The first thing any individual needs to do when they undertake any sort of financial planning is to seek out a reputable and regulated advisor and firm. There are many firms to choose from, particularly in the Middle East. Not only is it important to undertake due diligence, it is equally important to find an adviser that matches your requirements. Do they offer the services you require? Do they conduct regular reviews? Can they continue to look after you if you repatriate?
Once you have decided to take the important step to start organizing your finances an initial meeting should be set. As part of the initial meeting, the adviser should be able to tell you where they are located around the globe, who they are regulated and licensed by, and of course, the types of products and services they provide. Ideally, you should be looking for an independent company that is not limited in this area.
The objective of an initial meeting is really for you to relay what your dreams and aspirations are. What you need to and would like to be able to afford. This may be that you wish to retire by the age of 55, that you wish to accumulate enough capital to send your children to university, or simply to ascertain how much capital you will need as you hit the various milestones in your life.
If you already have polices in place such as a regular savings plan or any insurance policies it is always a good idea to bring any relevant information to the meeting as your adviser can check through these in order to make sure they are valid and working properly for you.
Below are 10 of the most important things to consider when meeting a financial adviser
1. Setting goals
What are your main goals? Pay good attention to this question before the initial meeting. Do you want to retire at 55? Do you have dreams of a second home? What about private education for your children? It is important to consider everything you want to achieve financially in order to get the most out of the meeting.
2. What they will ask you
Your adviser will need to take down a lot of details from you in order to give you the best possible advice. Essentially they will be creating a financial blueprint of your situation. This means they will want to know your salary, any pension arrangements you have in place, and any stocks or shares you own. They will also want to know about property you own, including your main residence and investment properties. Alongside this, they will need to know what your liabilities are. Do you have an outstanding mortgage, loans or credit card debt?
It is then a large part of the process to discuss time-scales and the relevant objectives. I.e.: Do you plan to buy an investment property in the next 5 years? In how many years will your child go to university? It is important that you provide your adviser with all of this information so they can help you to plan effectively. It may be the case that there are lots of things you need to look at, but a good adviser will take one thing at a time, taking the most pressing issues into consideration first.
4. What will it cost?
Your planner should tell you how and when they will be paid. This will vary from adviser to adviser. Some may charge a fee per meeting; others may charge an annual management fee, whilst some may take a commission. It is important that you discuss this from the outset.
Only once all of these things have been covered and once you have agreed on your needs and wants, will the planner be able to draw up any recommendations. You will then agree together on how to carry out the recommendations in the plan. The planner may set everything up with the appropriate companies and professionals, or simply help to coordinate the process.
6. Monitoring and review
A good adviser will agree at the outset to conduct regular reviews, the amount of reviews will depend on your circumstances — but it is hugely important to agree on a way to check your progress. At each review they should be able to help you review any documentation you receive regarding any pension and insurance policies, etc.
7. Know what you can afford
In financial planning terms, it’s important to cover short, medium, and long-term objectives. Here, much is based on what you can afford. If you know you’re going to need some of your money in the shorter term, then don’t commit to investing large amounts over the longer term. Have 3 months salary set aside for emergencies. Any surplus over and above this should be considered long term capital to ensure you are beating inflation.
8. Seek sound advice
Always ask your adviser how long they have been qualified to work within the offshore market. Research the reputation of the company they work for and make sure that it has all the correct licenses in place to be providing financial advice. If you are likely to repatriate at some point it may be useful to know if they have an office in your home country, e.g. for example if you live in the UK, do they have an office there and are they regulated by the FCA (Previously the FSA)
9. Financial planning as an Ex-Pat
Most individuals enjoy a tax-free status whilst living in the UAE, but many are unsure on the implications of their hard-earned money if they were to move to another jurisdiction or simply repatriate. Whilst not every adviser may be a tax expert, a good adviser will be able to give you a better understanding of your position and will certainly have a tax expert they work with, should specific advice be required.
10. Understand the importance of the meeting
Financial planning is hugely important, more so now, than ever. People are spending beyond their means. Very few individuals have enough pension provision and there is a huge pension deficit, globally. Millions stand to endure far lower standards of living in retirement, as they have not planned for it correctly. Listen to your adviser carefully. They are there to help you plan so that you can secure a good lifestyle for you and your family and feel secure in the knowledge that you have planned effectively. Too many people plan too late. The earlier you start planning the better.
Jessica Cook is a well established and respected Private Client Adviser based in Dubai. Having had a diverse career, she obtained a law degree and began work for a large legal practice biased in London, where she specialized in Criminal Law and Family Law. Jessica then went on to spend 7 years working for the Financial Times in London. With a wealth of knowledge and experience behind her, Jessica now believes she has finally found her passion in the world of finance and runs a successful financial advisory practice based in the UAE.
Photo: Adrian Seghie