Many kinds of clients walk into Cath Sharples-Rushbrooke’s office and they all have varying visions of what their retirement will look like.
Some are desperate to accumulate as much money as possible while others are less fussed about the dollar amount in their superannuation accounts.
“There are people I see who are pensioners and they’re quite happy,” Sharples-Rushbrooke says. “And I see millionaires who are stressed and miserable. It all depends on what makes you happy.
“For some people, it’s working really hard and they want to keep working and for others it’s about spending time with family.”
She says her job essentially boils down to simplifying the huge amount of financial advice on offer and applying it to her clients’ lives.
And with a vast amount of financial literature and money websites out there these days, it’s no easy task.
“People fall into one of two camps,” she says. “They either take all of that information and they implement a plan or they feel completely overwhelmed and bamboozled by it.
“I sometimes think financial advice is presented in a way that’s too complex and it turns people off. My job is to simplify it.”
It’s a calling to help people that Sharples-Rushbrooke has felt since her early 20s. In fact, it was while she was working for a bank as a customer service representative that the penny dropped.
“I realised that most people in life are driven by money and that they work hard for it,” she says.
“But they actually don’t know how to manage it. Life gets in the way and people don’t manage their money, but it’s really just a tool to help you live the life you want to lead.
“That’s when I decided to help people and to study to become a planner.”
When she graduated, she worked for a few businesses but, like many professional planners, it took her a while to find a company that aligned with her values.
“They were businesses that were more about revenue targets and funds under management, and I was after a more client-focused approach,” she says.
She also maintains it’s possible to stay profitable while putting the needs of the client first.
“You still have to have a business,” she says. “There are people I see who could use advice but they can’t afford a planner and you need to draw the line somewhere.
“It’s important to charge the right fees and put a value on your time.”
Most of her clients are preparing for retirement, which means she sees them after they’ve had a lifetime of decision-making about money.
What advice would she give young people in order to avoid mistakes?
“Pay down any debt as fast as you can, which makes creating a budget very important,” she says. “Once you have that mortgage paid off you can focus on managing your cash flow properly.”
Of course, many young people today fear they will never be able to retire and are instead enjoying their lives now, rather than waiting for retirement.
“I hear stories of young people taking mini-retirements, which is basically a big holiday every five years or some time off to reflect on life,” she says.
“It makes sense to try and strike a balance.”
Then there are those clients who’ve had a bad experience with money. They may have made a bad financial decision or feel bruised after a negative experience with another planner.
“At this point you have to rebuild their trust,” she says. “Sometimes people make a bad financial decision and they’re scared to invest again and in this case what you’re trying to rebuild is not so much trust in you, but the trust they’ve lost in themselves.”
Name of firm: Advice Services Australia
Years in the industry: 18 years. Has held positions in administration, paraplanning, strategic financial planning, advising, compliance, business development, training, private banking, stockbroking, funds management, superannuation, accounting, adviser and licensee services.
Academic qualifications: Bachelor of Business (Financial Planning), SMSF Specialist Certificate, Certificate IV in Training & Assessment.
Professional association memberships: FPA
Other memberships: FPA Professional Practice Program