What is a financial adviser – and what do they do?

Financial advisers are qualified professionals who help people manage their financial affairs and work towards their long-term financial and lifestyle goals. They must hold an Australian financial services licence to do this.


Although their activities can occasionally overlap with financial advisers on some financial matters, other professionals such as accountants, mortgage brokers, real estate agents and solicitors are not licensed financial advisers. 

Why might I need a financial adviser?

Engaging a financial adviser is like hiring a personal fitness trainer if you want to live a healthier life and achieve certain fitness goals. Sure, you can try to do this on your own – say by joining a gym and going running a couple of times a week. You’ll probably feel better, but it will all be a bit haphazard – you risk overdoing the running and getting injured, or might lose motivation along the way and give up.


By contrast, a professional fitness trainer will take the time upfront to understand what you’re trying to achieve – whether to lose weight, build muscle strength, or run a marathon in two years’ time. They’ll create a tailored training plan for you, which they’ll adjust along the way depending on your progress. They’ll be someone you can bounce ideas off or turn to for a boost when your motivation’s flagging.


Hiring a financial adviser as a partner in achieving your financial and lifestyle goals can be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. 

How will a financial adviser work with me?

A good financial adviser will get to know you and work closely with you to develop a tailored strategy, based on your needs and goals. They’ll help you set clear financial and lifestyle goals as your circumstances change over time. And they’ll help you review those goals or your approach to them so you stay on track.


A financial adviser is qualified to give personal advice on most financial products

What can a financial adviser help me with?

A financial adviser may be able to offer advice on:

  • budgeting
  • investing
  • super
  • retirement planning
  • estate planning
  • insurance
  • tax.

Personal or general advice

General financial advice doesn't consider your personal circumstances or goals, or how it might affect you personally. For example, someone who offers general financial advice can tell you how different types of investments work. But they can’t tell you which ones suit your goals or current budget.


Personal financial advice is the type of advice you receive from a financial adviser. It will take into account your financial situation and goals, and what’s in your best interests. It can be given for a single, one-off issue. Or it can be more detailed and ongoing – such as developing a financial plan to meet your life goals, and monitoring your progress towards them.

How much does a financial adviser cost?

Financial advisers don't usually charge for the first meeting. During this meeting they should give you their Financial Services Guide (FSG) which sets out their fees, services and how they handle complaints. Make sure you understand all the costs of the services you want before you go ahead.


A financial adviser’s fees will vary, depending on the adviser and the type of advice you’re after. But as a guide, in 2022, the average cost of a financial plan was $3,300 while ongoing advice cost about $4,300 a year.

How does a financial adviser work out their fees?

Your adviser can either charge fixed fees or percentage-based fees or a combination of the two. The only product or service they can earn a commission on is life insurance you buy through them.


An adviser can charge a fixed fee for a Statement of Advice (SOA) or putting your financial plan into action, such as buying investments. You might also pay a fixed fee for ongoing financial advice, administration costs of your investments, or one-off questions about things that aren’t part of your financial plan.


Advisers can also charge a percentage-based fee on the performance of your investments, or a percentage of the value of your portfolio’s assets. 

What are the benefits of getting financial advice?

Without a financial adviser or expert guidance, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed in a world of complex financial jargon. It’s no wonder so many people suffer from indecision and procrastination around their financial affairs. 


By contrast, a CFS survey into the value of financial advice* found that people with a financial adviser are 49% more confident and positive about their financial situation than those without. 

What are the reasons people engage a financial adviser?

Our survey revealed that the top three reasons people engage an adviser are: 

  • an adviser is more knowledgeable than them
  • it saves them time
  • they feel more confident having an adviser make decisions on their behalf.

Overall, people with an adviser were found to be more confident in their decision making and about their financial future. For example, 57% of advised customers said they have a very good or excellent knowledge of superannuation and investments. 

Find a financial adviser

Find a financial adviser

Use our tool to find professional financial advice, local to you.

What does an investment manager do?

An investment manager is a specialist who:

  • creates and implements an investment strategy for their clients
  • manages their investment portfolios on an ongoing basis
  • is focused solely on investments, rather than taking a holistic view of your finances.

An investment manager should design your portfolio with your needs and goals in mind. They can develop an investment strategy for you and arrange your portfolio across different asset types. They can even make investments on your behalf if you give them permission to do so.


