National Adviser Exam – Don’t Stand in the Shadow of the 2021 Deadline

I have been receiving feedback recently that many advisers are considering deferring the exam until next year; apparently, a strategic ‘wait until the dust settles’ approach.

If you wait until next year, you will have the added pressure of ‘standing in the shadow of the guillotine’; being the figurative instrument that will sever you from your business or employment on 1 January 2021 if you don’t pass the exam.

My advice is to start your pre-exam study program and sit in September or December this year. At worst, a resit may be required early next year. Either way, you won’t subject yourself to the unnecessary stress of such a harsh and ever-looming deadline.

At the completion of my first tutorial program, there is consensus that that none of the topics in the FASEA exam curriculum is particularly difficult, but most advisers were surprised at the large amount of ground there was to cover.

Two advisers in my current program are sitting the June exam (the rest in September). Both advisers positively embraced the program, prioritised time, and were diligent in their reading and preparation. If they stay calm in the exam and manage their time well, they will succeed.

FASEA Adviser Exam – From Misery to Confidence

After week 7 of my first 10-week Adviser Exam Online Tutorial Program, I have two advisers who have already enrolled in next month’s FASEA exam sitting.

Originally we were targeting September which would allow everyone to first sit the Kaplan fully supervised practice exam. And that will still be the case for the majority.

The change of dynamics in this group has been very pleasing. Seven weeks ago it was the gloomy silence of shared misery and now I sometimes have to use the Zoom mute button to get a word in.

Once these guys and girls got back into a weekly routine of reading, practice questions and group discussion, they have really grown in confidence.

Read their testimonials at

The National Adviser Exam just got Technical

With an extension reading list that looks like an advert for a university bookshop clearance sale, FASEA released its adviser exam timetable late last week.

Also in the release is a set of exam practice questions. Whilst it is valuable insight into the way exam questions might be presented, there are some concerns for specialist risk insurance advisers.

Among the questions are references to estate planning issues and Centrelink rules. This suggests that there may be a sprinkling of technical-related content in the exam.

Whilst all advisers should have a handle on powers of attorney and the need for a will, risk insurance advisers might want to brush up on the basics in other technical areas.

The Peril of Delaying the National Adviser Exam

FASEA indicates that National Adviser Exams will be scheduled quarterly in 2019 commencing mid-June; and then bi-monthly in 2020.
So that suggests 8-9 exam opportunities before the 1st Jan 2021 deadline for all existing advisers to pass this exam.  It sounds like a lot but it’s an illusion.
According to the feedback I receive from risk and wealth BDMs, the majority of advisers are adopting a strategy of wait and see.  So most won’t sit the first FASEA in mid-June; and what a bad idea it would be to leave it till the last exam to start.  Realistically that leaves 6-7 remaining opportunities at best to sit the exam.
But here is the problem!
If you fail your first attempt you won’t be allowed to register again for another 3 months. Bear in mind that there will be a time gap between ‘register’ and ‘sit’.  That means you will miss at least the next scheduled exam opportunity before you can register and then resit.
So realistically there will only be 3-4 exam opportunities available to most advisers. If you ignore it and delay until next year the pressure will start to intensify as 2020 rapidly goes by.
Whether you use my tutorial program service or not, I strongly suggest that you start studying and revising now and aim for the September exam. Then if you need a resit, it is likely you’ll do it in Feb next year.
Getting this exam out of the way, done and dusted by next February would be a whole lot better than starting at that time.
Having an early pass mark means peace of mind that you get to stay in the financial advice industry and keep your business or well-paid job as a result.
The peril of delay is that the longer you delay the greater the risk to your means of future income.

National Adviser Exam – 4 Things Stood Out

When I first read the FASEA National Adviser Exam Policy, four things stood out.

1. It looks very much like an examination of the process of providing advice within the bounds of the law and relevant codes, regardless of technical specialty.

2. The length of the exam is quite long at 3.5 hours including 15 minutes reading time. I cannot recall ever having sat an examination of that length, even at post-graduate level. Be prepared, it’s a long time to maintain focus under exam conditions.

3. The exam format is reminiscent of a first year University exam where 300 or so first year students are seated in a large exam centre surrounded by invigilators. Whilst it will be a familiar experience for those who have previously attended University, it may be daunting to advisers who have not, particularly older advisers.

