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New year, new financial planner? How to find the right fit

By Opinion Time of article published Jan 21, 2021

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Fifty-nine percent of South Africans resolved to save money in 2020, according to a survey by YouGov. However, the economic impact of Covid-19 means a significant percentage will not have managed to do so.

Finding the right financial planner – someone who can help you look at your money habits in a fresh and insightful way – could mean the difference between meeting or missing your 2021 goals. This is according to Sharon Moller, Financial Planning Coach at Old Mutual Wealth, who insists that’s it’s crucial to know what you’re looking for and pick well, or you could end up spending more money without seeing much improvement in your financial health.

“It’s a bit like finding the right hairdresser, gynae or GP because you need to be able to trust them with your most personal information and even more – with your very dreams for the future,” explains Moller.

“You need to know that they aren’t just going to tell you what they think you want to hear. To make a real and lasting impact on your finances, a planner must be ready to challenge your thinking in fundamentally expansive ways.

“Conversations about the performance of this or that fund are simply not enough. They need to help you identify your limiting beliefs and habits and focus on the things you can control, such as saving and spending in a way that moves you towards what you most want for your life,” she explains.

Whether you’re looking to change financial planners or to find one for the first time, Moller offers the following three tips for making the right choice.

  • Look for a lifestyle financial planner

“The focus should be on you and the life you want, not on your money,” explains Moller. An Integrated Wealth Planner will hone in on the big questions such as:

  • What do you want from your life?
  • Who do you want to become?
  • How do you want to spend your days?
  • How can you make sure your money supports these fundamental priorities?

To answer the last question, you must be very clear on your answers to the first three. A good lifestyle planner will help you articulate these, a process which is absolutely key to the success of the relationship. “If you don’t know what you’re planning for, it doesn’t make sense to pay a financial planner — what plan are you actually paying them to help you achieve?” says Moller.

  • Get credible personal references too

As well as looking for a lifestyle or Integrated Wealth planner, seek out someone who comes with good references from people whose opinion you can take credibly. “You want more than someone who looks good online”, says Moller. You’re after a proven track record, ideally backed up by the lived experience of someone you know and trust.

  • Do a chemistry check and get clear about the terms of the relationship

Before you jump in, schedule a meeting to feel out your chemistry, advises Moller. This is important because even glowing references don’t guarantee that you, personally, will feel comfortable opening up.

“If you feel guarded, judged or that you’d struggle to lay all your cards on the table (and yes, that means every last credit card and personal loan!), that might signal a bad match. Of course, trust isn’t instantaneous, so it’s about whether you can see yourself developing real emotional honesty with this person over time,” Moller explains.

Establishing a true partnership based on transparency also means getting clear about fees, roles and responsibilities right from the get-go. The question of your planner’s succession plan – what happens if they die, retire or become unable to work – is often overlooked, warns Moller. Who would take over your planning in this event? Are they likely to be a good fit for you and to take the time to understand your very personal history with money? Having these discussions upfront gives you the best possible chances of lifelong planning continuity.

“Finding the right financial planner can be truly life-changing,” says Moller. “But, as with any pivotal relationship in our lives, success hinges on being forthright about our needs and expectations from the very beginning,” she concludes.

PERSONAL FINANCE

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