Does ASIC know the difference between Information and Advice?

Does ASIC know the difference between Information and Advice?

Financial issues arising from COVID-19 are arguably one of the most confusing, drastic, and important situations consumers of all types have had to encounter in our lifetime.

You would think that a Financial Adviser would be one of the first points of call for many consumers who need help, with qualified, authorised, and experienced financial experts being the obvious solution to assist many who find themselves in unchartered territory.

Whilst not everyone will need full advice, and certainly not everyone can afford it due to legislative barriers and compliance making advice expensive to provide; you would think that all the work our Regulator and Legislators have done to improve the quality of advice and make sure advisers act in the clients best interests would mean they are directing appropriate clients to a financial adviser, right?

You would be wrong I am afraid.

ASIC’s moneysmart website has a new section called “COVID-19 making financial decisions – Steps to look after your self and your money”  This site has a lot of financial information and answers a lot of questions that will assist a large number of people who need information, and ASIC should be applauded on getting this information up and available quickly.

On the main moneysmart website there are links to finding financial advisers in a couple of the sections (e.g. Tools and resources, and Plan for your future) with some excellent information and links.

However, there is no obvious section to refer people to financial advice in the COVID-19 section with any kind of list of who or what questions or problems would be best served by a financial adviser.  I feel that many people would be clicking straight to this section in the current environment especially as it is the first link to click on with a “start here” button.

There is a front-and-centre reference to financial counsellors, which is highly appropriate, including a list of “What financial counsellors do”.  However, to find a reference to seeking financial advice, I had to click numerous times, and go to the very bottom of the SMSF section to see a section that mentioned financial advice, which as per below has a focus on the fees being charged.

Then, to make the issue even cloudier, apparently ASIC believes that it is okay to say you can get “Free Financial Advice” with then a reference to factual information.  See extracts from the website below:

Getting the right financial advice

  • Make sure your financial adviser has an Australian financial services (AFS) licence

or is an authorised representative. Check their qualifications on the Financial Advisers Register.

  • Decide what you want from the advice. Do you want help with investing money, budgeting or planning for retirement?
  • Read your adviser’s Financial Services Guide to learn about their fees and services, and how they deal with complaints.
  • Compare the fees charged by different advisers, to make sure you’re getting a good deal.
  • Be careful about how much access your adviser has to your investment accounts.
  • Talk to your adviser if you’re unhappy with their advice.

Free financial advice

If you’re looking for factual information about investment products and strategies, or want to do some research before you see a financial adviser, there are some good free and low cost options around.

We have useful information and tools to help you plan for retirement and understand how investing works, including:

  • Retirement planner — calculate what income you are likely to have from super and the Age Pension when you retire, including contributions, investment options and fees.
  • Superannuation calculator — work out how much super you’ll have when you retire.
  • How to invest — learn about developing an investing plan, choosing investments and borrowing to invest.

You can also try:

  • Financial Information Service — attend free Australian Government seminars on topics including managing your money, reducing your mortgage, investing and superannuation.
  • Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) — visit the education centre for information for first-time investors, articles and online seminars.
  • Your super fund — get factual information about investment and insurance options, contributions and consolidating your funds.
  • Banks, credit unions and building societies — check their websites for retirement calculators and other factual information.

If your main goal is to save, see savings accountsterm deposits and our savings goal calculator.

Since I changed from the Adviser side of the fence to the Consumer side, I have spent a lot of time explaining to consumers what advice is, what the advantages are, what the costs are, and why the costs are higher than many expect, however are likely to pay for themselves with the provision of quality financial advice.

Surely our Regulator’s main financial information website could do the same?

I have not yet had an enquiry to Insider Out where I have said “advice is not worth it, you should just go to the ASIC Moneysmart website for ‘free advice’”.  This is mostly because people contacting me have a need for a solution that requires personal advice, however some people checking out moneysmart will also have this need.

Existing advice clients should know they can talk to their adviser as their first point of call.  But wouldn’t it be great if the regulator was directing some people (where appropriate) away from the overloaded government services to Australia’s experts in financial matters in this crisis?

Some people will be much better off with advice in this drastic climate.  If you need assistance to help decide if you are one of those people, please get in touch.

Melinda Houghton

Adv Dip FS (FP)

Insider Out – Understand and Trust your Advice

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.



Riding this Rollercoaster is not fun

Riding this Rollercoaster is not fun

Bit of a horrible disruption this virus thing isn’t it?
Who would have thought?

In my lifetime there have been plenty of disruptions. But this one has got to take the cake.