4. The pass mark is set at credit level (e.g. 65%), not 50%, which is not unusual for professional accreditation

On the positive side of course, the subject matter of the exam should be very familiar to most. However, advisers should not to take this exam for granted because the devil is likely to be in the detail of the legislation, regulatory guides and the relevant codes of ethics and conduct.

Four life Changing New Year Resolutions

Are you are looking for a NEW YEAR RESOLUTION that can actually change your life? Try these four 2017 money kick-start resolutions.

If you want accumulate more money, then pay off your credit card and start saving.  That’s what resolutions 1 & 2 are about.  However, don’t forget about protecting yourself.  Keeping what you’ve got is just as important as building more.  So resolutions 3 and 4 will help avoid a mess when things go wrong.  Number 3 (insurance) is always subject to affordability but if you can do 1 & 2 (above) well, you will be able to afford it.  So are my top 4 resolutions for 2017 in a bit more detail:

  1. PAY OFF YOUR CREDIT CARD – this should be a no-brainer.   All that money wasted making repayments to a bank could be saved and used to increase your own wealth.  I know that many will say, “Easier said than done!”, but you just need to work on a different mindset where a credit card is not your default means of payment.   It’s about breaking old ‘buying and paying’ habits and starting new ones.  The best way to start is to be a scrooge for a while.  It won’t take long to adjust and, before you know it, you won’t feel as much struggle to repay growing debt; and as it reduces, you will begin to notice that have more money available.
  2. SAVE FOR A GOAL – if you can’t think of a goal, then save for a rainy day fund that you can use in case of emergency.  It only takes a few weeks of being out of work, or a couple of critical break downs, like the car and fridge, to put a few thousand dollars on your credit card at a time when you can least afford it.  Wouldn’t it be good to have some savings to call on instead?  Even if you have a period of clear sailing with no emergencies, it’s great to have that feeling of ‘money in the bank’.  Then you can use the money to achieve some future goal without having to use a credit card.
  3. INSURE YOURSELF AND YOUR INCOME – Only about one third of Australian adults have adequate personal insurance and the automatic provision of insurance benefits in superannuation accounts for a lot of that.  It’s sad that two thirds of us rank ourselves behind our our house and car in terms of importance.  But bad things still happen regardless, and it’s only a matter of when.  Those who do adequately insure themselves realise that they are the ‘geese who lay the golden eggs’.  They are the rainmakers and the providers of the house and car.  Clearly, it is people not things that should be protected first.  And when you tell me there is no value in personal insurance, let me tell you from experience that some of the most heartening moments in my life have been the smiling faces and looks of utter financial relief as the insurance money arrives; always at a time of crisis and always when the money is needed the most.
  4. MAKE A WILL – these are your instructions on who receives money and property owned by you personally.  Don’t assume that, in the absence of a will, everything you own automatically goes to your spouse.  There is a standard formula of distribution is Queensland (and similar in other States) and if you don’t have a will, it will be applied.  So see a solicitor and make a will, and your beneficiaries will generally receive their inheritance with minimum fuss and cost.  If you don’t make a will, the Queensland Public Trustee office will administer your estate and this service is not free.  It will be a much slower and more costly process, and your beneficiaries may not be as you’d expect.

For more on how to make money work for you, follow my blog at

If you would like to ask questions about any of this, feel free to call me.  There is no charge or obligation.

Happy New Year





Seven Ways to Boost Your Super

In my experience, people don’t need a million dollars to retire comfortably. Whilst a million dollars would be nice, the fact is that few people will ever retire with this amount of money. Most people retire with less than half a million dollars (in many cases, much less) and get by quite nicely.  It’s all about taking an interest in your super and doing your best with it well before retirement time comes around.

The proponents of the million dollar theory don’t take into account three (3) important factors:

  • The Age Pension in retirement;
  • The potential absence of taxation in retirement; and
  • The absence of non-income producing debt

The combined effects of the Age Pension and taxation concessions means that a lower capital amount in retirement will stretch further. And we empty-nesters all know how sharply household expenses drop after the kids finally move out.

Based on what I see among my retiree clients, most people don’t need a lot in retirement.  Generally speaking, if they can travel when they want to and pursue their interests, most appear to be happy. Whilst money is always important, good health, a sharp mind, embracing relationships and a strong sense of purpose are much more important to older people. Money can’t buy most of that.

