Leading the Stella Network has provided me with access to a range of planners in different regions, at different levels of experience and in different types of businesses.

I’ve listened to their stories of what they do and why they do it, and how they started in financial planning. I’ve worked with financial planners for more than 15 years and I have a very good understanding of who they are and what they do. I recognise now that this particular knowledge places me in the minority.

In several personal instances recently I have been acutely aware that my highly educated friends and family outside financial services have no idea what a financial planner does and how a planner can help them overcome financial stress.

I’ve seen friends at various points of financial strain: starting a family without having a fallback from contract work; working three jobs without having a clear understanding of how much income one is producing; and being unable to meet expenses, while being stressed about the inability to scale down work commitments.

When I say, “You should see a financial planner”, I am constantly told: “I’m not in a position to at this stage; I need to wait until I’ve got things under control”, or, “I don’t have any money to invest”.

This is a complete misunderstanding of the role of a financial planner, both as I see it and as we promote it across the industry – though perhaps only to each other.

Promote the message

Our PR is clearly not reaching the public. We need to promote this message throughout our own networks and to the greater public.

It is important to let people know that financial planning is about providing a service that people want and that can help them do the things they want to do.

Currently only 20 per cent of Australians have a financial planner – that’s a lot potential clients who could benefit greatly from advice. How can we make sure they’re getting the message?

We need to realise how completely the world has changed, particularly with communication and social media.

No longer do businesses have the right to push out our messages. Instead, we all need to listen to our clients and potential clients and find out what they want, what they need and how we can offer solutions.

When it comes to their finances, people want to know they’re on track to meeting their goals and that they will have enough money to meet their needs – whatever they may be.

Put more simply: can they afford this car, that house, that holiday? Can they afford what their neighbours can afford? What difference will it make if they work less, earn more, take time out of the workforce?

Can their family afford a stay-at-home parent?

Can their children go to private school for 12 years each? Can they afford another child? Should the mother-in-law move in with them?

What happens if their partner can’t work or becomes sick or breaks up with them? How will their lives change? Can they do anything in advance that may minimise the potential effects?

Let’s spend more time listening and solving real problems for people – win appreciation, and build our clientele. We have the opportunity to make our value clearer over and over. The face of financial planning is changing, but it’s only obvious to those of us working in the industry. Showing our value and having that spread around by delighted clients will be the only way we will really take off as a profession and soar beyond our mired past.

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