Free retirement planning assistance now available

Thinking about how you’re going to plan your retirement can be daunting and I suggest you do as much research as possible before you book an appointment with a financial adviser or accountant (if that is what you choose to do).

If you’re like many Australians within 10 to 15 years of retirement, you’re starting to think about your retirement but you’re not sure if you want a full-blown financial plan just yet. Perhaps you may not be able to afford a full financial plan, or you may be uncertain how to go about finding an adviser or unsure as to what qualities to look for in an adviser. You may even be unsure about what’s involved in planning for your retirement.

A handy first stop in your retirement planning journey is to attend a free seminar run by the Financial Information Service (FIS), or book a free one-hour appointment with one of the FIS officers. You can talk to FIS representatives over the telephone or face-to-face.

The Financial Information Service is available to anyone, and the Government funds the service under the Centrelink budget. Note that you don’t have to be in receipt of Centrelink payments or services to use FIS.

A few years ago I attended two FIS seminars as part of my research when road-testing public information services for inclusion in one of my books. FIS brings in experts from the financial services industry to take you through some of the issues you may face when investing generally or when planning for your retirement. FIS often hosts a series of seminars on related financial subjects. In the free seminars that I attended the content was easy to follow and included practical information.

According to the FIS information on the Centrelink section of the Department of Human Services website, the information you get from the Financial Information Service (FIS) can help you:

  • understand your financial affairs
  • learn more about investing
  • learn how to save and plan for the future
  • learn more about shares, property, salary sacrificing, and superannuation
  • start planning your retirement and understand the options available
  • understand the financial implications when you, or someone close to you, is considering moving into residential care
  • use credit in a sensible way.

Quoting directly from the DHS website: “Our FIS officers can show you how to make informed financial decisions and help you understand the consequences of those decisions in the short, medium and long term… FIS officers provide information to people over the phone, at personal interviews, and through financial-education seminars held in a range of locations across Australia.”

What FIS cannot do

Although FIS officers can help point you in the right direction, FIS and FIS officers do not provide financial advice. According to FIS, FIS officers are not financial planners or counsellors and they:

  • do not sell or provide financial advice
  • do not draft financial plans
  • do not recommend any particular type of investment
  • do not tell you how to invest your savings
  • do not purchase investment products on your behalf
  • do not make decisions about your Age Pension
  • do not calculate the rate of Age Pension at which you can be paid, although FIS Officers may be able to approximate what your payments may be. 

What FIS can do for you

You can telephone 13 2300 and ask to speak to a FIS Officer. The FIS Officer may answer your questions over the telephone. If you have complex issues, the FIS Officer may arrange an appointment for you to chat face-to-face.

FIS Officers provide information to people over the telephone, at personal interviews or through financial education seminars.

Note: You can bring a family member or a friend along with you when you visit the FIS officer. You can also arrange for someone to speak on your behalf with the FIS Officer (subject to signing an authority allowing the FIS officer to speak to your representative). Interpreters are also available.

WARNING: Confidential conversations, but your information may be used by Centrelink

The one blemish on the FIS service is that although any personal information you provide to FIS is treated as confidential, if you are already receiving Centrelink payments, FIS officers can pass on information to Centrelink, which can be used to adjust Centrelink entitlements if FIS officers consider your current entitlements are incorrect. Let’s hope that it works both ways and FIS officers pass on information where individuals are being underpaid on Centrelink benefits.

How do I book a seminar or appointment?

You can find out what seminars are available by clicking on this link.

You can then book a seminar, or find out more information about the seminars by phoning 13 6357 (from 8 am to 5pm AEST), or by emailing: fis.seminar.bookings@humanservices.gov.au —and please include the title, date, and location of the seminar you are interested in, and an alternative contact such as a phone number. FIS suggests that you include the title, date and location of the seminar that you want to attend when phoning or emailing FIS. You need to allow at least 2 days for your booking to be actioned. You also need to provide your telephone number.

© Copyright Trish Power 2009-2014

Copyright for this article belongs to Trish Power, and cannot be reproduced without express and specific consent.

IMPORTANT: SuperGuide does not provide financial advice. SuperGuide does not answer all questions posted in the comments section. SuperGuide may use your question or comment, or use questions from several readers, as the basis for an article topic that we publish on the SuperGuide website. We will not disclose names or personal information in these articles. Comments provided by readers that may include information relating to tax, superannuation or other rules cannot be relied upon as advice. SuperGuide does not verify the information provided within comments from readers. Readers need to seek independent advice about their personal circumstances.

Comments

  1. I can affirm that fis officers use the info you ‘supply’ during any interview, without any warning.
    So.. be aware what you say!

  2. Excellent post Trish. Many people are unaware of this great free service available through Centrelink. The feedback I’ve had about the free seminars has been very good. I often pose some tricky scenarios on behalf of clients to my local FIS officer and always get a prompt response. They are busy people, so I normally use email to communicate. Also, it’s worth pointing out that FIS officers don’t normally assist with completing forms and paperwork.

  3. Hi trish,
    Great article on the FIS service offered through Centrelink. Would hardly think the FIS passing on information to Centrelink to ensure correct entitlement is being received is a “blemish” on the service.

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