What are the benefits of financial planning and good financial advice?

Financial planning and financial advice can help you manage your finances more effectively so you can achieve your financial goals.

Financial planners can provide advice on all aspects of your finances.
By developing a framework for you to manage your finances financial planning  can help you:

  • protect yourself and your family with personal insurances
  • protect your business against your ill health or injury
  • ensure you have an adequately diversified portfolio of investments that is designed to reflect your personal risk profile and achieve your goals.
  • invest in a range of sectors, asset classes and fund managers to generate an appropriate regular income for you in retirement.
  • review your changing needs as your circumstances change

Most importantly, by working with a financial planner and financial adviser on an ongoing annual basis, you can review your progress towards achieving your goals, and make sure that you understand how all your financial solutions work for you and your family.

Professional Standards for financial advisers

Q: How do you keep up to date with changes that might affect your clients?

Listen for: AFA’s (Authorised Financial Advisers) have a legal requirement through the Code of Conduct to participate in ongoing professional development.  QFE and RFA financial advisers do not have these requirements.
Is this financial adviser a member of an industry organisation such as: Institute of Financial Advisers (IFA), Professional Advisers Association (PAA), or Society of Independent Financial Advisers, or Finsia (Financial Services Institute of Australasia).  These industry organisations are likely to also have professional development requirements for their financial adviser members.
Q: Do you have to abide by a professional code of conduct?
Listen for: AFAs (Authorised Financial Advisers) should tell you about their Code of Professional Conduct. Here is a link to the current code Code of Professional Conduct for Authorised Financial Advisers. This code sets out the minimum standards of competence, knowledge and skills, ethical behaviour and client care for AFA’s.  It also specifies these financial advisers continuing professional training requirements.  AFAs can be disciplined for breaches of the Code.
QFE advisers do not have to follow the Code but their QFE employer should have established systems and procedures at an equivalent level to the Code.
Registered financial advisers (RFA’s) are not required to follow a code of conduct.

Choosing a financial adviser (based on information from New Zealand Financial Markets Authority – FMA)

Your financial adviser should be a long term partner to help you to achieve your goals.  As a result, deciding who your financial adviser should be is an important personal matter.

Your friends or colleagues may refer you to their financial adviser.  Make sure that the adviser can fulfil all your needs.  A referral is a good starting place, but it is still important to do your research.

The FMA (Financial Markets Authority) has developed some questions that you can use when you meet with a financial advisers, and they offer some ideas about what to listen for. If you are receiving personalised investment advice, you should be able to find some of this information in a financial adviser’s disclosure statement. You can compare disclosure statements from different advisers.  

But remember, as this will be a long term relationship, you need to ensure that you like your adviser as well.

Before choosing your adviser, ask financial advisers as many questions as you need to until you’re confident you completely understand how they can help you and that you will be comfortable working with them.

It is vital that you are comfortable to ask them any question at all about your financial situation without hesitation.

What type of Financial Advice

Q: What type of financial advice or financial planning service do you provide?
Listen for: Does the adviser provide class advice or personalised advice, or are they just giving you information only? Personalised advice is tailored to your personal situation, whereas class advice is suitable for most people in a group or class. See the FMA’s information and the different types of advice to help give you a better understanding.

What Financial Adviser type

Q: What type of financial adviser are you?
Listen for: AFA (Authorised Financial Adviser). An AFA financial adviser has been licensed, and is monitored  by the Financial Markets Authority.  There are currently 1854 AFA’s in New Zealand.
A QFE Adviser works for a Qualifying Financial Entity and in general can only provide you with advice on their employers financial solutions. There are around 26,000 QFE Adviser/Employers at present.
If they are a RFA (Registered Financial Adviser) individual, or work for a registered financial adviser entity, (but are not an AFA or QFE) they are not licensed or monitored by the Financial Markets Authority. There are around 6500 Registered Financial Advisers at present. Registered individuals can give you personalised advice on simpler products such as insurances, mortgages and term deposits. Registered individuals or entities can provide you with ‘class’ or generic advice on investment products such as KiwiSaver or managed funds.
Find out more about types of financial advisers and kinds of financial advice.

