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This is a wake-up call to us all

Adam Steen, Professor of Practice in Financial Planning, examines the role financial advisors must play in these challenging times.

In 2017 my colleagues and I published a report “Estate Planning in Australia”. The research surveyed 1,000 Australians and was very informative in that it showed how unprepared people are for death and disability, irrespective of age, occupation and income. 

The vast majority of Australians surveyed did not have wills, Powers of Attorney or Guardianship instructions (if they had children).

In the event of death or disability, the lack of such documents causes unnecessary distress on relatives and friends at a time when they are dealing with the grief of losing a loved one.

I can admit that, despite teaching Estate Planning in one of the largest universities in the country, I did not have these things sorted until a few months ago.

Like most of us, I have a natural aversion to thinking and talking about such things. But talking and thinking about such things is necessary, if you want to control who makes decisions about your medical, personal and financial affairs if you become incapacitated, and how your assets are treated when you pass.

So maybe the current virus is a wakeup call to us all to think about what is important: our friends, family and community.

Professional advisors have a role to play in helping clients work through these challenging planning and decision-making processes. Awareness and understanding of each client's unique situation is essential. In addition to having appropriate technical skills, planners must employ good interpersonal skills, particularly in difficult situations such as we are currently faced with.

The challenge to up-skill and re-think

In the wake of the Hayne royal commission, there has been a raft of changes made to the way financial planners operate in Australia, including the completion of a national exam and additional post-graduate training.

Many advisors have looked upon these requirements as just an inconvenience, and an unnecessary financial impost. Instead, they should be seen as an opportunity to upskill and re-think our role, both as advisors and as a profession, to better service our clients – particularly in such uncertain times, when the need for good advice becomes even more critical and important.

Deakin is attempting to be a leader of robust professional education for financial advisors, and while we aren’t perfect we aim for continual improvement.

A recent initiative lies with providing recognised and enhanced estate planning education, so our graduates can provide this service to their clients.

Recently we introduced new RPL arrangements with professional bodies the Financial Planning Association (FPA) and Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP). 

STEP is the global body that represents the Estate Planning profession with over 20,000 members and branches in all Australian states.

Students can undertake our Master of Financial Planning and have the opportunity to complete all of the education requirements of the CFP® program with the FPA or meet the educational requirements for admission to STEP.

Deakin has the only program in Australia that offers such pathways. We also encourage our students to strive and to make a difference, because this is about so much more than simply getting that piece of paper at the end of the course.

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