Everyone can benefit from getting tips on managing their money, but for expats whose plans for the future may hold more uncertainty – “Will we be here for two years or 20? Where will we move to next? Where’s the best place for us to retire?” – it can be doubly important. Here, ANDREW TALBOT of Expat Financial Planning, answers seven common questions about finding the right person for dispensing the financial advice you need.
“What does a financial adviser do?”
A financial adviser or planner will help you organise your finances and help you understand and reach the financial goals you want. It’s an ongoing process to help you make sensible decisions about money. It might involve putting appropriate wills in place to protect your family, thinking about how your family will manage without your income should you fall ill or die prematurely, or saving for the day you finish work, for example. It also involves thinking about all of these things together; or, to put it another way, your ‘plan’.
“Are they only for wealthy people or people who don’t know much about money?”
Not at all. Financial advisers can help everyone, regardless of where you are in your financial life stage – whether it’s about life insurance for when you’re welcoming a new addition to the family, or planning your estate as you come up to retirement.
“Where’s the best place for me to start when looking for financial advice? Any useful online tools for this?”
The best place is a recognised body such as the Financial Planning Association of Singapore (FPAS) or, if you’re an expat looking for specific advice related to your country, then a country-specific qualification body. Ask your friends or colleagues to see who they use; a referral from someone who already uses a financial planner is a good source.
“What relevant licences/credentials should I look out for in my search?”
In Singapore, there are local exams, but the best level of advice would be to find an adviser who has either a worldwide qualification such as the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) or qualifications from the home country, especially if there are tax considerations to consider. This is especially true for Brits, Australians and Americans, for example, as their countries are mature tax jurisdictions, and the implications are much more extensive.
“Do all financial advisers offer the same kind of services?”
Some financial advisers may specialise in a particular area or tax niche, reflecting their particular skills or qualifications. It will also depend on the company they work for; an insurance agent is only going to give you advice on the insurance products they offer, and a bank will be the same. Ask the adviser what areas they can advise in, and remember that one area of financial planning will influence another; for instance, life insurance levels will be key to estate planning.
“What kind of detail about fees or pay structures should I look for?”
Transparency is key; you should know how much the plan is costing and where the adviser remuneration comes from. A specific fee for the advice will remove any bias. Also, establishing to see if there is a conflict of interest in the advice will determine if you’re going to get the best solution for you. The adviser may receive a commission for recommending insurance, or an investment scheme or investment fund, so an understanding of how this works will help you with the best solution.
“What’s the first step once I’ve chosen an adviser? For example, what kind of information or documentation might he or she need from me?”
Once you’ve established that you trust and like your adviser and feel that you can work with them in the long term, you will need to give them all of your details of your financial life, including your goals for the future and what you want to achieve. The more information you disclose, the better the financial advice can be. A plan can then be created, and this can be tweaked to fit your life. Regular meetings should ensure that it is on track, and life’s events can be included and adjusted for.
Need more tips on getting financial advice or other money-related matters? Contact Andrew today.
Read on for more on managing your money as an expat.