Thursday, October 6, 2011

How to become a successful financial advisor?

In the previous post, I have mentioned that the Personal Money in June (Issue #118) has an article about how to become a good financial advisor and I wish to share it here. Recently, I am quite busy, so delay the sharing until now.

These are the five criteria to become a successful financial advisor:

1. Commit to lifelong learning

Financial planners need to be committed to continuous learning in a fast-changing business environment. Planners need to keep updated on the technical knowledge related to different aspects of financial planning, and then translate what you have learnt into practice. Only an educated financial planner can educate his client. After doing the research, he can then share it with their clients. A good financial planner will be able to help clients be discerning with the burgeoning choices of financial products in the market. Financial planners can stay competitive by staying relevant. Keep up to date with news and global events.

2. Define your service.

Planners need to understand what they are trying to accomplish from the financial planning practice. Thus, financial planners should decide whether they want to be generalists capable of providing a comprehensive financial planning plan or specialists who focus on one area of financial planning. Financial planners should avoid over-promising and under-delivering. Also, invest in supporting systems and tools, the planner needs a robust process to assess the risk the client is willing and able to take.

3. Be transparent.

It is critical for consumers to know what they are paying for and how they are paying for it. Be as transparent as possible when discussing compensation for the financial plan and/or advice. Financial planning is a process of setting objectives, assessing assets and resources, estimating future financial needs, and making plans to achieve certain goals. To better educate his clients, it is advantageous for the planner to explain the entire financial-planning process. This helps them understand why they should pay you.

4. Build values and skills.

The skills required in establishing a relationship, identifying clients’ needs, presenting strategies and communicating them are necessary soft skills that a financial planner should have. To create trust, the financial planner has to have integrity and always out the clients’ interest first. To be respected, planners need to uphold the reputation of the profession at all times. To establish a good relationship with clients, update them frequently.

5. Aim to minimize diversions and errors.

Planners need to have a logical and defensible position for every assumption they take. Each assumption should be documented. Conduct “what-if” analyses and scenario testing to prepare for any eventuality. Planners should not paint a rosy picture by selecting a particular time frame. Instead, select different start and end points, and test them out. By preparing different scenarios, the planner will be able to demonstrate and clarify the trade-offs and propose options to close any gaps and create a buffer against unforeseen circumstances. Most importantly, it is to remind the clients that a financial plan is not static.

Even if you are not a financial advisor, you may look at your financial advisor/planner if he/she has the criteria above.

Enjoy your financial planning journey!

Monday, July 4, 2011

What are the trademarks of a good financial adviser?

In the Personal Money June 2011 (Issue #118), there is a letter in the Question of the Month written by me. The topic of the month is “What are the trademarks of a good financial adviser?”

Here is the letter that I submit and be published in the issue:

“A good financial adviser is not only providing financial advice to customers, but sharing the knowledge and awareness of financial planning with the customers. To be successful in providing financial advice, advisers need to ensure the customers having same thought and relevant knowledge to agree and be confident on what the advisers recommend. Only when both parties are aligned, the financial plan can be executed smoothly. Besides, a good financial adviser should understand and recommend based on the customers' needs and situation, but not keep promoting the same products to every customer, which gives better commission to the advisers. Review periodically on the customers' portfolio is needed to align the portfolio with the bearable risk level.”

The said issue of the Personal Money also has an article about good financial advisers. I will share the article with you in next post. Please stay tuned!

Monday, June 20, 2011 – 1 Pengguna Portal, a smart consumer portal

Recently, our government has launched a portal ( , which is used to compare all the goods price of different stores. In this high inflation era, this is a good move of government by creating this online portal for rakyat to compare the consumer product price, so that we can choose the right store to buy at cheapest price.

I have surfed the portal, which idea is really good. It allows us to know all the price of the goods sold in different stores, including convenient store, mini market, super market and hypermarket. With all these information online, we can obtain these by just clicking on the mouse, without going to each of the stores to compare the price. For example, if you are going to hold a small gathering, and need to buy some soft drinks. You can always go to this website to check which store selling the soft drinks at the cheapest price. By having this, you can go to the particular store directly to buy the soft drinks without spending petrol for going to few stores to compare price.

However, there are a lot of improvements need to be done in this website. Ignoring the security loophole of the website, there are still a lot of improvements need to be done in terms of features and functions. The main problem of this website is, the query procedure is too complicated, where we need to click for many selections to compare the prices. There are limited varieties of goods and stores as well. To make this website to be more successful, the government should include all the hypermarkets, such as Tesco and Giant. We wish that the government can improve in these so that more people can benefit from the website, and we can save from the consumer products.

We, as the consumers, should make use of this website to reduce our expenditure by being a smart consumer. No doubt, this is a good news for the consumers to fight with the rising cost of living.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Should we withdraw EPF to invest in unit trust funds?

Referring to the previous article regarding EPF announcing 5.8% dividend, we continue to discuss about should we maximize the return of our EPF before we are age 55. Normally, we are not allowed to withdraw our EPF before 55, and EPF will give dividend to fight the inflation, in order to ensure we have more retirement fund in future.

However, the fact shows that our EPF is no longer sufficient for our retirement life and most of us still need to work after age 55. There is example that 70% of our EPF fund will be finished by us in 3 year after we retire. Thus, we should not solely depend on EPF dividend, but have to work out something to maximize our EPF fund.

Let me briefly explain about our EPF account structure and conditions of withdrawing EPF for investment. We have 2 accounts in our EPF, which account 1 contributes 70% and account 2 contributes 30%. It means that our EPF payable (together with employer) will be divided into two portions, 70% credited into account 1 and 30% credited into account 2. Normally, we can withdraw from account 2 for the purposes such as, house downpayment, housing loan payment, tertiary education fee and so forth. Account 1 is mainly for our retirement fund, which we only can withdraw after age 55. Anyhow, we are allowed to withdraw from this account 1 for unit trust investment with some conditions.

