Paying for advice

It’s important you understand what you’re expected to pay before you agree to work with an adviser. You should also ask if there will be a fee for your first meeting.

Here are some examples of the types of fees and commissions you can expect to pay for:

Paying for investment advice

The amount you pay for investment advice will depend on how complex your needs are. To give you an idea, you could initially pay anything from $250 for some simple advice, up to $4,000 for a comprehensive financial plan. You may pay more or less than this depending on the adviser you use and there will be other ongoing costs to consider.

TIP: If your adviser quotes their fees in percentages, ask them to convert it to dollars to get a better feel for what you’re paying.

 Your adviser may be paid in several different ways:

  • a one-off fee to prepare a plan – sometimes referred to as an initial plan fee
  • an establishment fee to set up your investments
  • an hourly rate for services performed by your adviser, such as preparing a financial plan, implementing advice and ongoing reporting
  • an ongoing fee, management fee or service fee for providing an ongoing service
  • a commission or other incentive reward from the investment provider.

In addition, you may also be charged other fees, including:

  • a platform fee – if you or your adviser decide to use a fund platform to manage your investments. See investing through a platform to find out more about investment platforms
  • a custodian fee – if your adviser uses a third party to hold your investments
  • a fee to a product provider – for the administration costs involved in providing an investment product.

Also ask if there are any cancellation fees and in what circumstances any of the above fees would be refunded.

Paying for insurance advice

Most advisers work on commission when providing insurance advice. They usually receive a payment from the insurance provider as a percentage of your premium. If you have complex insurance requirements, they may also charge a fee for analysing your needs and producing a plan for you.

Advisers receive up to four types of commission:

  • an upfront commission. This can be as high as 200% of the annual premium, including bonus commissions
  • a trail commission for each subsequent year. This could range from 5 to 25% depending on how much upfront commission is charged. Our 2016 review of insurance advisers found that most advisers charge a higher upfront commission and a lower ongoing trail commission
  • bonuses which are paid for meeting additional criteria, such as number of policies sold or retained
  • ‘soft’ commissions which include overseas trips, tickets to sporting events, small value gifts and others.

Only some advisers have to tell you how they’re paid. If they don’t tell you, ask. It’s important to be sure your adviser is looking after your best interest and not influenced by a commission payment or reward.

Even if you buy your insurance online (for example, through a comparison website) the pricing will typically include a commission.

Some insurance companies do offer a commission-free premium if you deal with them directly.

TIP: If your adviser is comparing life insurance products for you, get them to do a 10-year forward pricing projection. A policy that is affordable now could become expensive if premiums increase significantly over time.

Ask if there is a charge for cancelling your policy within a specified period. Some insurers have a ‘clawback’ period which means if you do cancel within this time (usually two years) your adviser must repay a portion of the upfront commission. Some advisers pass this charge on to their customer.

Paying for mortgage advice

Like insurance providers, most mortgage advisers also work on commission. They usually receive a payment from the lender as a percentage of the amount loaned and may also receive ongoing commission. This is paid by the mortgage provider annually for the period of your loan.

Some advisers may also charge a fee, so it’s best to check this when you meet.

If you are dealing with an Authorised Financial Adviser (AFA), they are legally required to tell you about any fee and commission details.

A Registered Financial Adviser (RFA) is not legally required to disclose commission and fees but you are entitled to ask and be told.

A QFE adviser (for example bank staff) doesn’t usually receive commission but will be rewarded by some form of bonus. Again you’re entitled to ask.

Our Types of advice page explains more about these advisers and the services they provide.

Learn more about:

Choosing an adviser