Q: Do you have any financial adviser qualifications?
Listen for:  An AFA is required to meet a minimum level of competence set out in their Code of Professional Conduct, to report to the FMA annually and has a National Certificate in Financial Services or equivalent qualification.  QFE Advisers and RFA financial advisers are not required to have any qualifications.

Does the Financial Adviser Put Client’s Needs First

If you are looking for personalised financial advice, consider asking:
Q: What information will you need to be able to provide me with financial advice that is tailored to suit me?
Listen for: Your financial adviser needs to get to know you to be able to work along side you. Therefore, a good financial adviser should be asking you lots of questions about your circumstances and needs. To be able to do a really good job, the adviser should ask about your income and expenses, what you own and what you owe, your dependants and your financial goals, retirement and long term goals, but also your short term goals.  Your financial adviser will also need to know about your appetite for risk if you are making some investments (including KiwiSaver). The financial adviser should discuss your insurance needs and things such as estate planning or business succession planning if these topics are relevant to you.

Q: How will you deal with a range of different financial objectives for my individual goals?
Listen for: A financial adviser will talk to you and ask questions that will help you to prioritise your financial objectives.  The adviser will explain and discuss choices with you and develop a strategy to help you achieve your objectives.

Q: Am I a retail or wholesale investor?
Listen for: Wholesale investors are defined in the Financial Advisers Act and can include entities such as family trusts. If you are going to be considered as a wholesale investor, your financial adviser needs to explain what a wholesale investor is and whether/why you are regarded as one. Wholesale investors have less protection than retail clients, so you need to understand the implications of being a wholesale investor. You can opt out of being a wholesale investor if you wish.

If you are looking for generic or ‘class’ financial advice, consider asking:
Q: What ‘class’ or group of investors is your advice suitable for?
Listen for: If you don’t want personalised financial advice, you may be happy with general information so that you can decide what direction to go in.  To do this, you need to ensure that the ‘class’ advice that you are receiving is relevant to you. Ideally the class advice is intended to people similar to you, for example with the same age group and risk tolerance.
A description of the general characteristics of people like you with similar circumstances and requirements. This is sometimes referred to as your ‘class’ or group that your adviser has taken into account to advise you, e.g. your age group and tolerance for risk.

Does the Financial Adviser have Reasonable Fees

Q: How is the financial adviser paid – via fees or commissions? How much is the financial advice likely to cost?
Listen for: Does the financial adviser have a combination of remuneration models?  Is there a fee for a financial plan, an annual retainer fee?  Is there a fee based on the assets that the financial advice is based on.

Is there an implementation fee?  Is that a dollar fee or a % fee?
Does the adviser only receive commission from providers?  If you are receiving insurance advice, in New Zealand it is most common for commission to be paid by the insurer to the adviser for providing services to you.  AFA’s are required by law to disclose how much commission they receive, but at Moneyworks, we believe that all advisers should share that information with you.  This information should be in a % basis and ideally written down in a $ basis.  The commission that is paid is not additional to you, but in some circumstances, an adviser might be able to reduce their commission which may lead to a reduction in the premiums to you.
If you have KiwiSaver, most advisers will receive a ‘trail commission’ from the KiwiSaver provider that they have introduced you to.  This is usually a small payment of 0.20% or 0.25% per annum.  Therefore, if you have $10,000 invested in your KiwiSaver for a year, your adviser will receive $20 or $25 for that year.  This is a payment to assist them with being available to answer your questions and provide advice to you.  A small number of KiwiSaver providers pay higher commission to the adviser, some KiwiSaver providers are not available for advisers to work with.

Q: If your financial adviser charges ongoing fees, what will you get for these fees?
Listen for: The best relationships with financial advisers and their clients are when they meet on a regular basis to review your circumstances and financial solutions to make sure that they are still working appropriately for you.
If you have an investment portfolio, your financial adviser should be reviewing your portfolio and considering whether your portfolio needs re-balancing on at least an annual basis.
If you are paying ongoing fees, you should expect to have reasonable access to your financial adviser when you need questions answered or want to discuss a financial issue with them, and they should schedule regular reviews with you.

