Jayson Forrest is the managing editor of Money & Life Magazine.
As a previous FPA University Student of the Year Award recipient and an upcoming graduate of Griffith University, Azaria Bell is well placed to offer some timely advice to seasoned planners who need to return to formal studies under FASEA’s new education framework.
One thing that hasn’t waned during that 18 month period is Azaria’s willingness to help others – whether that’s fellow students, mentees or her professional colleagues – it’s a characteristic strength of her’s.
Azaria’s own uni studies began in 2016, when she started studying a Bachelor of Business, before transferring across to a Bachelor of Commerce. And while Azaria was originally studying four classes per semester, she dropped this down to three early on, in order to focus on her part-time job at Stonehouse Financial Services, while also reducing some of her “mental workload”.
And for her final trimester of university this year, Azaria is completing her last course online, due to her work commitments, but she confesses to preferring the face-to-face aspect of learning.
“Before my final trimester, I was going to all my classes on campus, which I found held me accountable. I found that if I did skip a class and try to listen to a lecture online, it was harder to pay attention, as you can’t engage and you’re surrounded by distractions. You really need to be disciplined if you study online, as it’s easy to fall behind.”
It’s sound advice from the 22-year-old, who not only won two scholarships whilst studying – the Stonehouse Financial Services scholarship in 2017 (which included the opportunity to undertake a part-time internship that has now transitioned into a full-time role for Azaria) and the Platinum Asset Management scholarship in 2018, which is awarded to students studying a Bachelor of Commerce with a Financial Planning major.
And adding to her list of recent achievements is not only the 2017 FPA University Student of the Year Award, but also being named a finalist in the 2018 Women in Financial Services Rising Star Award.
Not bad for someone just staring out in their career.
Student becomes the teacher
Ask Azaria for her views on the new FASEA education standards and whether they’re good for financial planning, as it transitions to become a fully recognised profession, and it’s a resounding ‘yes’.
“I think the FASEA education requirements are a great step forward for financial planning. If we want to be recognised on the same level as accountants and lawyers, we need to up our standards accordingly,” she says.
“Although it’s going to be a painful transition period for many, it is going to strengthen our industry and provide more security to consumers who seek advice.”
Azaria is acutely mindful that under the new FASEA framework, all planners who want to continue to practice beyond January 2024 will have to undertake some further study, which includes as a minimum, FASEA’s Code of Ethics.
However, as an accomplished uni student, this young ‘adviser assistant’, who is working in Brisbane at Stonehouse Financial Services, is all too willing to share her study tips to help more experienced planners, who may not have undertaken formal studies in decades. She believes it is important to establish your own study regime under the FASEA framework.
She offers the following six tips.
1. Forge relationships
For Azaria, one of the best things to come from her days at university were the strong friendships she was able to forge with her lecturers.
“Building a strong relationship with the academic staff at your university pays off in dividends,” she says. “Not only are these people incredibly knowledgeable, they also have access to great resources and connections that can advance your career and studies. They will be the first people to let you know about opportunities that arise within the university, such as conference sponsorship, scholarships or further education opportunities.”
2. Be open-minded
Planners who haven’t formally studied for a while will need to approach FASEA’s new education framework with an open mind, says Azaria.
“There’s no doubt that experienced planners know their vocation. They know the ‘ins and outs’ of financial planning, they understand the regulatory environment and how to work effectively with clients.
“However, applying that knowledge and expertise to a set course framework at university is a different story. Learning how to write essays in a certain format, how to reference correctly, how to find citations to back up everything you say, as well as tackling group assignments with people who have different opinions and experiences, is a huge learning curve for everyone,” she says.
“My advice for studying, whether you’re an experienced student or not, is to be open-minded and be willing to learn from others. And importantly, don’t be afraid to reach out for help when it’s needed.”
3. Use study resources
Azaria believes online resources, like YouTube, are great for study tips. This includes her own series of videos about managing money, which have been specifically produced to target students and younger Australians. If videos aren’t your thing, she also points to the numerous podcasts that are available that discuss how to study effectively.
In addition, the FPA’s recently launched Return to Learn online education portal also provides planners with resources, study tips and tools to help them navigate FASEA’s new education framework. The tool can be accessed at learn.fpa.com.au.
4. Study groups
“I also think it’s incredibly important that planners work with other planners when it comes to studying,” Azaria says. “There should be no competition, as the success of one individual adds to the success of the advice industry as a whole. By working together, planners can bounce ideas off each other, share their struggles, motivate each other and help navigate the course work. Group studying is a hugely effective tool and it’s something students widely engage in. It’s a great way to learn.”
5. Time management
Time management is one of Azaria’s strengths and she credits it for helping her successfully navigate her studies.
“Studying is all about deadlines,” she says. “So, at the start of the semester, download your course profile and ensure you timetable all your course deadlines, assignments and exams to your calendar early, to avoid missing anything. Include the weighting of each assessment item in your calendar, so you can prioritise your time accordingly. And importantly, remember to allocate set times for study and stick to it, otherwise it becomes very easy to fall behind. You don’t want to be cramming at the last minute!”
For more time management tips, refer to the breakout story below.
