It’s the consultation that most people dread – a bit like going to the dentist or getting a physical. You have anxiety about not saving enough for retirement or adjusting your budget to match your income, or perhaps you need to plan for your kids’ education. These are daunting thoughts, but the anxiety is unnecessary.

Your annual check-up with your intermediary is as critical as any other and goes a long way in helping you anticipate – and plan for – your future financial wellbeing. So, don’t put it off, he encourages. The yearly once-over of your finances, investments, estate planning and retirement planning is an important practice for overall financial health, and will help you retire with confidence. He shares some tips for getting the most out of your annual financial check-up. Don’t have one booked yet?

Financial check-up tip #1: Know why you need financial advice (and make peace with it)

Research shows that we don’t always make the best decisions when it comes to our money. This could be because we’re broke, tired and worn out. It could also be because we’ve adopted harmful money habits from our parents or family. In fact, Edward Horwitz, associate professor of behavioural finance at Creighton University Heider College of Business told Forbes, that their research showed that the money patterns we observe in childhood are the primary source driving our financial decision-making later in life.

It could be because we lack self-control or financial literacy; the list goes on. We are emotionally involved in our finances, and this often trips us up. We make a decision that seems like a good idea but ends up hurting us down the road. Managing these emotions and making tough and effective decisions is where good advice is most valuable. Even qualified and experienced financial industry professionals have an intermediary. An intermediary can offer objectivity to steer you away from bad decisions and ideas that are financially unhealthy.

Financial check-up tip #2: Choose an intermediary with whom you feel comfortable

Just like a doctor or dentist, an intermediary delves into matters that are rather personal to you, so you need to appoint someone you can trust. This can be tricky, given the number of intermediaries out there, and their many areas of specialisation. It’s important to ask your intermediary about their qualifications, experience, and the range of financial solutions that they could employ for you. Even if they tick all the logistical boxes, personality fit, shared values and their ability to relate to you as a person go a long way to building a relationship that is central to your financial planning.

Remember, it is entirely up to you who you would like help from with your finances. It’s a long-term relationship, so you would want someone that you click with on the journey.

Financial check-up tip #3: Be honest

A financial plan is like an item of clothing. The better it fits you specifically, the more comfortable you will be in the long run. For that reason, you should be as honest with your intermediary as you can be. They need to know details that could have any impact on your finances. So, even if you think the information is insignificant, or embarrassing, disclose it. It can be difficult, but think of it as telling your doctor about that spot situated in an embarrassing area. It is uncomfortable, but absolutely necessary.

On the plus side, you also have the perfect opportunity to share your hopes, dreams, and aspirations – your dream holiday or home, or the future you wish to give your children. This is the time to express your goals. You and your intermediary could collaborate to make them a reality.

Financial check-up tip #4: Meet with your intermediary at least once a year

The standard practice in the financial planning space is to have one review of your financial plan per year. It is the recommended number of sessions that your intermediary should spend reviewing your financial situation in order to make any adjustments to accommodate the changes in your life. However, this is the minimum frequency for a review. The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that life can change quickly. You may have changed jobs, you may have been retrenched, there may be a new addition to your family, or you may have landed a windfall. Any of these, or a new goal, require revisiting your existing financial plan.

Financial check-up tip #5: Ask questions (even ones you think are stupid)

The purpose of this relationship is for your financial wellbeing, so you need to participate in the process. The first step is to ask as many questions as you like – simple ones and ones that may feel awkward. Doing some homework on financial-planning solutions and issues would be great, but it is not always possible. Financial planning is inherently complex, and this is the main reason that you need to get advice in the first place. Here is a list of questions that you could ask about the plan that your intermediary has proposed:

• What are my benefits? What am I getting?
• What eventualities have I been covered for?
• When would I be able to access cash?
• How tax-efficient is my plan?
• How much can I lose if the economy isn’t doing well?
• How much does this cost?
• What fees am I paying?

If your intermediary can give you comprehensive answers to these questions that you feel comfortable with, then the financial plan is likely to be a good one.

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