By Jaclyn Lim
There will always be a million things to do after you’ve happily welcomed a new baby home. So before the everyday things take up all your attention, there is one important thing you should do as a married couple – engage a financial adviser.
A financial adviser will be able to recommend the right financial steps you should take as new parents, such as making sure your family has adequate and appropriate insurance coverage and helping you save towards your child’s tertiary education.
As you may need to work with the same financial adviser over many years, it is important to do some homework to ensure you engage someone suitable. We invite Ms Anne Tay, Senior Manager of Financial Services from Anne Tay & Associates (Prestige Raffles Branch), representing Manulife (Singapore) to share some thoughts on seeking professional financial advice.
1. Do some homework before that first meeting.
Don’t leave things to first impressions – do some research before meeting your potential financial adviser. Anne suggests: “Most financial advisers are happy to do a self-introduction about themselves and the company they represent. But you can actually visit their personal websites to read up about them first.”
Also, prepare key information that will facilitate your discussion on money matters. “To know you better, your financial adviser will need to understand your financial situation,” explains Anne. “This includes details like income and expenses, assets and liabilities, emergency funds set aside, as well as your existing insurance and investment portfolio.” The information will better equip the financial adviser recommend financial plans to meet your family’s needs.
2. Make sure your financial adviser has the right qualifications.
You wouldn’t want someone unqualified to handle your hard-earned money, so do take extra care here. When meeting your financial adviser for the first time, ask whether he or she is qualified to dispense financial advice. Anne says: “Select someone who has professional qualifications such as AFP (Associate Financial Planner), AWP (Associate Wealth Planner) or CFP (Certified Financial Planner).”
To earn these qualifications, the financial adviser has to go through a series of tests. For example, he/she would need to master a list of nearly 100 topics on integrated financial planning. Anne explains: “Take a financial adviser who is a CFP. He or she must have three years of experience in the financial planning field before earning the right to use the CFP mark. As such, CFP practitioners possess financial counselling skills in addition to financial planning knowledge.”
TIP: Log on to Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) website at www.mas.gov.sg and run a search on potential financial advisers. Under the Financial Advisers Act (FAA), there is a public record of individuals who are licensed and practising in Singapore. As such, you should be able to find out if he or she is credible, and that the company he or she is representing is not suspended or prohibited.
3. Check if your financial adviser is independent of financial product providers.
Find out whether your potential financial adviser is representing a provider of financial products, such as banks and insurance companies. An independent financial adviser is not tied to any product provider and maybe able to more objectively assess and recommend a range of products from different providers. However, the downside is he or she might not have in-depth knowledge of all the financial products. In addition, there could be certain products that are only available from product providers. This means that clients will not be able to get them from an independent financial adviser.
4. Find out how your financial adviser is remunerated.
It is important to understand and be comfortable with how your chosen financial adviser is remunerated. Financial advisers may be paid a flat fee, receive commission from the products they sell, or a combination of both.
Anne explains: “Fee-based advisers often charge asset fees for the assets they manage for the client. They will help the client allocate funds over various financial products to meet the client’s needs and risk profile.” Then there are commission-based financial advisers who receive commissions from product providers based on what they sell. “There is also another group of advisers who charges the client an asset fee and also receive commission from the product providers,” adds Anne.
Determining which financial adviser is better really depends on your needs and preferences. Anne says: “For instance, those who prefer to leave everything to the financial adviser may have to go for fee-based charges. But others who prefer to use several financial advisers based on areas of expertise may have to settle for mix of charges.”
5. Ask yourself if you feel comfortable with your financial adviser.
It’s not always about paper qualifications. “Look for a financial adviser whom you are comfortable with,” suggests Anne. “Word-of-mouth recommendations can be a good way to look for a good financial adviser. Alternatively, speak to a few advisers and pick the one you felt most comfortable with to entrust him/her with your finances. Once you manage to settle on a good adviser, he or she would be able to help you to adapt your financial roadmap to address evolving needs.
TIP: “Look out for those who keep bragging about their earnings,” advises Anne. “The advisers are there to understand your needs and provide the right financial solutions, not just to show how good they are.
I Love Children would like to thank Ms Anne Tay, Senior Manager of Financial Services from Anne Tay & Associates (Prestige Raffles Branch) representing Manulife (Singapore), for her professional input.