With COVID-19 restrictions easing, Australians are beginning to return to their jobs, and while unemployment and the economy might be faring better than first expected, it’s likely we’re still in for a rough ride ahead. Of course, this all hinges on whether or not we get a second wave of the virus.
This offers a glimpse at what can happen when the world goes pear-shaped, which can be quite frightening for the unprepared. It’s safe to say that many Australians will be re-assessing their finances, spending habits and even careers in the wake of COVID-19.
Financial planners, in particular, have been feeling the pinch because of this, according to information provided to Business Insider Australia by Deakin University’s Director of Financial Planning, Marc Olynyk, Lecturer in Financial Behaviour and Decision Making, Financial Planning, Dr Campbell Heggen and Professor of Practice, Financial Planning, Dr Adam Steen.
“Many financial planners are finding themselves as busy as they ever have been, dealing both with new clients trying to sort through their financial issues as well as re-connecting and engaging with existing clients seeking reassurance and support,” Olynyk said.
“The true value of the role that financial advice plays in the lives of Australians is particularly highlighted in times of financial uncertainty, apprehension and upheaval. During these times, many of us are grappling with issues associated with financial wellbeing and mental health.”
“Issues associated with financial security are some of the main contributors to the stresses that many Australians experience.”
Of course, the feelings of isolation and uncertainty that come with a global pandemic only serve to amplify any lack of control people may feel around their finances, something the trio say is compounded even further by low levels of financial literacy within the population. COVID-19 is simply the latest health and economic crisis putting huge amounts of pressure on both families and individuals.
“Whilst the government has put in place a range of support and stimulus packages, it is these vulnerable groups in particular that are often most impacted upon but unable to act because of a lack of understanding and direction on the costs and benefits of the options available to them,” Heggen said.
Outside of current events, the trio says that Australians generally seek financial advice because of specific events like “approaching retirement, buying a property, commencing a family, or receiving an inheritance”. With the country facing a whole new range of financial trigger points, the following issues are what financial planners are currently supporting their clients with.
- The need to restructure debt and defer mortgage repayments
- How best to deal with unemployment and redundancy
- The need to establish or refine a budget given a loss of income to the family
- The merits of early access to superannuation as a means to access liquidity
- Retirement plans given significant falls in superannuation balances
- Entitlements to aged pension given falls in retirement income and wealth
- Funding medical needs and access to insurance for illness and medical claims
- People realising the importance of making and updating wills, powers of attorney and advance directives relating to medical treatment
In terms of what financial advisers provide for their clients, it comes down to rational advice, support, education, and most of all, peace of mind.
“Financial planners can provide significant support in these times by reviewing existing plans and making mid-cycle reviews where required, but often it’s more about reassuring clients of the importance of focussing on the bigger picture, sticking with long term plans and strategies, and above all, providing their clients with the confidence that they have control over their financial situation,” Olynyk said.
For those thinking about a career change post-COVID, the trio says those with an interest in numbers, developing strategies and working closely with people could be well-suited to financial planning. “There is immense satisfaction in creating close and deep relationships with clients as you help them meet their goals and needs and support their transition towards a better life,” they said.
Those scoping out new opportunities could also consider a career in the field, with the recent introduction of a code of professional conduct and new education standards elevating the professional status of financial planning, as well as the oncoming retirement of those already in the jobs.
“There are significant opportunities for new financial planners entering the profession as a number of existing planners look to retire over the next few years and more and more Australians seek financial advice to deal with an increasingly complex and uncertain financial environment,” Steen said.
For those looking to take advantage of the opportunities, Deakin is a leader in financial planning education and offers a range of courses, including Master of Financial Planning, which Olynyk, Heggen and Steen say is “one of the most respected courses in the marketplace”.
“Our courses are approved with the Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority (FASEA) as well as a number of professional bodies including the Financial Planning Association (FPA), the Association of Financial Advisers (AFA) and the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP).”
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