My experiences have shaped the way I see my role as an adviser. The following is a list of the top six things of what it means to me to be an adviser.
I became an adviser in January 2003 after stumbling across the profession when I undertook my first attempt at tertiary education.
I started my studies a month after the birth of my third daughter when I was 26-years-old. At the time, I was struck by the realisation that my husband was not going to provide for our family and it was inevitable that my marriage was going to end.
As I progressed through the financial planning units, I began to understand that I could make a career out of something I was trying to do for myself. I became conscious that I was living my own financial plan.
Not being particularly academic at school, I wrongly assumed that once I finished school, that would be the end of my formal education. However, finding myself in a situation where the only way out was to educate myself, I stepped out of my comfort zone to begin a journey of education, empowerment, responsibility, leadership and, best of all, a life of choices.
My experiences have shaped the way I see my role as an adviser. The following is a list of the top six things of what it means to me to be an adviser:
Yes, I am a professional but I’m also a real person. To be genuine and undertake my role with integrity, I need to be true to myself and share who I am. This means that I can’t pretend to be something or someone that I’m not. I interact with my clients in a manner that enables them to see that I am on a journey with them. I empathise with their situation and my straight-shooting, yet nurturing manner, combined with good humour provides my clients with a level of comfort in knowing they are working with someone who is not going to judge them, but will support them in moving ahead with their journey.
Being a role model
I have been quite open and public about my personal situation and how I came into financial planning and the successes it has afforded me. As a result, I find that women who are contemplating transition in their lives look to me for motivation, guidance and encouragement.
Obviously, I wanted to be a role model to my daughters, too. There were times when juggling parenthood and work meant that I had to make choices that negatively impacted my girls, but they have grown to understand that these decisions were for their ultimate benefit and they are seeing the rewards it has given our family and the resilience and confidence with which they have all been imbued.
I am a big believer in people being responsible for their own lives and happiness. I took responsibility for my own family when I could easily have let my parents support me. I live with the consequences of decisions that I have made in my life (mostly good ones) and I feel that it’s also my responsibility, with the knowledge I have as an adviser, to help other people take responsibility of their own destiny with good decision that I can make with them.
Investing in education
As much as I once hated the idea of education, I have come to appreciate that education enhances my skill set, outlook on life and the breadth of knowledge and service that I can bring to my clients. In turn, educating my clients about finances will enable them to achieve their goals with a greater level of confidence.
Motivating women to become a decision-maker in their financial situation
I often hear women say that when it came/comes to the finances, their partners were/are very controlling. While I acknowledge that there are financially abusive relationships where control is a legitimate issue, I am also aware that many women choose not to keep themselves informed of their financial situation. By doing so, they are opting out of the shared decision-making process only to find themselves accusing their partners of being controlling as a justification for their disinterest.
In any case, whether it is a case of becoming single after a controlling relationship or being in a relationship with a partner willing to share, I want to encourage women to become more involved. They don’t need to be experts but they need to be prepared to be focused and upskill a little so they can be effective contributors to their wealth and wellbeing.
It’s an absolute privilege to be a financial adviser. People trust me with their innermost fears and desires. I get to hear the details of their health and their wealth (sometimes lack of) and, when I see couples, I see the dynamics of their relationships, sometimes in very stressful circumstances. Discussions around finance generate significant anxiety for some people and demonstrations of this can occur in my presence.
Gaining a deeper insight into other people’s lives has given me an appreciation of my own life. It is very grounding to be surrounded by all my clients and their different stories. Everyone has a story that is special to them and each story has a lesson for me. I am honoured to have the opportunity to hear the stories and I never take for granted the trust that a client puts in our relationship.
Esther Althaus is an AMP financial planner and the managing director of Perspective Financial Services
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