FEE BASED FINANCIAL ADVICE
There is currently no prescribed model for fee-based financial planning in South Africa nor is there a definition of a financial planner. There are. however, many financial planners who refer to themselves as “fee-based” and many advisors who call themselves financial planners.
However, when push comes to shove, many of them still sell products as the primary means to earn their income (commission). While there is nothing wrong with earning commission, it often results in increased conflicts of interests, because the only way that the person advising you is going to get paid, is by selling you something as part of the process – whether it’s actually right for you or not.
No sale = no income!
At The Financial Coach we strive to build a fee-only practice where our clients know what they pay us and when they pay us. We are trying to reduce and ultimately remove the conflicts of interest that exist around the need to generate an income from what we love doing, while at the same time, being able to have tough and honest conversations and being able to resist the path of least resistance without the fear of losing a sale. We get paid by our clients regardless of the product involved.
Simply put, we offer two models:
The first is an “As and When” model where we do work on an hourly/project basis. This might involve one-off advice, a second opinion on a financial plan or help with retirement. Once the task is complete we get paid and there is no ongoing duty of care from our side. We react to requests for help from people as and when they ask for help, and we will help if/when we have the capacity to help. All work is quoted for in advance so everyone knows the scope of work and what the cost will be. Transparency is important!
The second model is essentially an ”Ongoing Retainer” model, where we proactively engage with our clients and their financial lives. While part of what we do might involve assisting clients with their investments, we don’t manage money, we manage our clients and their emotions around money.
This includes providing them with:
Clarity about their finances,
Objectivity when it comes to their emotional responses,
Accountability around things like taxes, budgeting, investing and their wills,
Communication – we do it clearly and concisely and all of this is because we have a,
We don’t do numbers and we don’t have sales targets, but we love working with real people to help them improve the quality of their lives by sharing our expertise — and we get paid for doing it!
So how do we get paid?
One of two ways:
We are either paid by clients directly – the same method for our “As-and-When” model or by a product provider from the client’s funds. While this may appear contradictory and inconsistent with a fee model, the reality is that product providers have the systems in place to facilitate payments. On top of this, the Financial Services Board (FSB) has recognised that this is a fair and easy way for fees to be paid.
We have tried models where we invoice our retainer clients at regular intervals however, while clients don’t mean not to pay, they forget! And then we become debt collectors and that just increases the costs of doing business. So in a moment of pragmatism, we have accepted that there are systems in place to facilitate payments and have decided to make use of them. There are some ground rules in place though: the fee is paid by the product provider from the client’s portfolio with the client’s written consent. This fee is fully disclosed to the client in Rand terms not just an “obscure %” which no-one actually understands. We believe that we do good work at fair prices and as a result are trying to be completely transparent when it comes to what we get paid by our clients.
At the Financial Coach we give professional advice on how to attain your financial goals.
This process includes holistic personal financial planning, where we identify and address the financial risks that they face. We aim to be a one-stop-destination for our client’s financial needs. Where we don’t possess the necessary skills we work with other professionals who do.
Usually this involves the preparation of a financial plan for the client. The plan will identify areas of financial risk and propose solutions to these.
What is personal financial planning? As the word suggests, it is just that: personal and it is different for everyone. From a financial planner’s point of view, it is about objective advice that results in a plan to manage current and achieve future financial needs and goals. It is not about product or sales! These come right at the very end of the process and could be used to flesh out the plan.
Financial Planning is about identifying and managing the financial risks that each of us face, including:
• Dying too soon and leaving debt and/or dependents
• Living too long (retirement)
• Disability (for short or extended periods)
• Funds for emergencies
• Savings and investments (including budgeting and cash-flow)
• Asset allocation
Financial planning needs to be holistic and cannot be done in isolation because all areas of your life are impacted. It is also about simplifying complex products that appear to have been designed to avoid anyone understanding the real costs and risks involved. You should review your financial plan on a regular annual basis or each time there is a significant life change, like birth, marriage, divorce, purchase of property.
We also believe that almost everyone could do their own financial planning. It’s a bit like fixing the plumbing at home: you either buy the tools and the manual and spend the time and energy doing it (possibly making it worse) or you call the plumber.
Consider us the “financial plumbers”.
Most investors and many of the regulators tend to have a very narrow understanding of risk. To them, it’s all about the volatility of an investment or asset class (the up and down risk). In our opinion and experience, this is too one-dimensional.
It excludes so many other measures of risk such as inflation, interest rates, currency, politics and timing. For this reason, we don’t “risk profile” our clients by using a risk profiling questionnaire. Research has shown that something as insane as the weather outside can affect how we respond to the questions on them.
Rather, it is our view that the aim of any investment strategy should be to match the appropriate asset allocation (funds) to the investor’s needs and time horizon. Investors also need to be reminded that investment takes time and given sufficient time, most investments will produce the expected returns.
We have two registered tax practitioners and are able to offer tax planning advice from a financial and estate planning point of view. In addition to this we submit annual and provisional tax returns (via SARS filing system) for a significant number of our clients as part of the all-in service that we offer.