What kind of Professional Experience does the financial adviser have?

Q: How long have you been giving financial advice?
Listen for: Assisting people with planning and managing their financial future requires life experience and where possible, experience in providing financial advice.  However, if new advisers were not brought on and trained up, then the industry would die out.  Therefore, you may meet a newer adviser without extensive experience.  This shouldn’t be a problem if you get on well with them, are comfortable in their presence AND if they If they y receive supervision or oversight from a more experienced colleague or their employer.

Q: What type of clients do you mostly see? What are the majority of your clients trying to achieve?
Listen for: It’s helpful if the financial adviser deals with people in a similar situation to you, for example, young families, retirees or small businesses, as they will have experience in the type of advice you are looking for.

Q: What products do you advise on? What will happen to the products I’m currently invested in?
Listen for:
 Is the financial advisers product range restricted to a certain type of product (eg insurance only) or is it limited to products from a small number of product providers (eg their employers products)?

Is the financial adviser aligned with one product provider only?
Can the adviser compare and recommend different products? A bigger range of products can mean more choice for you. This could also be important for any existing products you have, such as your KiwiSaver fund or managed funds.
Can the financial adviser provide advice in relation to your current funds or investments, for example, even if it is not on their approved product list? If they are recommending dis-investment from any products you currently hold, make sure they tell you what the risks and benefits are in doing this.

Q: How do you establish a client’s tolerance for risk?
Listen for:
 There are a number of factors that need to be incorporated in working out a clients risk tolerance.  These include the use of a risk profiling tool as a starting point, (for example, a comprehensive questionnaire to assess clients’ tolerance for risk (also known as a risk profile).)  But a good financial adviser should also understand your experience with finances and how you feel about money to finalise your risk tolerance or risk profile.

The financial advisers Dispute Resolution processes

Q: How do you deal with customer complaints or disputes?
Listen for:
 A clear description of their internal process for handling customer complaints. A financial adviser must also belong to an external dispute resolution scheme if financial services are provided to retail clients. The name of the dispute resolution scheme will be in the adviser’s disclosure statement.

Working with your Financial Adviser

In your first meeting or meetings with an adviser, you’ll need to provide detailed information so that the adviser can give you good recommendations.

Think about your situation
Provide relevant and full information
Discuss risk
Consider the advice
It’s up to you to decide whether you want one-off advice or on going service.
When you will need on-going advice
Saying no to on-going advice

Think About Your Situation

Do some advance thinking about what you want to achieve and what your priorities are. The more preparation you do, the better the advice you’re likely to get.

Take a close look at your financial situation (where relevant to the advice you’re seeking). For example, if you want a full financial plan on a range of issues you could start by working out:
What you own – assets including your home, superannuation, car, shares or other investments and personal property
Who owns what – for example, are assets owned personally, jointly or in family trusts
What you owe – debts including mortgages, loans and outstanding credit card balances
Income and expenses – the Sorted website has budget calculators that can help
What insurance you have and how much cover.
If you’re looking for specific advice on only one issue, you will only need to prepare information relevant to that issue.

Set Goals

Ask yourself:

  • What are my priorities and goals in the short, medium and long-term?
  • What do I need to achieve financially to reach my goals?
  • Who depends on me financially and what do I want to provide for them?

The Sorted website can help you set goals and work out your investment profile.

Provide relevant and full information

Give your adviser accurate information. Sometimes your adviser will need very detailed information, especially when giving retirement planning advice. This is because they’ll have to consider tax and government retirement entitlements as well as your retirement needs. Your adviser should tell you what information to bring to the meeting such as savings account statements, superannuation account statements and pay slips.
If you are not completely honest with your adviser or don’t disclose something you don’t see as relevant, you could get the wrong advice. Tell your adviser if you can only give limited or incomplete information. They need to know if they have only part of the picture.
If you’re only looking for general advice (‘class’ advice), your adviser should only ask you for basic information to determine which general group of customers you belong to. You will not need to give full information about yourself if you are only getting general advice.