So if you want to maximise your superannuation savings (well) ahead of your retirement, here are seven (7) strategies to consider:

Consolidate your superannuation into one account. If you have several super accounts, as is usual when you change jobs a few times, take some time to select the right one.  Also make sure that you are looking at all your superannuation accounts, including any ‘lost super’.  Check ATO Super Seeker on the Australian Taxation Office site.  Next, drag out your statements and consider the fees you are paying on each. Check out which ones contain insurance before you cancel any of them. Inadvertently cancelling insurance could be a costly error.  In the end, it may be the case that none of your existing super accounts suit your current needs. In that case I can help you choose one that does.

Check the fees you pay to your current super provider. If you may be paying fees for services you don’t use, like paying commissions to an adviser you never see. Also on older accounts, fees can be a lot higher than they are today as the retail superannuation market has become very competitive in recent years.

Understand your own innate appetite for risk and choose investment options that suit your level of risk taking. You don’t have to accept the default investment option in your employer’s fund. You can change to suit your needs.

Review your insurance. Or in many cases, become aware of what insurance you have in your super. It is quite common to acquire insurance benefits that you didn’t ask for, simply by joining your employer’s fund. So check what you have and ask yourself is it enough?  My experience tells me that when all things are considered, the answer is often NO!

Nominate a beneficiary to receive your super (and insurance benefits) in the event of your death. This is such a neglected area because is sounds a bit daunting.  It is one or two bits of paper and about 5 minutes work.  Generally, from superannuation you can only nominate your spouse, children or someone who is financially dependent on you. Making this nomination is important because your super is not covered by your will because it does not form part of your estate.

To give your super a boost, consider salary sacrifice.  This means that you put a bit more than the mandatory 9.5% of your gross ordinary time earnings into super.  There is a tax concession to be had for doing so, depending on your income level, because any money diverted by your employer into your super fund is taxed at the flat rate of 15% and no longer forms part of your taxable salary on which you pay tax at marginal rates.  How much to of your salary to sacrifice and the associated tax concessions will depend on your circumstances, so it is best to seek advice.

The Transition To Retirement (TTR) strategy is one of the most underused ‘super-boosting’ pre-retirement strategies. It shouldn’t be! It is a real benefit to those who use it properly. Getting the most out of it requires getting the balance right between money in and money out of your fund, given your age and the associated taxation consequences. You should seek advice on this because the cost of good TTR advice is far outweighed by the benefits.

If you have questions, please call on 0408 756 531 or email me at and I will be happy to answer them.




middle aged woman

Money at Call to Regain Your Life

Judging by what I see every day as a financial adviser, the silent enemy in family money management is FINANCIAL STRESS.

Financial stress causes arguments, breaks up marriages, and has the capacity to make a serious illness a whole lot worse. The irony is that it is not caused by lack of money but by the poor planning and management of money.

If you want to give yourself a chance to recover from a serious illness such as cancer or serious heart condition, then it helps to stay calm and relaxed and let your body do what it does best.

Financial stress will never help and actively works against your recovery.

If I suggest that you consider Trauma Insurance to relieve financial stress at a time of serious health crisis, you will probably stop reading. So I won’t.

middle aged womanInstead, I will give you a recent example of what can happen when you don’t.

A single middle aged lady was referred to me mid last year. She asked for help with household budgeting as her credit card debt, on top of her mortgage payment, was getting out of control.

As you can imagine, she was stressed over her financial situation. I could see it in her eyes.

Together we worked out a solution that was realistic and achievable and, at the same time I recommended that she insure herself because, as I explained, it was a really bad time to be financially caught out by a serious illness or even a car accident injury.

So I recommended Trauma Insurance as a priority; enough to cover her debts and allow her a stress free recovery period in the event of a serious illness diagnosis; and also income protection in the event that ill health prevented her from working. In addition, I proposed life insurance, enough to eliminate her debts if she should die.

Even at lower amounts, she said she couldn’t afford any of it, not even the Trauma Insurance; even though the premium could and should have become an essential budget item. She chose to defer it until she was in a better financial position.

