Advice – The Best Debt Ever?

“You have got to be joking?”

“Ten thousand dollars?”

“What on earth will you tell me for $10,000 that I can’t discover myself?”

Nicole’s advice fee was a bit of a shock.

While understandable considering the circumstances, the reaction took her by surprise.



Advice is only required when someone has issues they can’t easily resolve.

Nicole’s prospect had quite a few.

Eight months before meeting Nicole, the prospect and his partner had decided to separate.

As is typical when attempting difficult and emotional steps, settlement discussions were dragging with both partners seeking more than what was being offered.

The prospect’s two youngest children were in their final years of school and struggling with the family turmoil.

They were both extraordinarily creative and significantly autistic. The prospect believed the school’s support was hopeless, and he wanted to move them both to a better school for their final years.

His partner disagreed.

The prospect’s eldest son was in his early twenties and had left home earlier in the year to start a trade.

He hated his father for ruining their family and never wanted anything to do with him again.

This is the cruellest of situations for a father whose greatest aspiration is for his children.

The prospect’s partnership breakdown wasn’t why the main reason he had met with Nicole seeking advice.

The trigger was his need to understand the best option to resolve a messy redundancy he had been unsuccessfully negotiating with his employer.

After years of climbing a slippery career slope caused by mergers, acquisitions, rationalisation and new mergers, the prospect’s career choices were narrowing fast.

The prospect had thought he could resolve everything.


“How can you justify your fee?”

“Melbourne’s best golf clubs don’t even charge that much for their joining fees. You know I don’t have access to that sort of money unless I go deeper into debt, which sounds ironic that the advice I need would actually place me in deeper debt, don’t you think? 

Fees can never be justified – never.

They can only be valued.

Advice is about supporting others in their most significant decisions and managing their issues.

Provided they value that support.

The client was right.

Nicole probably can’t tell him anything he could probably discover for himself.

However, being an ‘advice shopper’ and becoming an ‘advice client’ are as different as night and day.

A shopper for advice is like the renovator or handyman wandering the aisles of massive hardware chains searching for tools, products, tips or specials.

A client for advice is concerned about consequences for themselves and others significant to them.

The shopper is searching for the most effective product.

The client is searching for the most valuable path.

Nicole’s advice would maximise the probability of her prospect progressing along his best possible financial path.

She knew she would have to advise him regarding his cashflows, superannuation, any payouts, his insurances, his estate and structures, supporting his kids and assisting with his own career re-direction.

She also knew her fee meant a short-term increase in debt but presented the fee anyway, believing it was possibly the best debt the client had ever considered.

She was disappointed with his reaction as she knew she could assist.

He believed her advice was just another product.

When the consequences are high, and the options are many, advice is never just another product.

Australians have not been served well by the popular narratives surrounding financial advice focusing solely on ‘affordability’.

While important, when it comes to advice, affordability is the cart before the horse.

Value is far more significant to anyone concerned about their consequences.

Nicole’s prospect said he would get back to her – he hasn’t yet.


What do you reckon?





Photo credit:  Shutterstock_1682280673



For over 30 years, Jim has influenced, coached, and consulted financial advisory firms across Australia. His firm, Certainty Advice Group, skills advisory teams delivering comprehensive advice, where fees are priced purely on the value and impact for each client. He obtained Australia’s only Certification Mark for comprehensive, unconflicted financial advice – Certainty Advice.  He has authored four books on advice, with his latest – What Price Value – released in 2022.

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