Choosing the right specialist
What is involved in SMSF advisory services?
Setting up and running a self-managed super fund can be complex and time-consuming, but it is possible to spread the workload and maximise your returns by choosing the right specialist advisors.
The first thing to remember is that there are different stages and elements to managing an SMSF including the setting up and the ongoing administration, the financial management, the investment decisions, and the compliance requirements. Some of these can be bundled together, while others should be kept separate.
The most common SMSF advisors include:
- Set up specialists who help you to establish the SMSF and advise on paperwork, trustee structuring, drafting the trust deed, and how to meet member objectives.
- Administrators who manage the ongoing obligations of the fund to ensure compliance. They may also take on the role of accountant.
- Accountants who keep track of transactions, bank accounts, benefit payments, tax requirements and financial affairs, and then prepare annual reports.
- Investment advisors guide the trustees in making investment decisions, such as what to buy, when to sell, and how to fullfill the investment strategy of the fund.
- Asset advisors or specialists in particular asset investments such as property or shares.
Tips for getting sound SMSF advice
- Start by talking to superannuation experts. If you’re looking for financial advice on how to best invest your super, a good starting point is to talk with your industry super fund before committing to starting up an SMSF. You may find you can enjoy all the control you want over your super investments, from within a low-fee, regular super fund.
- Realistically estimate your time. Before starting an SMSF it is wise to get an idea of the hours per month required to manage an SMSF on your own and with advisors, then compare the time required with having your super in a regular fund. And don’t forget that liaising with advisors also takes time.
- Do your research. A little bit of prior knowledge on the part of the trustees can make a big difference. For example, when setting up the SMSF, make an estimate of what a healthy fund should be earning over time.
- Diversify your advisors. Placing too much reliance on just one or two advisors can often lead to a conflict of interest for the advisor – even unintentionally. For example, a set-up advisor with a specialty in property may subconsciously guide the initial investment strategy towards real estate investment, as that’s what they are most familiar with.
- Beware of ‘one-stop shops’. Unfortunately, not all conflicts of interest are unintentional and one-stop property and SMSF advisors may have their own interests at heart. By working closely with developers, real estate agents, and/or mortgage brokers, they may appear to offer a seamless service, but often the real beneficiaries are the advisory firms involved, not the SMSF’s members.
- Remember the function of the SMSF. The role of every SMSF is to provide a pension for its members when they retire, and therefore every decision must be in the best interests of the members’ long-term retirement goals. Trustees must ensure that the advice they are seeking the advice they are given, and the advice they act upon, are in the best interests of the members only.
- Seek transparency. Always ask advisors how they make their money and if they receive any payments from third parties.