The Financial Planning Association of Australia The Financial Planning Association of Australia

The 6 myths of investing

| by Claire Mackay, CFP®

Any investment and wealth management strategy requires careful planning, but there are a number of myths that must be dispelled before that process begins.

To ensure that you are doing justice to your many years of hard work, it is crucial that you critically evaluate the conventional wisdom around managing your personal finances.

Myth #1: All senior executives and business owners are good at personal investing.

There is an unspoken expectation placed upon professionals that they all understand and should be good at personal investing. This conventional wisdom (and pressure) comes from friends, family and, perhaps surprisingly, from these professionals themselves. At its heart there is an element of truth underlying the expectation – with their extensive numerical training are better placed than most others to become truly good investors.

However, while professionals are smart and highly trained in their area of expertise, this doesn’t automatically translate into understanding about personal finance. Investing confuses and intimidates many people and, if you’re among them, don’t feel alone. Unless you don’t have a job, family, friends or hobbies then recognise that personal finance is only ever going to be a part time subject for you.

Myth #2: Accounting & tax knowledge equates to investing knowledge. 

There is a significant body of theory underpinning finance. While our accounting backgrounds gave us a great grounding in numbers and tax, in truth few of us know much of Harry Markowitz, the efficient frontier, asset allocation or modern portfolio theory. Such knowledge is crucial in optimising your asset allocation and selecting the best potential investments in your portfolio and superannuation fund.

Someone not qualified wouldn’t dream of working in a specialised area of accounting without a deep and thorough knowledge of the relevant theory, research and standards. Yet when many professionals put on their personal investing hats and make crucial decisions impacting their own financial future, they neglect their analytical and theoretical based training. Instead they resort to gut feel, hot tips from friends or their stockbroker, or even worse, what they read in the paper or see on the TV.

Myth #3: The media is a good source of financial research. 

Journalists aren’t trained or paid to provide you with sound investment advice. Their goal is to sell their publication and the easiest way to do this is by playing upon your emotions. The media has perfected what some call ‘financial pornography’ – the depiction of finance in a sensational manner so as to arouse a quick intense emotional reaction from investors. It titillates and excites but gives you no lasting pleasure. Give in to the temptation and it could actually harm your financial health.

Furthermore, the finance industry is expert at feeding the media with sensational content by appealing to investors’ fear or greed, furthering its endless need to have investors in a constant state of buying and selling.

Myth #4: Your income is the most important driver of your wealth.

Undoubtedly for professionals income is a key driver of their wealth. However, more important than the size of your income is how much of it you save each year. Professionals with a moderate income and a strict savings plan will be far wealthier over time than high flyers who neglect to save. Don’t focus on what you make, focus on what you keep.

Myth #5: Your goal is to not pay taxes.

Business owners and senior executives all too often seek to minimise tax ahead of earning returns, which is a case of the tail wagging the dog. Sadly, far too many professionals were involved (and lost money) in the tax driven agri-business schemes. If you really want to minimise tax then continually make losses (which is clearly nonsensical). Don’t get me wrong, as a Chartered Accountant myself I’m keen not to pay a cent more tax than I have to but this comes only after focusing on maximising investing returns.

Myth #6: You need professional help. 

While many business owners and senior executive have the intelligence and time to manage their own finances, others seek to hire finance professionals. If you do it yourself, it is crucial that you are interested in managing your finances. This is no different to any pursuit – if you’re not interested in gardening then more than likely you won’t be any good at it. Unfortunately many people enjoy finance as much as they do having a tooth pulled or being subject to an ATO audit.

If managing your own finances is fun and interesting and you have the time, right skill set and knowledge, then that’s great – go for it! If it’s not, then realise a poor result is almost inevitable – instead hire a professional you trust to do it for you.

Claire Mackay CFP®
Quantum Financial Servies

Claire Mackay, CFP®

Quantum Financial Services
Quantum Financial Services Australia Pty Ltd (AFSL 239200)

Claire CFP® CA CTA BCom LLB LLM CA-SMSF Specialist provides her clients with the certainty & confidence they need to plan for their family’s financial future. Claire is the only financial planner in Australia to hold financial planning, legal, tax, accounting & SMSF professional qualifications. In recognition of Claire’s SMSF skills the ATO asked Claire to sit on their peak industry consultative body for SMSFs.

An award winning financial planner and SMSF specialist, Claire regularly provide expert commentary on ABC TV & in the AFR & other Fairfax publications.

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