I suppose you could say we inherited our adviser. Her name's Adrienne. Dad had made her the executor of his Will. So when Dad died last year we had quite a lot to do with her.
To be honest, it didn't immediately occur to me that she could help us with our finances. I mean I've only just turned 40 and retirement isn't even on my radar. But naturally enough, at some point I asked Adrienne what I should do with my inheritance.
She said "I'd be happy to advise you on that but I really need to have a complete understanding of your situation first. I wouldn't be doing my job properly otherwise." I honestly had no idea how much a professional adviser could do to help us get ahead. Yes we worked out what to do with the inheritance but that was just the tip of the iceberg. Once we started to have a good look at our financial situation, Adrienne uncovered 9 different ways we could cut our expenses, without cutting back on our lifestyle.
The biggest expense of all was tax. Ben and I both work. I'm part-time and he's full time - and we were paying a heap of tax. I don't mind doing my bit but I don't see the point of paying more tax than I should. Well now our tax bill is less than half what we used to pay thanks to Adrienne. The money we've saved on tax is going into our super fund now. We spent part of the inheritance on a holiday and then invested the rest and that's doing just fine.
What's really got us streets ahead though is using the equity in our home. We've been in our place for over 10 years now, and although we haven't paid off our mortgage any faster than we needed to, the value of our place has almost doubled in that time. Adrienne explained that we had about $400,000 in equity just sitting there doing nothing. Not any more.
We've invested wisely and it's making more than double the cost of finance. It all sounds great I know but here comes the not so great bit. Five months ago Ben developed a brain tumour. He's been off work now for over three months. He's getting better slowly but the doctors at least another month before he can work again. Even then he'll have to take it easy. If we hadn't taken out income protection insurance we would have been right up the creek.
That was another thing Adrienne did for us. The $200,000 Dad left me has been a great help. No doubt about it. So has Adrienne.
On my 30th birthday my Dad and I went on a fishing trip. I got the surprise of my life when he pulled out a cheque for $10,000 cash and gave it to me. I was stoked - until he told me there were two conditions. He said I had to invest it, and I had to get professional advice on how to do it.
Then he suggested I go and see his bloke. I wasn't too sure he'd be right for me. But Dad said Bill really knows what's what. And when I get to retirement age, when things get really complicated, I'd be in great hands."
I went and saw Bill and I have to say I was pretty blown away by what he could do for me.
It turns out I was wasting money left right and centre. Not by spending it on having a good time but stupid things like not paying my credit card off in time to avoid interest charges, like using store finance to buy my sound system. We worked out that I could save $50 a week just by managing my cashflow better.
So I started an investment plan, and put my $10,000 into a growth fund, then took the $50 a week I'd been wasting and invested it as well.
Now I'm 35. My investment portfolio has even grown and that's after cashing in $20,000 for a deposit on my home loan. It's great to have some assets behind me, but the big thing for me is that it's given me some choices I don't think I would have had otherwise. There's no way I would have started my own business when I was 33. It was the second best thing I ever did financially.
The best thing I ever did? Going fishing with Dad on my 30th birthday.
Last year was a pretty big year for me - I turned thirty-five and I married Elise. It feels different having some one to care for aside from myself and we were thinking about having a family so I wanted to get the finances sorted.
Seeing Bill has been a big relief. I don’t have worry whether I’m doing the right thing all the time anymore. Elise and I have talked about our goals and we’ve got a plan in place to get us there.
Bill’s got us putting money aside in a monthly savings plan and has even helped us buy some direct shares. With mortgage repayments on my apartment it’s always been difficult to find any extra money for this kind of thing but now we’ve got two incomes coming in, we wanted to make sure we were putting away something for the future.
With the market downturn, we even got a pretty good price for some blue chip Australian and international shares. Of course, it was pretty scary getting involved in such a volatile market, but we’ve already seen a pretty decent return this year. Some of our friends weren’t so lucky – they freaked out and put all their money into cash, missing out on some of the big returns now the market is bouncing back. Not that I can blame them – I would have done the same if I didn’t have Bill to be my voice of reason.
I know it’s not all going to be smooth sailing but we’re invested for the long-term so that’s all that really matters. Plus we have peace of mind knowing a professional is there to help us through.
I'm pretty young and have a long way to go until I have to worry about retirement or estate planning or any of that sort of thing so I'd never really thought about seeing a financial adviser until a few years ago when I turned 32. That was when super fund choice came in and I figured since I'm going to be investing at least 9% of my salary into it for the next thirty odd years, I'd better choose the right fund.
Luckily, my workplace offered us a free consultation with a financial adviser as part of our employee benefits program so I thought I'd have a chat with them to see if they could give me any tips. Well I ended up getting a lot more than I bargained for. During the initial consultation with Susie, she pointed out a lot of areas where I wasn't getting the most out of my money - I had a lot of inefficient debt, and was paying more tax than necessary. It became clear I needed a whole financial plan including not just super but wealth creation, debt management and even protection.
Susie really had to twist my arm to get me to fork out good money for things like life cover and trauma insurance. My wife Jane and I are young and have always been fit and healthy, and besides we have the kids school fees to save for. But Susie was adamant on that point and everyday I thank my lucky stars she's as persuasive a woman as she is, because six months ago Jane suffered a massive stroke and hasn't been able to work since.
It came completely out of the blue and it has been a horrifying experience for all of us. But at least we don't have to worry about the financial side of things. Jane's Trauma cover paid out a benefit of $515,000, which covered the costs for ongoing medication and treatment, and meant that we could eliminate the mortgage. We've still got a long road ahead to recovery but at least we don't have to sacrifice everything we've worked so hard for financially.