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Financial Happenings Blog
Monday, July 31 2006

It is no wonder that house prices have increased sharply over the past 7 years.

Firstly, the Government re-introduced first home owner grants to help people purchase property.  This was, in part, to encourage participation in the property market after the introduction of the GST.  And it worked.  People who had previously struggled to save a deposit how had a big kick start in the form of a Government hand out.  So it was time to go house shopping.

Lending institutions started to make it easier and easier for people to borrow money.  No long was a 10% deposit required, a 5% deposit was enough.  More recently we have seen the introduction of no deposit home loans.  Once again, a bunch of people who would previously not been able to afford property decided that it is time to go house shopping.

Now we are just emerging from a period of very low interest rates.  The low interest rates meant that people could borrow more money than previously, and the memories of nearly 20% interest rates from 15 years ago don't seem important.  Once again, with interest rates so low people decided that it is the time to go house shopping.

Finally, all of these factors combined to produced record growth in the price of houses over the past seven years.  This perpetuates the myth that house prices only go up over time.  Not true, of course.  Witness the 30% drop in house prices at the start of the 1990's.  Recent house price rises and the often repeated myth that house prices only go up in value, often repeated by real estate agents who may have a conflict of interest there, meant that it seemed to be a great time to buy property and watch in go up in price - time to go house shopping.

And now we are looking at 40 year home loans.  Let us keep in mind that the people who offer these home loans have one thing in mind.  They want to keep consumers in debt for as long as possible.  After all, that is how they make their money.  Exhibit A - redraw style homeloans.  Even though the aim of the consumer is to own their home, redraw home loans have been a great product for lenders, with people continuing to draw money out of their home loan so that, at the end of the day, they stay in debt longer.'

40 year home loans should come with a warning:  '40 Years is the Average Working Life of an Individual.  In fact, many young people have a desire to retire prior to completing a 40 year working life.  To do this you will have to build some wealth yourself.  Taking a 40 year home loan and dedicating part of your income for the next 40 years to pay off your home will not help you achieve this.'

Posted by: Scott Francis AT 07:00 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Sunday, July 30 2006

So AMP have been 'busted'.  Last week ASIC got them to agree to an enforceable undertaking, part of which was to contact a number of clients who had not received an appropriate 'basis of advice' for investment recommendations.

The term 'basis of advice' is important.  It is the link between the strategy and investment advice that is given to a client and the client's goals and objectives.  For example, a client may have the goal of retiring at age 60.  The advice that a financial planner might give her is that she should salary sacrifice extra superannuation contributions.  The 'basis of advice' would be that salary sacrificing will save tax, that the salary sacrifice contributions are invested in the low tax environment of superannuation and that at age 60 that person will be able to withdraw the superannuation tax free under the proposed superannuation changes.

When we are talking about AMP, we should note that the financial planners within AMP's structure trade under a number of brands including AMP Financial Planning, Hillross Financial Services, Arrive Wealth Management and PremierOne.  This is one of the tricks for a person looking for an independent financial planning firm, who would have through that Hillross = AMP?

What I was interested in was a quote in the Australian Financial Review on the 28th of July.  Craig Dunn, AMP's Financial Services director was quoted as saying that '.........customers go into the restaurant knowing this is the food that is served'.  Putting aside the crassness of equating a financial services relationship with choosing a restaurant, this is a big admission.  The food in an AMP financial planners office will be AMP solutions.  That is probably not surprising, however tougher for consumers to keep an eye on when they are in a Hillross office, or Arrive Wealth.

And how good is the food in the AMP restaurant?  AMP's two big Australian share funds have both underperformed the market index over 5 year periods by 1.5% a year.  Which is not too good really.

The benefit of finding and independent financial planner is that they are not restricted to serving just the one dish.  They can serve up any solution that best suits their clients.  Independence also means that the financial planner is not receiving any commission from the investment products, so the only way that they are getting paid is through client fees.  This aligns their interest to yours, because you are both keen to optimise your investment experience.  You are because you want the best financial result.  The financial planner is because they want you to be a satisfied client who will pay them a fee again next year.

NB.  All opinions expressed in the blog are those of Scott Francis.  They should be considered general information only.  They do not reflect the opinions of any other party, including compass financial planners Pty Ltd.  You should not act on this information without seeking professional advice.

Posted by: Scott Francis AT 11:17 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
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