Perhaps the biggest challenge facing seasoned planners as they hit the study books will be using new technology and the myriad of apps available to help them.
“The way we learn and study in 2019, is a lot different to how it would have been 10, 20 or 30 years ago. We are relying on textbooks less and less. Instead, the use of technology is embedded in everything you do at university – from formulating ‘to-do’ lists, taking notes, and referencing through apps.”
Some of Azaria’s personal favourite apps for university include:
Todoist – for setting tasks and reminders to complete work.
“I’d also highly recommend downloading your university app, as they generally include useful tools like maps, announcements and access to your student portal.
“The trick is to get more in touch with technology. Talk to staff and colleagues, particularly those who have recently gone through university, about what technology they used, and what worked and didn’t work for them. It’s all about trial and error.”
But beware of burnout
While studying can be an exciting and rewarding opportunity to improve your own knowledge and skill set, Azaria cautions against burnout by being mindful of your own mental and emotional wellbeing.
“At the end of 2018, I felt incredibly burnt out. That year was particularly full on for me. I did a lot of overseas and interstate travel, hosted university networking events, while working and studying at the same time. It all came to a head towards the end of the year, when I felt completely depleted and unmotivated. I was overwhelmed and exhausted. I had to admit to myself that I had failed to find the right balance between study, work and my personal life.”
Azaria definitely sees parallels happening between what occurred with her and with planners returning back to studying.
“It’s going to be a challenge for many planners who already have established careers and businesses, to now balance the pressures of extra study on top of everything else. I think the key to getting through this is making sure you give yourself time to focus on your own mental and emotional wellbeing.”
So, does that mean Azaria would do anything differently now with her approach to studying?
“It’s an interesting question,” she says. “I had a view at university that there was no such thing as too much. I would say yes to every single opportunity, but I now realise you need to know your limit and stick to it. If you feel that you have bitten off more than you can chew, it’s okay to take a step back and reassess things.
“I think that means working on a balance between what’s important in your personal life, and what’s required to succeed in study and the workplace.”
And as the dust settles on the Hayne Royal Commission’s recommendations, how does this young professional see the industry re-establishing trust with consumers and re-engaging with the next generation of students to become financial planners?
“We definitely need to showcase more personal stories that highlight the positives of receiving quality advice,” Azaria says. “Consumers need to hear more stories of real people whose lives have been changed for the better by seeking help from qualified financial planners. It’s these types of positive stories that touch us on an emotional level and resonate not just with consumers, but with the next generation of future planners.”
Azaria applauds the FPA’s ongoing consumer awareness campaign – through Money & Life, social media and traditional media channels – to promote these “good news stories”.
“And while education and the technical aspect of financial planning is absolutely pivotal to what it is we do each day, ultimately, today’s young people are looking for work that is fulfilling and inspiring. So, if we can communicate the value of what planners do to change people’s lives for the better and take that message to students, then that’s how we’re going to sustain the industry going forward.
“I really believe it’s a pretty exciting time to be a financial planner!”
Beating those study time blues
Good time management is crucial when studying, says Azaria Bell. Here are her five top tips for success.
1. Start each day with a clear focus
It’s difficult to get anything done without having a set goal in mind. The first study related activity of the day should be determined by what you want to achieve and what absolutely must get done. Make sure you are clear on this before you start checking your emails or begin studying.
2. Write a ‘to-do’ list
As obvious as it might sound, writing a ‘to-do’ list is a great way to keep yourself on track and to make sure you are getting everything done. Start the day by compiling a list of things to do, and then cross off completed tasks as the day progresses. It’s great to see tasks get accomplished and crossed off the list. Watching the list get smaller throughout the day is a great motivator. It is also very effective to complete unpleasant tasks earlier in the day and allow yourself small rewards when you complete them.
3. Minimise interruptions
The less distractions you have around you, the less likely you are to lose sight of what it is you are doing. Even a buzzing phone will interrupt your focus. There’s nothing worse than getting distracted when you’re on a roll and it’s often hard to get back into the ‘zone’ once you have occupied your mind with something else. Turn off your phone, clean up your desk or find a quiet environment, like the library, so you can concentrate and focus on your work until it’s complete.
4. Stop procrastinating
We are all guilty of it, but there are a few ways you can discipline yourself to stop procrastinating. Maintain the mindset that average work, started early, is better than no work, and that way, you give yourself time to improve. When your procrastination is getting terrible, purposely write the worst, most ridiculous essay introduction you can, just to get words down. Then once you start, your mind gets in the zone, and it’s much easier to be productive from there. Often, just starting is the hardest part, so make it as fun and pressure free as possible.
Scheduling time to relax is just as important as scheduling time to study. You can’t absorb information on an overloaded brain, so make sure you are getting enough sleep and taking breaks throughout the day. Listen to your biological clock and schedule priority tasks for your peak time of the day, when your concentration and energy levels are at their best.
We all know from experience that a lack of good time management can make you moody, stressed and reduce your productivity. By managing your time well, you can eliminate these effects. Make sure you reward yourself when you do manage your time well by stopping to recognise your success before moving onto the next project. If that involves a bit of chocolate, then so be it!