While most people know what lawyers and accountants do, awareness of the financial planning profession is low. That probably has something to do with the fact that there are very few Certified Financial Planners. They number in the hundreds rather than the thousands. While there are often very compelling reasons to use a lawyer (for example. the sale or purchase of a property) or an accountant (for example, to prepare tax returns), the use of a financial planner is seen to be an optional extra. This is unfortunate, as a good financial planner has the power to make dramatic, lasting improvements to financial outcomes for even the most ordinary of people.
Many of us suffer from information overload, and there is certainly no shortage of information on financial matters. The problem is that everybody’s personal financial situation is unique and often complex, and it is not that easy to deduce personalised strategies from general information. This is where a financial planner adds value. A good financial planner will gather together information on your current financial situation, your goals, your attitudes towards investment risk and return and your family circumstances and from that distil the key strategies to enable you to get the most out of life. While there may be some product recommendations included in a financial plan, the focus is not on selling product but on implementing the strategies. These could include better money management, debt reduction, short and long term savings, investment, risk management and estate planning. Often there are trigger points for people seeking advice, such as a new relationship, the sale of a property or business, an inheritance, or impending retirement. However, anybody, at any stage of life, can benefit from a financial plan. You can find a nationwide list of Certified Financial Planners here.