Personal investing

Part 5: Why every investor needs an independent adviser right now

Investors are panicked and who can blame them? The market volatility has persuaded some to run for the hills and never look back, while others may be tempted to disinvest and go the route akin to keeping money under the mattress. Cedrick Pila explores how an independent financial adviser can help you work through this anxiety and ensure that you don’t quickly destroy value you have patiently created.

Anxiety and uncertainty are two variables that have come to represent the current period. The negative news headlines and daily financial market updates are enough to send even the most committed long-term investor into a place of unsettling discomfort.

You wouldn’t be alone if you’ve considered selling out of the market in the face of the volatility that has ensued. The fact is that it’s human nature to react emotionally in a crisis, ignoring the rational voice in your head telling you to take a big breath and keep calm. But, as my colleague Nomi Bodlani explains in an article in our Q1 Quarterly Commentary, it is exactly at times like these that investors need to avoid “hot thinking”. Hot thinking is the type of thinking that typically occurs when one is under stress; it’s the kind of thinking that often drives us to react defensively – great when you’re facing life-threatening danger, but a potentially reward-limiting action when applied to long-term investing.

An independent financial adviser (IFA) can play an effective role as a buffer and behavioural coach when emotions get the better of you, particularly through periods of uncertainty. Here are five ways an adviser can add value to your financial goals:

1. Financial planning

Times of crisis tend to compel us to think more deeply about our immediate finances, often to the detriment of our future and long-term financial goals. A financial adviser can help you develop a personal financial plan, if you don’t already have one in place, and an investment strategy that will help you meet your savings and investment objectives. An adviser can help you get out of the starting blocks and stay committed for long-term returns.

2. Advisor’s Alpha

Research conducted by investment management company Vanguard has found that financial advisers bring at least 3% value-add to an adviser-client relationship and this, in turn, is likely to translate into higher net returns on your investments. According to the Vanguard Advisor’s Alpha concept, the value that financial advisers add is their ability to help investors navigate behavioural impulses to react to short-term market fluctuations and keep investors focused on their long-term goals. IFAs do this through financial planning and providing guidance and discipline. In this way, an adviser not only maximises your net worth, but your life worth too, as they help you reach your savings objectives.

3. Help you avoid investing pitfalls

Having a financial adviser is much like having a gym partner who helps you stay committed when you might be tempted to skip a workout session. An adviser can help keep you focused on your end goals and disciplined when you are thinking about making costly mistakes, like accessing your pension fund when leaving employment, or selling out of the market at an inopportune moment.

4. Objective advice and rebalancing your portfolio

A good, independent adviser will make recommendations based on what products and investment strategies best align with your short- and long-term goals. They have the freedom of choice and offer objective advice because they are not associated with, or tied to, a specific product provider. IFAs have access to a wide selection of product providers, ensuring that you are presented with financial products that best suit your individual needs, without any conflict of interest.     

As a first port of call, an adviser will make sure that your investment portfolio is adequately diversified in a manner that is set up to deliver results through different market cycles, while reducing the risk by spreading it across different asset classes. In a time of crisis, an adviser will be able to reassess your investment portfolio and revise asset allocations to rebalance your portfolio where appropriate.

An IFA will also help you understand the circumstances under which you may pause your debit orders and take contribution holidays without penalty.

5. Tax management

A financial adviser can help you structure your investment portfolio in the most tax-efficient manner, and help you plan your estate. You can also take advantage of their expertise in income tax, donations tax, capital gains tax, transfer duty and estate duty. Any money saved from greater tax efficiency can help alleviate financial pressure brought on by lockdown – or you can reinvest it for greater long-term rewards.

Not having an adviser may cost more than you think

The opportunity cost of not having a good, independent adviser can be high – you lose out on all the value-add described above. If you’ve never engaged with an IFA before, and you’re confused about what to do amidst the current volatility, now could be the right time to initiate a relationship.

Trust is a key consideration in the process of selecting a financial adviser. Start by asking people you trust and whose judgement you value, for recommendations. You can also make use of the “Find an independent financial adviser” service available via the Allan Gray website, or contact the Financial Planning Institute of Southern Africa (FPI) for assistance. 

This article forms part of a five-part email series. To subscribe click here.

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