Do I need a financial adviser?

Gugu Sidaki | 03 May 2023

Gugu Sidaki is an independent financial planner and co-founder of the financial planning and wealth management practice Wealth Creed. She holds the Certified Financial Planner accreditation and is an author and financial literacy enthusiast.

I get asked this question quite often:  At which point in my life do I need to speak to a financial adviser?

There is a misconception that financial advice is only for the rich. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Historically, access to financial services was for the select few in our country. This has led to many people being excluded from accessing credit, and getting general financial education and advice on investing.

The catastrophic consequences of being denied access are that financial literacy is low and many of us lack the ability to manage our personal finances effectively.

The Standard & Poor's Ratings Services Global Financial Literacy Survey found that only 42% of South Africans are financially literate.

No financial skills without literacy

Without financial literacy, you will struggle to understand and apply different financial skills effectively. Budgeting, saving, using debt wisely, and understanding the effects of interest rates on your money and credit are all difficult without some financial literacy.

Many South Africans are struggling to make sound financial decisions and their poor choices can be traced back to a lack of financial literacy. These are some of the outcomes:

  • South Africans are now spending over 75% of their take-home pay on repaying debt;
  • South Africans have a poor savings culture; and
  • Only 6% of retirees are able to fund their lifestyles.

While these issues stem mainly from a lack of financial education, we have to acknowledge that not all our financial woes can be budgeted away or solved through spreadsheets.

Many South Africans are unemployed and some of those lucky enough to have employment are living from hand to mouth as they barely earn enough to cover basic needs.

Both government and the financial services sector are working hard to try and improve the financial literacy, financial behaviour, and financial realities of the general population through many interventions.

Access to services

One of the best ways that have been identified is through financial inclusion, which is having access to useful and affordable financial products and services that meet an individual's needs. This brings us back to our initial question – at which point in one’s life does one need the services of a financial adviser?

The answer is simple – all the time.

You don’t need a lot of money to seek the services of a financial adviser. There are different advisers for different services and needs. You just have to find one that is right for you.

When your earnings are low, you still need some guidance on budgeting and protecting your ability to earn and retire. You may need less time with an adviser than someone earning more, but you still need the basics to be in place. The right adviser for you may be someone who is prepared to coach you on managing your money.

When you really need guidance

While it is best to have an adviser helping you stay on track all the time, it is at the following points in your life that you will really appreciate their guidance:

  • When you want to make sure that your loved ones will be taken care of financially;
  • When you have financial goals to achieve and need guidance;
  • When you need to make a major financial decision and don’t have the tools or resources to make an effective decision;
  • Before you make major life decisions (such as business ventures, marriage, divorce, having children);
  • When you are planning to change jobs;
  • When you have a significant amount of money to invest; and
  • When you are planning to retire.

This list is not exhaustive but in most of these cases, the need for financial advice does not involve large sums of money.

How to find the right adviser

The best way to find the right adviser for you is through research. Start with a list of advisers on a website like that of the Financial Planning Institute or

If you have received any adviser recommendations, start by checking that they are licensed - the regulator of financial services in South Africa, the Financial Services Conduct Authority (FSCA), offers you the ability to check that advisers are licensed and for what.  Read more: How can I find a good financial adviser? and How do I find a financial adviser who is right for me?

Take time to meet a few potential advisers – many offer a first meeting for free. This will help you understand how they work and if they’ll be a good fit for you and your financial needs.

Ask, share and participate

Ask lots of questions – this is the time to raise all your concerns about whether the fees are worth it and whether advisers are just out to sell you products. Read more: What questions should I ask my financial adviser?

Be prepared to share your personal information and participate in exercises like tensioning up your budget.  

Make sure you do your homework as this is your money and your future.