If you have the money and know what it will be used for and when, an investment manager can help choose a product that will help you maximise returns within your investment window.


If you’re less clear about the money’s final destination, then a financial adviser can talk you through your options and, if you choose, help you develop a financial plan to guide future financial decisions.

What is the difference between short-term and long-term investments?

Short-term investments

Short-term investments are generally held for less than three years. They’re great for goals and needs without a long time frame – such as a saving for a holiday, a wedding or a new car.


They generally include investments such as savings accounts, term deposits or bonds. 

Long-term investments

Long-term investments tend to be held for seven years or more. Whether it’s intended to fund your post-employment dreams or your first home, it’s safe to assume that the goal of a long-term investment is to build it into a significant asset that will support your future lifestyle.


It’s a good idea to ask a financial adviser about long-term investments because a significant asset may affect financial decisions regarding insurance, super and other investments. A financial adviser who understands your long-term goals will be able to suggest investment options that support your aims and make sure the asset is accounted for across your other plans.


An investment manager will be able to suggest specific products that will help maximise your long-term investment. You could approach an investment manager for advice once you know where the funds you plan to invest fit into your overall plan.

Before you get help

  1. Make sure you understand the basics of investment – it will help you understand the advice offered and whether it suits your goals.
  2. Be clear about what you want help with.

Case study 1: Amelia begins her investment journey


Amelia is 25 and works as a FIFO environmental scientist for a mining company. Amelia doesn’t have many expenses and still lives with her parents when she’s not working on site. This way, she’s managed to save more than $80,000. But she’s unsure what she should do with her savings – so she contacts a financial adviser to help her.


Amelia’s adviser asks her what she wants to achieve. Her adviser explains how super can provide the lifestyle she wants at retirement – and why it’s important to start saving now.


With her adviser’s assistance, Amelia decides to salary sacrifice 10% of her salary into her super every pay cycle. Her adviser also helps Amelia choose a high-interest savings account for her $80,000 and future savings, which is now earmarked to help Amelia buy a house before she turns 30.

Case study 2: Jin enters the stock market


Jin, 35, is an executive manager with the finance department of a large company, who wants to retire at 55. His financial plan was briefly derailed by a divorce. It’s now back on track and he wants to make up for lost time.


Jin and his financial adviser decide that since he has $150,000 saved, he’s in a good position to begin investing seriously in the stock market.


Jin goes to an investment management firm who book him in with one of their managers, Stacey. As Jin has a clear understanding of investment, his own risk appetite, and what his overall financial plan is, it’s easy for Stacey to develop an investment strategy that Jin is happy with. Jin can concentrate on climbing the corporate ladder while Stacey and her investment management firm tend to his investments.

Find an adviser

Visit our Find an Adviser webpage to locate a financial adviser near you. Please note that we can’t endorse advisers on this list. Make sure you take the time to assess which adviser is best for you. Note that your search result will only show financial advisers who have an agreement to distribute CFS products.

What’s next?


Investing for beginners

Learn everything you need to know to plan and start your investment journey.


Investment Options

Learn about the different types of investments you can make, and which might be right for you.


Investment Glossary

Get your head around common financial and investment terms with our A-Z jargon buster.

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Things you should know

Avanteos Investments Limited ABN 20 096 259 979, AFSL 245531 (AIL) is the trustee of the Colonial First State FirstChoice Superannuation Trust ABN 26 458 298 557 and issuer of FirstChoice range of super and pension products. Colonial First State Investments Limited ABN 98 002 348 352, AFSL 232468 (CFSIL) is the responsible entity and issuer of products made available under FirstChoice Investments and FirstChoice Wholesale Investments.Information on this webpage is provided by AIL and CFSIL. It may include general advice but does not consider your individual objectives, financial situation, needs or tax circumstances. You can find the target market determinations (TMD) for our financial products at www.cfs.com.au/tmd, which include a description of who a financial product might suit. You should read the relevant Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) and Financial Services Guide (FSG) carefully, assess whether the information is appropriate for you, and consider talking to a financial adviser before making an investment decision. You can get the PDS and FSG at www.cfs.com.au or by calling us on 13 13 36


*The Value of Advice, CFS Customer Office. Research was conducted by CFS in partnership with research agency Nature in February 2023. Data collection was a 20-minute online survey among a robust sample of 2,966 consumers from the addressable market. Further details of survey findings at Why financially advised Australians are more upbeat about their financial future (cfs.com.au)