Discuss Risk

The first or second meeting is a good opportunity for you and the adviser to have a discussion about investment risk. This is sometimes called risk profiling and helps the adviser understand how much investment risk you are willing to accept. Based on the information you provide, the adviser will need to recommend what type of investment is suitable for you based on your risk profile. For more information, see risks involved in investing.

Consider the advice

At the end of your first meeting (sometimes it will take a couple of meetings to explore different options), your adviser may go away, do some further research and put together some recommendations. Your adviser must talk you through any recommendations and clearly answer your questions.
If you are receiving personalised investment advice, your adviser must put any recommendations to you in writing and talk them through with you as well.
Your adviser will also give you a disclosure statement. This should be in two parts. The first part will give you information about the adviser, the services they provide and how they are paid. The second part will provide specific detail such as the costs of the services they are recommending, and specific details on how they will be paid for those services and any conflicts they may have.

Read the Paperwork

Take your documents home to read before you agree to anything. Be prepared to set some time aside to go through the advice carefully. It might help to review the advice in stages, beginning with the overall strategy and then moving on to the detail.
Ask Questions

Don’t be shy about asking questions. Advisers are required to put your interests first and explain the options clearly. Remember that it’s your money and your future. The adviser has only made recommendations that you can accept, reject or ask to be varied. Ultimately, the decision rests with you. See making informed choices.

Moving Your Investments and/or Insurance

Sometimes your adviser may recommend switching existing investments or insurances. If so, make sure you understand the reasons and the benefits, and any disadvantages to you. Ask how many different products your adviser sells and who makes those products. Ask your adviser whether they have compared products made by different product providers. Find out any costs involved in making the switch.
Your adviser may suggest moving your current investments to their preferred administrative platform (a master trust or wrap service). Again, check you will benefit from making this change and whether there are fees for making the switch and how the on-going fees compare to your current arrangements.

When You Will Need On-going Advice

If you don’t have a lot of time or adequate expertise, or if you don’t feel confident managing your own investments, getting on-going support from an adviser can be a good idea.
Review Your Plans Every Year

Review your plan at least once a year to ensure it is still right for you. You may be able to check this yourself. If you want advice, check how much your adviser will charge to do this review for you and what the fee includes. Then you can make an informed decision about whether you want to initiate any reviews or if you’re happy to leave it up to the adviser to decide on the frequency of on-going reviews.

When Things Change

Between reviews, keep an eye on whether there are major changes in your circumstances, the market or your investments. There can also be changes to laws that affect superannuation or other entitlements. If you’re not sure what these changes mean or whether they will affect you, you can talk it over with your adviser. If you agree to on-going support from your adviser, they should be able to keep you up to date and contact you when changes need to be made.
Saying No to On-going Advice

Your financial affairs might be quite simple. In retirement, you may feel comfortable managing your own investments most of the time. If you have enough time and know-how, you may not need to pay an adviser for on-going service.
It’s up to you whether you want or need on-going service from your adviser.
Many advisers are happy to charge a fee for advice and give back to you any on-going commissions they might earn from investment products you purchase. You still have the option of getting advice in the future if your circumstances change.

Having someone else manage your investments

If you’re thinking about letting an adviser decide which financial products to buy and sell for you, then this page will advise you on:

  • how you can stay in control of your investments
  • some risks involved.

Stay in control

A smart investor takes the time to understand the basic principles of investing and gets financial advice to help develop and keep to a sound investment plan.
Once you’ve developed a plan, the next step is to choose carefully the investments that best suit your plan. You can implement the plan yourself by buying and selling investments yourself with advice from an adviser, or you might want an adviser to buy and sell for you broadly in line with your plan. This can help take some of the guess-work out of choosing your own collection of financial products (also referred to as an investment portfolio). They can also make investment choices for you as the price of individual investments in your portfolio rise and fall in value, so that you stay on track with your plan without getting involved in the day-to-day management of your investments.
If your adviser makes these types of investment choices for you, they are providing a discretionary investment management service, sometimes called a DIMS.
Generally, advisers who provide discretionary investment management services will not seek your permission every time they buy or sell a particular financial product for you. By entering into a discretionary investment management service you are giving them the power to choose for you and control your investments. So, do your homework, ask lots of questions and keep track of your investments.

