be waiting for surgery as things closed down over the break.

#InsiderOut #FinancialRelaxation

Melinda Houghton
Adv. Dip FS (FP), AFA, FPA
Insider Out – Understand and Trust your Advice
www.insider-out.com.au
melinda@insider-out.com.au
0400 533 865

This information may be regarded as general. That is, your personal objectives, needs or financial situations were not taken into account when preparing this information. Accordingly, you should consider the appropriateness of any information we have given you, having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs before acting on it.

I am no longer authorised to provide financial advice. If you wish to receive financial advice you must contact an authorised provider.

https://www.moneysmart.gov.au/investing/financial-advice/financial-advisers-register

How do you find a GOOD financial adviser?

How do you find a GOOD financial adviser?

There is a LOT going on in the Financial Planning Industry at the moment.  Legislative changes, class actions, and investigations.  A lot of Advisers and Licensees are exiting ….. and then quietly on the side, an impressive number of great planners going about their daily tasks to help people achieve a secure financial future.

I did a radio interview a little while ago, where the topic was going to be about New Year’s Resolutions, which quickly changed into answering questions about why you would pay a financial planner when they just charge you fees and you don’t get anything out of it?

The comment from the radio announcer went along these lines:

“So I went to a financial planner a few years ago, and he said he could save me some tax.  But then his fees took away the tax savings so I didn’t get anything out of it”.

My response was something like this:

“So if he did save you tax which paid for his fees, and then he also gave you information on when you could afford to retire, how long your money was likely to last, how much you could spend every year in retirement, and knowledge that you were doing everything you could to your best advantage, is that nothing?

Or is that actually priceless information to provide financial relaxation? 

 Financial Planners need to get paid for their expert knowledge and the hard work they do, so he couldn’t do your work for free.  And if he says it is free, then you would have to ask HOW?”

We agreed that the extra information he had neglected to mention was valuable, and moved on.

But it raises a great point about the objections people have to seeing a financial planner.  They see the fees they pay since legislation (and for most planners, ethics) requires fees to be clearly disclosed.

But how to value peace of mind?

And how to find the good planners amongst the rabble of average, (or unfortunately still there) the dodgy ones?

Whilst as is the case with every profession; there are no absolute guarantees, I suggest you consider the following traits when trying to find a good planner:

  1. Authorised to provide Financial Advice in Australia (so not a Mortgage Broker, Accountant, Real Estate salesperson, Banker or the taxi driver who knows a bit about financial planning).
  2. Qualified at much higher than the base level (base level is generally a Diploma of Financial Planning, soon changing to a degree).
  3. Experienced (more than 5 years as a planner is ideal). The first few years should be closely supervised whilst learning the ropes.
  4. Not linked to a large financial institution (unless you don’t mind being “sold” that bank or institutions products).
  5. Member of a professional association with a strong code of ethics.
  6. A provider of strategic, holistic advice that cares about your goals and objectives and not so much about what products you are in or what products you can be put in.
  7. Focused on you and not themselves.
  8. You pay a fee for their service that is not dependent on product or how much money you have.
  9. Your first impression is that they are good listeners, you like them and you think you should be able to work together.
  10. Your first impression is that they know what they are talking about, and have empathy and understanding of your situation.
  11. They are used to working with clients in your situation (e.g. retiree, family, single young person, complex structures, business planning)
  12. They are recommended by someone you know (who has actually used their services).
  13. They are encouraging but not pushy.
  14. They clearly explain what services they provide, and what fees are payable, without pressure

A financial planner should be someone you can work with over the long term, who listens, and who wants to create an ongoing coaching relationship to help you start to achieve your goals, and then keep on working towards them as things change and you have challenges or achievements.

There are no quick fixes, and if you think that what the person you are dealing with is offering you something that is quick, transactional, or too good to be true, then that is your cue to walk away.

If you don’t like the way you are treated, you think the planner is wanting to sell you products rather than to provide a service, or you aren’t sure you can trust them?  Then that is your cue to run away.

You can’t generalise, and some people may disagree with the list I have prepared above, but in my 25 years in financial services, and 15 years as a former financial planner within multiple organisations and structures, this is the list I have come up with.

If you still aren’t sure, or want more information on advice in general, contact a service that can assist you to enter the financial advice process safely, like Insider Out – Understand and Trust your Advice.

Good luck, and have a great financial future.

Melinda Houghton

Adv. Dip FS (FP)

Insider Out – Understand and Trust your Advice

melinda@insider-out.com.au

0400 533 865

 

This information may be regarded as general.  That is, your personal objectives, needs or financial situations were not taken into account when preparing this information.  Accordingly, you should consider the appropriateness of any information we have given you, having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs before acting on it.

I am no longer authorised to provide financial advice.  If you wish to receive financial advice you must contact an authorised provider.

https://www.moneysmart.gov.au/investing/financial-advice/financial-advisers-register

I hate roadworks!  And crooks!

I hate roadworks! And crooks!

We have a huge problem in Australia.

In my area of Victoria there are more orange roadworks than roads right now. “So what?” you might think. “Isn’t the Victorian Government putting money into infrastructure much needed?” (Of course).

