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What’s the difference between a financial planner and an accountant?

When you’re looking for help on anything to do with money, finding the right person to turn to for advice can be a challenge. According to a recent report from CPA Australia, changes to regulations in financial services are making it even harder for Australians to know who can offer them quality professional advice on their finances.

Without a clear idea of where to get advice on goals such as saving for a home or planning for retirement, Australians are left to rely on their own networks and ideas.  In surveying more than 1000 consumers and small businesses for their report, CPA found that when advice needs aren’t met by a qualified professional, many people are making choices based on their own research or insights from family and friends.

While plenty of options for life insurance may be just a Google search away, making the best choice for your situation can be a challenge. And while friends and family may have the best intentions, what has worked for their finances may not be right for you and your life goals. This ad hoc approach to sorting out your finances can actually do more harm than good and end up being a waste of your time and money.

To give you a clear idea of where to get the best advice to put you firmly in control of your finances, here’s a summary of what services and outcomes you can expect from a financial planner and an accountant.

What an Accountant can do:

Whether it’s for your personal finances or your business, an accountant can give you advice on your tax obligations and help you keep your documents and records in order. They can lodge tax returns and business accounts and financial reports on your behalf. The more complex your finances and tax affairs, the more you’re likely to enjoy the following benefits from seeing an accountant:

  1. Drawing on their extensive knowledge of tax and accounting, an accountant can optimise your tax affairs so you don’t pay any more income tax than you need to. If you own an investment property for example, it can be helpful to know which expenses you can claim as a deduction against rental income.
  2. If you’re a small businesses owner, have a self-managed super fund or receive an income above $200k per year, your tax affairs are likely to be fairly complex. Having an accountant oversee paperwork and reporting on your behalf can save you time and give you peace of mind that you’re meeting all obligations to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and other regulatory bodies.

An accountant will review your income, assets and expenses over the course of a financial year. They will help you fulfil legal obligations and keep your records and payments with the ATO up-to-date.

What a Financial Planner can do:

A financial planner can provide advice on a whole range of financial matters you could be dealing with at different life stages. They can help you manage your debts, plan for retirement, save for your kids’ education and invest in assets, including property. Whether you’re buying your first home, starting a family, changing careers or planning for life after your kids leave the nest, financial planning can offer you all sorts of benefits:

  1. Offering advice on the whole spectrum of money issues, a financial planner can bring a holistic approach to your life and finances. They’ll consider your current situation, income and expenses as well as future goals and financial needs. This means they’re able to provide advice on many different dimensions of your finances, from protecting your lifestyle with personal insurance to managing day-to-day cash flow.
  2. A financial planner will take time to get up to speed on your unique situation and what’s most important to you. This enables your financial planner to tailor a strategy that’s specific to your needs. They can help you grow and protect your wealth in a number of ways, from tax planning to saving and investing.

While a financial planner does take stock of your current position for income, assets and liabilities, they can also help you focus your mind, habits and money on what you want for your future. They’ll help you create a long-term plan to keep you on track towards goals as they change during the course of your life.

If you’ re looking to grow your wealth or manage your overall finances, a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional can create a plan to help you prepare for a secure financial future.

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