What are the conditions? The first condition is, you need to have a certain amount of money in your EPF account 1 to be able to withdraw for investment. This is varied based on your age. Normally, the amount you can withdraw each time will be less than 15% of your total amount of account 1. This condition avoids us from withdrawing too much for investment, as there is always risk in investment. Besides, we are only allowed to withdraw once every quarter for unit trust investment. For example, you withdraw an amount for investment today, your next withdrawal must be 3 months after today.

What is the benefit to withdraw EPF for unit trust fund investment?

1. Limitation on the investment amount
EPF limits the withdrawal amount according to our age and account 1 balance. This is to avoid investors from a big lump sum investment at the wrong market timing. A big lump sum investment can easily trap investors when the market is turning down.

2. Limitation on the withdrawal
EPF only allows us to withdraw once every quarter and make sure we are not investing too frequent. Invest once every 3 months in the long term can average our buying price. This is the Dollar Cost Averaging concept, where we can lower down our buying price during the market downturn. This method cannot maximize our return, but to average our buying price, where we can breakeven faster once market recovers from bad time.

3. Long investment horizon
Account 1 can be only withdrawn at age 55. For investors who are in the range of age 20-40, we have a very long time horizon to invest using our EPF. Investing periodically in long term definitely can lower the risk exposure of our investment, as market is going upward trend in long term. Time is a very important factor in investment, as investment can grow bigger and faster during long term. By having sufficient time, we can always wait for the good time to leave the market and get back cash.

4. Better feelings
Unit trust funds price is moving according to the volatility of the stock market. The volatility is always causing investors to be in greedy or scary mode. In my experience, EPF investors are steadier than cash investors when market is turning down. The main factor should be EPF investors will not feel the pain as the money is not coming out from their pocket, but from their EPF account, which they are aware that they cannot touch this money before age 55. Normally, they will continue the EPF investment every quarter regardless of the market movement. During low market, they always buy in more units with same withdrawal amount. Once the market is recovering, they start to earn positive return. In contrast, cash investors normally are very alert about the market movement. They will stop topping up when the market is turning down to wait for the best timing to top up. In fact, they always miss out the best timing, as best time will only be realized when it was past. Cash investors normally wait till the market recover to a certain level, only they will continue to invest. They always miss out to buy more units during low price. When market is recovering, they are hoping their investment to breakeven and they always invest again when their investment breakeven. Again, they buy the units at higher price. At the same time, the EPF investors are already earning positive return when cash investors waiting for breakeven.

5. Lower service charge
This is not a very significant benefit, but it is still lower than cash investment. EPF investment service charge is 3% and cash investment service charge normally is 5.5%.

After all these pros above, are there any cons that we should take into consideration? Yes, this is for sure. Unit trust fund investment is an investment scheme with risks. Although long term periodically investing can lower down the risk exposure, it still cannot eliminate the risk of investment. When looking at the return, there is difference between EPF investment and cash investment. For cash investment, we are earning if there is positive return, but this is not the case for EPF investment. EPF will give dividend every year to our EPF fund, thus our EPF investment return must be able to beat this dividend rate. If our return from the investment is less than the EPF dividend, we are considered losing. This is the opportunity cost.

At last, we are reminded that this EPF investment will be credited back into your account 1 after you repurchase your funds. Investors are not able to get this in cash, as this is our retirement fund in future.

Happy Investing!!!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

EPF announces distribution of 5.80% for YE2010

In year 2010, the local stock market has a bull run and the KLCI is approaching to break the historical peak level at the end of year 2010. The KLCI closed at 1518.91 points on the last day of year 2010. In Jan 2011, the KLCI has broken the historical peak level. As a result, EPF announces that they have earned from the bullish market in year 2011, and the distribution of year 2010 is 0.15% higher than the previous year, from 5.65% increase to 5.80%.

Is this distribution rate satisfied the people? Comparing to the low Fixed Deposit interest rate of 3% now, this 5.80% distribution is considered good. Moreover, the BLR now is not as high as past. However, it is a fact that our EPF is no longer enough for our retirement in future, whereby most of the people spend 70% of their EPF within 3 years after they retire. So, there is a need for us to maximize our EPF in order to have more retirement fund in future.

Time is an important factor in investment. A long term investment with the compound effect will bring a significant return to us. Most of us still have 20-30 years to be retired, so we should utilize this period of time to maximize our EPF fund. It a wise choice to consider investing our EPF into unit trust funds to maximize our EPF fund, so that we will have more fund for your retirement life.

The table below shows the return in year 2010 of all the EPF approved unit trust funds from Public Mutual:

I will share my opinion on why we should withdraw EPF to invest in unit trust funds soon…

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Happy Chinese New Year & Gong Xi Fatt Chai!!!

HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR & GONG XI FATT CHAI to all the readers of my blog. It is quite some time that I never update my blog, and now is the time for me to update this more frequent again.

Earlier I have shared few posts about the personal financial planning, which you can see the links of the complete series at the right pane, and I will continue on this to complete the whole personal financial planning series. The next topic of this personal financial planning talk is Types of Investment Tools. Please stay tune for the sharing soon.

In every new year, we will feel that the goods and services in the market are rising in price, and we will have our bonus or salary increment. How we can overcome the price rising with our current bonus and salary increment? How we should plan for our future financially? Now is the time for us to think about this. Let’s us plan our finance wisely and work towards financial freedom.

Again, wish all of you a very Happy Chinese New Year and a very Happy Investing Year!