A lot of people don’t understand the difference between a financial planner and an accountant. And to be fair, both have complementary skill sets, and in fact, some of their areas of expertise overlap from time to time.
So, inevitably, the question most people ask is, ‘do I need both’?
“When you are running your own small business, your business and personal finances are inextricably linked in a way that’s different from being an employee who is working for someone else,” says Michael Mekhitarian of ATB Partners.
“Small business owners have a lot more financial risk, and that’s why utilising both accounting and financial planning skills is vital for small business owners – it gives them advice right across the spectrum of their personal affairs and their business plans,” he explains.
“It’s also why we’re such strong advocates for planning generally, and why we developed the Five Step Process. Planning reduces uncertainty, so when adhoc ‘events’ come along – whether they’re threats or opportunities – if your business, and your personal finances are underpinned by solid planning then you’re in a much more stable position, and can assess and make decisions rather than be backed into a corner you don’t necessarily want to be in.”
This is ATB’s point of difference. Each of the key team members at ATB are not only Chartered Accountants, but qualified financial planners too.
“Traditionally, accountants have been ‘hindsight’ focused,” explains Michael. “Stepping in at the end of the financial year to assist with tax returns based on what you’ve already spent, invested and saved. Traditionally, an accountant’s primary responsibility was to help you ‘account’ for your money, and to also hold you ‘accountable’ for your funds, and to ensure that you are meeting your obligations under Australian tax law.
“And, of course, it’s an accountant’s role to assist you in reducing the amount of tax you need to pay on any income you earn,” he explains.
“But … notice I said ‘traditionally.’ The modern accountant still provides those services, but is much more strategically focused. Good accountants understand that it’s imperative to proactively provide technical taxation knowledge but with a lot more emphasis on improving the business. This is why we developed the Five Step Process.”
The important thing to remember though, is that tax returns and tax planning are only one aspect of your overall finances.
“Also ‘traditionally’,” says Michael. “Financial planners have tended to assist people when they’re getting ready for retirement. Devising strategies to ensure they’ve got enough Superannuation and savings to last their post-working years.”
However, he says, financial planners can do much more.
Financial planners have a deep, specialist knowledge of investments – not just shares and managed funds, but also property, cash, and a range of other alternatives. A financial planner can also assist with debt management and budgeting, and also advise on ‘wealth protection’ strategies, including insurance, as well as superannuation, retirement and estate planning.
“Financial planning is the key to wealth creation, it is essentially about making your money work for you, to provide stability for the future,” explains Michael.
“And finance and tax are becoming increasingly complex. But ATB’s expertise, which combines both accounting and financial planning, brings a range of skill sets and competency to the table in every discussion, giving our clients not just a broader picture of their financial position, but depth too, as well as an understanding of the tax implications of every decision they make,” he says.
“This not only provides our clients with the confidence to make astute decisions, but really enables them to put their best foot forward in all circumstances.
“I never met anyone who doesn’t want more choice, freedom and financial stability. The difference between having that and not, is, very simply, getting the right advice.”