Choosing your adviser

Ask them what type of financial adviser they are. You can search for information about your adviser, or the financial services provider they work for, at
Ask whether you are receiving a discretionary investment management service that is tailored to your personal circumstances. Receiving a personalised discretionary investment management service means you can expect that your personal situation and some of your investment goals have been taken into account.
A financial adviser who offers to buy and sell investment products for you under a personalised discretionary investment management service must be an Authorised Financial Adviser (or a Qualifying Financial Entity adviser if they only buy and sell products for you that are manufactured by the person they work for) and must give you a disclosure statement covering that type of adviser they are, the services they can provide, the products they can advise you on, and how they are paid.
To find out more about the different kinds of advisers and kinds of advice that you can receive, click here.

Set the terms of the authority

Most advisers who provide discretionary investment management services will make an arrangement with you that allows them to choose your investments without needing to seek your instructions or asking you to sign any ownership paperwork. Your adviser should enter into a client agreement and written investment authority with you. The written investment authority will give your adviser authority to sign documents on your behalf. It should clearly set out the scope of the adviser’s authority including any limits on the nature or type of investments and on the proportion of each type of assets the adviser can invest in.
Before you agree to anything, and before you pay any money to your adviser, ask questions:
Will you hold investments in your own name? If you hold investments in your own name, your adviser will generally ask you to sign a document that allows your adviser to make decisions for you and sign documents for buying and selling on your behalf.
If someone else will hold your investments on your behalf:
– Who is responsible for holding your investments and making sure they are where they should be (a broker who performs this service is called a custodian)? The custodian is responsible for making sure that your investments are kept accounted for by keeping an up-to-date record identifying which investments belong to you, checking those records are accurate and getting an independent assurance by an auditor that their processes, procedures and controls meet required standards.  A custodian is required to provide you with information about your investments on a regular basis (at least every six months). The custodian could be your adviser, the financial services provider they work for or a company who is in the business of providing custodial services or ‘platform services’ or ‘wraps’. FMA considers that it is good practice for client money and property managed through a discretionary investment management service to be held by an independent custodian.  Ask your adviser to tell you whether the person holding your money is independent of them, and if not, to explain why.
– Who can change key terms of the arrangement with the broker? Your broker should only change the key terms of your arrangement with your approval. This includes changes to your personal details, bank account, or anything else that you haven’t clearly agreed with the broker up front.
When can you expect to receive reports? You should receive statements of the content, value and performance of your investment portfolio at agreed intervals, as well as a summary of transactions recording investment decisions your adviser made for you within an agreed timeframe. Ask how the total value of your portfolio is calculated and who calculates this. FMA considers that it is good practice for your portfolio to be audited by an independent auditor at least annually. You should ask your adviser whether your portfolio is audited. If so, by who and how frequently. If not, ask them to explain why.
What are the charges? If you are receiving a personalised discretionary investment management service from an Authorised Financial Adviser, your adviser is required to provide you with a disclosure statement that sets out how they get paid.  If you use a broker separately from the services you receive from your adviser, you may also have to pay up-front and on-going administration fees to the broker. Make sure you understand the charges.
Staying informed will help you feel more confident about giving your adviser control to make investment decisions for you. You can also keep in control by using the tips in the section below – both when giving your adviser authority to manage your investments, and during the course of your ongoing relationship with your adviser.