Has my life changed dramatically? Not really, I already work at home and avoid crowds. I have toilet paper from “Who Gives a Crap” and have done for years. I have a few more groceries in my cupboard, but only about a week or so worth.

I am not sick (at time of writing) and my elderly parents are (relatively) safely isolated in their home in a regional area with phone check-ins and deliveries of things they are missing out on (eggs currently) dropped at their doorstep. My (adult) kids are as safe as possible.

Having said that, it also seems as though everything has changed.

The air; whilst cleaner now, is thick with tension. The stories of hardship and loss are heartbreaking. Anxiety is hitting people it never hit before, and for those who live with it regularly, it is at a peak like Everest. The new and unknown are dominating forces.  We are missing our friends.

But familiarly we are back to the financial conversations we had during the GFC.

“This time is different”
“Why didn’t the super funds sell before the markets dropped?”
“Should I sell now to protect from further losses?”
“I can buy back in when things are looking better, right?”

And one we didn’t have during the GFC – “Should I take my $10,000 or $20,000 out of Super?”

The amount of Government Stimulus is breathtaking. Centrelink is busier than it has ever been. The options are complicated. The rules are changing. Confusion is the dominant emotion now after anxiety.

People are grateful they have jobs to go to, and jealous that others are getting a break both at the same time. People are jealous of the people with jobs, and wish they didn’t have to stay home.

Emotions are raging, and everyone is struggling.  So much uncertainty is not good for us, no wonder people are panicking.

But some things are guaranteed to happen. The health experts say that we will come to an end of this current health crisis. No-one is certain when, or exactly how, but they all agree it will end.

And financial experts are saying that the markets will recover. No one is certain when, or exactly how, but they all agree it will happen.

So, whilst this pandemic is unprecedented and horrifying, in financial terms we can look at history and see what has happened in the past:

• There are going to be some financial tragedies. We will lose company names that have been around for decades.
• We will have companies that exist now that will thrive and prosper, by offering goods and services and ways of servicing that are of most need.
• New businesses will rise to meet unforeseen opportunities and challenges.
• We will have to support people who are hit the hardest with welfare, stimulus, and a lot of understanding and care.
• The best of us will stand tall and help people out, the worst of us will scam, rob and rip people off.

Those who survive and come out the other side in the best financial positions will not just be the ones who were the richest at the start, they will be the ones who use common sense, listen to educated opinions for information, and who stay calm and in control of everything they can.

Budgets, savings, cash-flow management, research, acceptance of the situation, using any stimulus wisely, reducing expenses wherever possible, increasing income wherever possible, remembering every dollar counts, monitoring debt, and consulting experts will be paramount to moving forward after this is over.

For superannuation, getting good advice on what you should do is vital right now.

And by good advice I don’t mean agreeing with mates on social media that “it has all gone to pot and I could do it better”, then selling down and opening a Self-Managed Super Fund with a term deposit in it (“but just for now”) without understanding the complexity and costs.

I mean contacting your financial adviser or engaging with one if you don’t have one. Having sensible conversations that take your own situation into consideration. Listening to calm advice and only selling down if your assets are poor quality not because you are freaking out. Considering adding funds (if possible) while markets are low and with the best possible tax option for your situation.

Should you take out the $10,000 or $20,000?

Who knows? This is going to be a very personal decision and should only be done if really needed. But if it is really needed, then perhaps? A financial adviser can tell you, but your neighbour, social media, government and your emotions and anxiety shouldn’t.

Not everyone will qualify to withdraw. In ten years’ time it will be interesting to see people in similar positions now (e.g. super balances, jobs, family situation) who do act and those who don’t. I expect the difference will be significant.

Here is what I do know for sure:

• I was a financial adviser during the GFC. The clients who were invested appropriately and held their ground still had long-term average returns as expected and projected.
• No-one can accurately predict the top or bottom of the market, but markets will come back up at some stage. It may be sudden and dramatic.
• Everyone’s situation will be different and have different challenges, solutions and requirements.
• People with good financial advice are more financially relaxed, less likely to make poor financial choices, and have someone to call on when in doubt.
• You need to make good decisions to be one of those who can thrive after this ends.

Get the support you need in your personal life, and get the support you need in your financial world. It is vital that as soon as you can get your anxiety to a manageable level that you be sensible and deal with what is in front of you. Acknowledge that this new reality is really, really hard.

But life will go on, and this will end one day. Your actions now are vital. Contact me if you need help with the financial side.

Best of luck with your situation, and using the new sign off of our times, Stay Safe!

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