Want to build wealth? Ultimately it's all down to you

IT IS easy to look at a financial system and ask the government to make it fair. But what if our system was fair? What if the laws and regulations provided for an even playing field so everyone had an opportunity to build financial security for their family and create wealth for retirement?

Many people will tell you that Australia is indeed a land of equal opportunity. If this is the case, the responsibility is not only on the government to ensure we build private wealth, but on ourselves.

Lately I've written about the need for financial education in our schools, but we also have to educate ourselves as adults. Among other things, I'd like to see more people using advisers to make financial decisions.

Most working-age Australians do not use advisers, even though they are contributing to a mandatory superannuation system that puts a percentage of their earnings into a range of investments.

Research over the years shows us that no more than 40% of Australians use financial advisers on more than a one-off basis. This is low when you consider that individuals really should carry the responsibility of funding their own retirements.

Advisers usually produce greater wealth for clients. KPMG Econtech's 2009 survey found that Australians with advisers would save more than $1500 per year more than those without advisers.

A person with an adviser, if they started at age 30, would be at least $90,000 better off by age 65 than a person who was not advised. Those with an adviser had more life insurance and Total & Permanent Disablement insurance than those without an adviser.

The Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) goes further. In its 2010 report into financial advisers, ASIC says access to quality financial advice is part of "confident and informed participation by Australians in the financial system".

I agree with this assessment. I worry about uninformed Australians who lack the confidence for making decisions about investments, mortgages, insurance, superannuation and tax issues without expert advice.

There have been a few ideas floated on how to lift the use of financial advisers. One could be to make financial adviser fees tax deductible to a certain level. Another allowed advisers to give low-cost, basic advice. As far back as 2009 super fund trustees were allowed to give what they call intra-fund advice - financial advice to their own members.

Many fund managers have tried to introduce their members to the concept of advice.

My company is going one step further by launching an "Ask My Advice" Day in which our branches will open their doors for the day on August 16, 2014, so anyone can come in and ask their questions and get some advice for free.

This won't be resolved on one day, but we can make a start and make Australians more informed and confident in their financial decisions. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

* Mark Bouris is the executive chairman of Yellow Brick Road Wealth Management at Ballina.

Topics:  financial advice

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