It’s your money so watch it

Giving control of your investments to your adviser doesn’t mean you should lose control over your money. Most advisers behave professionally and are doing their best for clients.  But keep control and avoid fraud by using these tips:
  • Ask your adviser as many questions as you need to until you’re confident you completely understand what you’re investing in.
  • Never write a cheque payable directly to your adviser, unless you’re paying their advice fee.
  • Never sign a blank document given to your by your adviser.
  • When you invest in a financial product, your adviser should keep a receipt or statement of your investment on your client file.  Ask your adviser if they can show you copies of any receipts or transaction reports at your next annual review.
  • Avoid long-term, open-ended arrangements even if you do have reason to give your adviser power to buy and sell investments on your behalf – set boundaries.
  • Agree how you and your adviser will communicate with each other.  If you have a telephone or face-to-face conversation with the adviser, ask the adviser to send you a written record of that discussion.
  • Keep all your correspondence, statements and reports in one place – track your money and always check for anything unexpected.
  • Keep track of when you’ll receive information – check how often you will get statements and reports about your investments; this is usually twice a year. Make sure all mail is sent to you and not just to your adviser.
  • If you are sick or going away for a long time, authorise an independent person, a solicitor or trustee to act for you and to check what your adviser is doing.
  • Review your investments frequently. See ‘Keeping track of your investments
  • Find out how you can cash in your investments.  Check whether there are any conditions that apply to when you can withdraw money, such as reaching a certain age (for all KiwiSaver schemes) or if you need to wait for a specified period of time (for some managed funds).
  • Choose a discretionary investment management service that uses an independent custodian to hold clients property and money (or ask your adviser to explain their custody arrangements if they are not independent) and an independent auditor to check portfolio management reporting.

Investing through a platform

Platforms (such as a nominee service or ‘wraps’, as they are sometimes called) allow you to ‘wrap’ your investments into one package or portfolio of investments. They are often used by a financial adviser to provide discretionary investment management service to clients.
Here’s how they work, their benefits and the things you should consider before going down this route.
How they work
Platforms can provide access to a wide range of managed funds, fixed interest investments and often to NZX listed shares. It also provides centralised reporting of a whole investment portfolio. There may be legal differences between some platforms, however, they will look the same to a consumer.
Platforms are often used by financial advisers. They allow for flexibility and simpler reporting for the client and may provide cost savings, making it easier for the financial adviser to arrange and monitor their clients’ investments.
Watch out for up-front fees when moving an existing investment to a platform. Ask if fees can be rebated to you or reduced.

Benefits and things to consider

Investment choice – platforms let you choose between a range of managed funds, investment managers and other investments. You may be able to access some funds at wholesale rates. You may also switch between them easily and buy or sell your investments with lower transfer fees.
Cost – some products will offer lower management fees by giving you access to wholesale funds (although these could end up being more expensive overall).
Reporting – with a platform, you are likely to receive one consolidated report instead of one from each investment you have, making it easier to keep track of your investments.
Convenience – having all the relevant information in one place helps you and your financial adviser track the performance of your investment and makes it easier for you to complete your tax return.
Things to consider
Simplicity – if you don’t have a large or complex investment, using a platform may not be the best way for you to manage your investments. If you are likely to stay in one or two diversified multi-manager funds for example, you don’t need the wide choice of funds and costs of investing through a platform or wrap may not be justified.
Cost – sometimes platforms can save you money and sometimes they cost you extra.  The fees you could be charged include administration fees, fees for moving money in and out, management fees for investment options and service fees from your financial adviser. Fees reduce the money you can invest, so make sure you are only paying for services you need. Extra fees each year can have a big impact on the value of your investments over time. Extra features may come at a price. You have to decide if you need the extra features and if they are worth any extra fees.
Convenience, but be wary of costs – a platform may be more convenient for you, but make sure that your financial adviser is recommending this type of investment for your convenience and not their own.
Portability – moving into a platform can affect the flexibility of your investment in the future. Some platforms may only be available to clients of a particular advice firm. This means if you decide to change advisers, you may have to exit the platform, which means you may have to pay exit fees and taxes (if your investment is not a ‘Portfolio Investment Entity’ or PIE). So if you are thinking of moving onto a platform, ask your adviser how many financial advisers use that platform. A ‘unique’ offering could be a disadvantage.
Platforms are good for those who have large sums of money to invest and want the convenience of receiving one report covering multiple investments.  Talk to your financial adviser before you decide if a platform will be right for you.

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