By Niall McConville, Director, Pro Bono Financial Advice Network
This has been challenging for many Australians, particularly for those suffering financial hardship resulting from a personal health crisis or the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on our economy.
In many instances, people faced with health challenges are having to make important financial decisions at an extremely emotional time. Now more than ever, as those economic and financial effects impact increasing numbers of Australians, the support of financial advisers can play an invaluable role in helping people navigate the challenges of 2020 and improve the course of many people’s lives. Unfortunately not everyone has the same access to financial advice, which is why the Pro Bono Financial Advice Network (PFAN) was formed – helping connect advisers willing to provide pro-bono financial advice to those experiencing financial hardship triggered by a personal health crisis.
PFAN is an industry wide collaboration, and the organisation works with local communities and associations to offer financial support to those who need it most. The Pro Bono Network has a particularly strong partnership with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Limited, supporting people living with MS and their families with financial guidance as they work through their diagnosis and subsequent health journey.
To give but one example of the meaningful difference PFAN can make, a single 63-year-old mum suffering with MS was worried she would lose her Centrelink Pension – her only source of income.
Through PFAN, an adviser was able to prepare an advice document, so she was able to receive a higher level of income, and create a plan to maximise her superannuation contributions, and assist her son with purchasing a property.
It’s important work, but PFAN support also goes beyond providing people with a no-cost service to plan ahead; the true value lies in helping disadvantaged members of the community access financial advice in general. The program is an opportunity for advisers to help people living with a health or disability issue to take control of one important aspect of their lives – their finances.
Not only does participating in the PFAN program leave advisers feeling a sense of fulfilment through positively impacting the lives of people living with MS and their families, it also reinforces the value that advisers deliver to the community. With more advisers supporting PFAN, local awareness and appreciation for the value of the guidance that financial advisers provide rises too.
Advisers have a strong platform to make a positive impact on the lives of those who need help but aren’t able to access or afford it. They can play a big part in helping those people to build confidence in their own financial decision-making.
Whether it be a quick discussion, some simple information or in-depth financial advice, advisers’ support is needed for the individuals and communities impacted by both health complications and financial hardship. The personal and professional benefits of providing pro bono financial advice are endless, and, for me personally, I feel grateful to have been involved with PFAN over the past few years and now as a Director on the Board.
It’s incredibly rewarding to see over 150 advisers put their hand up to volunteer and provide their services to help those less fortunate in times of need. If every adviser in Australia who has the capacity or wants to do more pro bono work saw one client a year with PFAN, that would make a huge difference. I encourage you to get involved.
As an advice community, I believe we can do more to give back where we can, and to ensure more Australians are getting tailored financial support that is appropriate to their circumstances.
To make a gift of your personal expertise is immensely empowering.
TAL General Manager of Retail Distribution & Board Director of the Pro Bono Financial Advice Network