One should look at a discussion with a financial consultant like seeing a doctor for a health checkup — while one is about physical health, the other is about financial health…
However, a recent survey by Manulife Singapore involving Singaporeans and Permanent Residents indicated that only half of the respondents had previously received advice from a financial planner or consultant.
"There can be apprehension of exactly what or how much to reveal. This is quite understandable especially during the first few dealings with the financial planner," said Dennis Tan, Senior Director of Financial Services at Manulife Singapore. "But one should look at a discussion with a financial planner like seeing a doctor for a health checkup — while one is about physical health, the other is about financial health."
"The doctor will ask the patient the essential questions on symptoms and prevailing conditions, and the patient should be truthful if he or she hopes for the proper treatment and medication," he elaborated. "In the same way, if insufficient info or part truth is given regarding the actual financial status of an individual with the financial planner, then the final plan may not be as suitable or as well structured as it should to cover an individual’s actual needs."
Why does a conversation with allow you to potentially do much more for your future? Let’s take a look at a real-life case study of a Singaporean.
Celia (name changed for privacy) is in her 30s, single, and works in a marketing role at an MNC.
Here’s a look at her income and savings plan,
Salary: S$110,000 annually.
Retirement Fund: S$40,000 annually - S$25,000 in fixed deposits, S$10,000 for some active trading and the remaining S$5,000 liquid in her savings account.
Looks good right? With a plan like that, would you say she is well on her way to an early retirement?
Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple.
Without a maximised plan, Celia will probably be able to retire only at 65, even with at her impressive rate of wealth-building. A casual chat several years ago with an old friend who had become a financial consultant that made her realise she needed a plan with a greater potential for better returns if an earlier retirement was the goal.
With her friend’s help, she strengthened her insurance coverage to prepare for various scenarios, restructured her investments and savings to include long-term blue chip investments, mid-term real estate investments and mid-term forced savings that gave her a better yield than fixed deposits, allowing her to trade on the stock market daily — something she enjoys — while still giving her access to some, if less, liquid cash.
This new structure, even in the face of a weakening world market, should help her reach her goal of retiring by the age of 52.
With the high cost of living in Singapore and inevitable inflation, retirement in Singapore is an expensive affair depending on the retirement lifestyle you have in mind. Depending solely on your CPF to tide you through your golden years is probably not the best plan of action.
If you are currently doing research to figure out the best financial plan for yourself, it is important to note that working with information you find online or through random friends might not give you the most accurate guide on how you should best invest your cash. Without professional guidance, this might be a tedious and time consuming process, and most importantly, piecing together the best plan that works with your personal lifestyle and risk appetite can be difficult on your own.
And that’s where a financial planner comes in.
A certified financial planner is trained to work together with you to identify a true picture of your current assets (that which you own), your liabilities (that which you owe), your income sources and your expenditure. With this information, a proper financial plan can be created that suits your current lifestyle and future needs, while also helping to take into account gaps in coverage.
Financial planners also help you plan for your family’s future. Sometimes it takes a professional to tell you that you’re better off with a savings plan that won’t let you off the hook when you feel like taking a vacation, because your daughter is going to need that S$100,000 for university in eight years.
On top of that, experienced financial consultants can advise according to one’s risk appetite. Someone who is more averse to risk may end up parking all their cash in bank savings, earning perhaps 0.05 percent per annum (technically, losing money to inflation by safe-keeping it in a bank), when a financial consultant could help them place the sum in a time fixed deposit or relatively low-risk fund that may still yield higher returns than the interest earned in bank savings.
Ultimately, the best advisor is someone who can understand you and whom you can trust to work well with. Your financial consultant is human too — he or she knows what it’s like to face challenges and miss opportunities, and his or her goal is to help you create better potential to maximise returns on your resources.
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