She returned to see me recently, only a few months later. She was going well with her budgeting and heading in the right direction with her personal debt problem.

She had also just received a diagnosis of stage 3 breast cancer.

With a need for immediate surgery, she has no money to fall back on and no family support.  The bills won’t let up so she doesn’t have any financial breathing space.  Without that, she doesn’t have the stress-free time she now needs to recover. To make matters worse, she is now uncertain about how long her employer will keep her on.

Her stress has just multiplied.


This is general advice only. The purpose of this article is to provide you with practical examples as a means of education in the poorly understood area of personal risk insurance. As a licenced financial advisor, I strongly urge you to seek personal advice about protection which would be tailored to your individual needs and circumstances.

the big c curse

Stories of the ‘BIG C’ Curse

the big c curseLast year, a friend of mine who is also a client, had elective breast surgery. During the procedure, the surgeon found a small tumor and removed it. She had been completely unaware of it and even a recent mammogram hadn’t detected it.

Several weeks later, she let me know what had happened and I suggested she may have a valid trauma insurance claim. I had arranged the trauma policy for her less than two years earlier. Although she was doubtful about the claim, I contacted the insurer and explained the situation. They requested the relevant medical reports and a claim application. Two weeks later she received $120,000 being the agreed sum insured.

In this day and age of insurance, if you tell the insurer the truth and disclose everything, you will be paid provided that you meet the claim criteria. In the case of breast cancer, a claim is usually triggered when invasive surgery is involved. In this case, it made no difference that the lady involved was completely unaware that she had breast cancer.

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Nine Questions You Should Ask About Your Super

gary weighSuperannuation is so much more than a low administration fee. We so often see TV ads for union-related superannuation funds, commonly known as industry funds, promoting low fees as if it is the only thing that matters.

It is not surprising, because what you are hearing is a provider of superannuation talk about the product features of their particular brand. Nothing more!

A superannuation provider is not licensed to give advice beyond their own product.

Find out how your super can be made to work well for you using the personal approach of a good financial adviser who specialises in superannuation and, importantly, using one that doesn’t have any bias towards any particular product provider.

Whether you are suited as member of an industry super fund, a retail super fund, a superannuation wrap, or a self-managed super fund depends entirely on your personal circumstance, your financial situation and your retirement aspirations.

Advice comes first! Which type of superannuation you need and which product you might ultimately purchase comes a distant second.

If you think your super is not working for you the way it should, and you are interested in improving it, then you might be interested in some general advice from an adviser who understands superannuation very well.

Whilst fees are important, here is a list of NINE other important aspects of your super to consider if you want your super to be the effective retirement vehicle it is supposed to be:

1. Is your super all in the same fund?

2. Does the fund you are in actually suit your needs from a control, investment management, tax effectiveness, and estate planning point of view?

3. Are you able to replace lost insurance benefits if you change super fund?

4. Do you have enough insurance in your super and is it tailored to your needs?

5. Do you know what to do with a government ‘defined benefit’?

6. Are your investments consistent with your tolerance for risk?

7. Do you understand the tax consequences of your withdrawal options

8. Are you aware that lump sum tax could apply to your benefit if you die

9. Are you aware that by being in the wrong fund that your spouse or young children could miss out on a lump sum tax refund in addition to your benefit if you die?

You have probably never heard of most of the issues I have raised above and, to be fair, they need to be explained to you. But as you can appreciate, superannuation is a complex area and there is so much more that matters besides a low administration fee. The points above are the areas that a good adviser will address to make an enormous positive difference for you.

With a good investment strategy and frequent reviews, your benefit can grow over time and then be repositioned to provide income for you when needed. But there’s much more!

With correct structuring; appropriate contribution and withdrawal strategies, personalized protection and inheritance planning, and an eye for tax consequences, you can potentially save a lot more money over the course of your working life, into retirement, and eventually, beyond death where your descendants safely receive your remaining wealth.

So as well as hearing about super from a superannuation product provider’s point of view, ask about super from a ‘how to make super work for you’ point of view from a knowledgeable adviser’s point of view.

General advice warning

The article above is general advice only designed to educate and heighten awareness of superannuation issues. It should not be regarded as personal advice because it does not take into account your personal circumstances, financial situation or specific goals. For personal advice that is tailored to your needs, please consult a licensed financial adviser.