However the issue is not the roadworks as such, it is the over-the-top rules and regulations that mean the disruption and cost and time involved is drastically affecting our productivity and outcomes.

A section of road near me has been “worked” on for over a year now. It was totally re-designed (with similar chaos) a few years ago. I have to drive down this road to take my son to school. He is now doing Year 12, and whilst lamenting the time wasting (around an extra hour a day) I said “Why couldn’t they have waited until next year to do this when we don’t have to drive here anymore?” His response – “Oh, don’t worry, they will still be here next year!”. He is unfortunately right. There is no sign of it being finished.

The issue? Lanes blocked without need or thinking about the actual traffic flow. Many people standing around every day appearing to do nothing, time-wasting and disorder, stop-go sign holders without any real need to be there. Kilometres of roads blocked for metres of work. Sections finished sitting for weeks prior to being opened again. 40 kmh when it could be 60. No forward planning, blocking extra lanes during peak hour. And so on…..

A few years ago I travelled to the United Kingdom. Whilst travelling around England and Wales, it struck me that there were many things happening there that we don’t let happen here anymore. A lot of them related to things that we have assumed people can’t think about for themselves.

Like footpaths. Many places in England and Wales have no footpaths or tiny footpaths, or they are cracked or cobbled. It makes it a little difficult to walk around, you need to watch out for cars (or in Cambridge – bicycles), watch your step, and be a bit careful.

But you know what? People weren’t tripping over everywhere, or getting hit by cars or bikes every minute. They were being sensible, watching their step, and watching out for vehicles.

In Australia if there is a crack in the footpath, “witches hats” are placed around it. If there is no footpath, people aren’t allowed to walk there, or sometimes they expect cars to just stop for them – they don’t even look.

Here, they will block off half a road to work on a footpath. Or they will slow you 40 kilometres an hour for 3 kilometres for 3 weeks to work on 20 metres of road off to the side for 2 days. In England they just blocked off the immediate area and slowed you down slightly if they were on the road, say a reduction of 10 miles per hour. And I didn’t see cars ploughing into the road workers. I even saw some road workers looking for cars before they stepped onto the road! It was almost as though they were expected to take some responsibility for themselves.

A similar thing is happening in financial services in Australia. Many people are so used to everything being controlled and legislated that they don’t take responsibility for themselves. However Financial Literacy Education has been incredibly lax.

  • We hear stories of rip-offs by con-men who are unlicensed and unregistered. Shouldn’t consumers have been taught the basics of avoiding cons in high school?
  • Being offered no-risk and high returns and people assume that is ok? Shouldn’t they have been given basic knowledge that some things being too good to be true?
  • People assuming that if their Adviser works for a large company they will automatically be high quality. Shouldn’t they be taught to check out their Adviser like they do their Doctor or Mechanic?
  • If something is advertised on the television it is taken as automatically true. Surely “someone” wouldn’t let that happen if it weren’t true, right?
  • And if the government says 9.5% of super contributions is compulsory then that will be enough. They don’t want to think about things like living comfortably 20 years in the future.

People are forgetting they are responsible for their own money and future. The education has not been provided to give the basics of financial literacy. Our Government is trying to legislate Ethics into existence, instead of acknowledging that people need to know more to protect themselves, and instead of catching the crooks that are out there.

The Government thinks that by giving everyone in financial services dozens more layers of legislation and boxes to tick, they are protecting people. The consumer is even more confused than ever, has no idea who to trust, and has not been educated on the basics to keep track of, or how to find someone to translate all that money stuff for them effectively.

The costs of legislation are actually reducing the availability of advice for the people who need it most, with no viable financial literacy program to fill the gaps. No-one is telling the clients how to find good advice; they are removing their options for advice at all. And then our Government decided to take away Personal Insurance for thousands of Australians, without telling them how to check it out first or how to find someone to help them check it out.

We have many huge problems in Australia.

People are forgetting to do their due diligence, trust their instincts and use common sense. They will spend more time researching a one-off purchase (like a new smart-phone) than they will checking how they are going to be able to afford to retire one day. They will trust the screen selling insurance products at the petrol station but won’t research the differences between general and personal insurance.

Whilst it would be nice to think that everything is so well controlled in Australia that you can trust the TV, the Government, a bank, or your default options to provide for you in the best possible way, this is not and never will be the case.

How do we make people take responsibility for themselves again?
How do we help them see the difference between junk, lies, rubbish and quality advice?

How do we help people with their responsibility for walking on that cracked footpath, watch out for people working on our roads, or take control of their own finances and future themselves without causing total and absolute chaos ?

#InsiderOut #FinancialRelaxation

Melinda Houghton
Adv. Dip FS (FP), AFA, FPA
Insider Out – Understand and Trust your Advice
www.insider-out.com.au
melinda@insider-out.com.au
0400 533 865

This information may be regarded as general. That is, your personal objectives, needs or financial situations were not taken into account when preparing this information. Accordingly, you should consider the appropriateness of any information we have given you, having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs before acting on it.

I am no longer authorised to provide financial advice. If you wish to receive financial advice you must contact an authorised provider.

https://www.moneysmart.gov.au/investing/financial-advice/financial-advisers-register