BE WARNED – by Noel Wittaker

BE WARNED – Article by Noel Wittaker

This newsletter is an unusual one because I’m warning you about a menace that is affecting the lives of many Australians, and at the same time asking for your help.

Four years ago the Storm Financial Group collapsed, leaving investors with losses of over a billion dollars. Last week Four Corners revealed another $15 billion in losses – this time through shonky mortgage trusts.

There’s more to come, and the losses have the potential to be even greater. This time the predators are the property spruikers.

A woman I will call Jane is just one of thousands of victims. She is 41 years old, single, and lives in Perth. She had worked hard to pay off her home and was almost debt free. Two years ago she accepted a friend’s invitation to go to a property seminar.

The seminar was supposed to be free – it cost Jane over $200,000.

The seminars always follow the same pattern. The victims are given a long spiel about the growing pressure on government budgets caused by rising life expectancies, and are then shown vivid illustrations of the life of poverty that will be faced by those who don’t take steps to provide for themselves.

But then comes the sting – the way to wealth is to negative gear into residential property. This is followed by complex illustrations showing how quickly you can pay off the mortgage on your home by using the rent from the investment property to speed up the repayments. The cream on the cake is the huge amount of tax that is going to be saved.

That of itself is reasonably harmless – the killer blow is that the spruiker then convinces the victim that the best property for them is one that the spruiker, or its associates, will build on their behalf.

Unfortunately, Jane fell for it and found herself the owner of a property in Caboolture near Brisbane for a total cost of $421,000.

The spruikers had set up a series of loans but it was done in such a convoluted fashion that Jane felt all she was doing was “robbing Peter to pay Paul”. After a few months she also noticed her debts were rising, not falling as promised.

By this stage the alarm bells were sounding. And it didn’t take much research for Jane to realise she’d been sold a dud.

The property sold last month for $299,000. In just two years, Jane has gone from owning a debt free home to being saddled with a debt of over $200,000.

There is now a growing pile of files in my office showing that Jane’s situation is becoming increasingly common.

This area is totally unregulated – this is why you will be on your own if you get taken in. Fortunately the scam is easy to spot once you know what to look for.

As you read this, keep in mind that the way to buy property is to decide on your price range and the area in which you wish to buy, then spend enough time in that area talking to reputable, local real estate agents so you will recognise a bargain when you come across it.

The approach from the property spruikers contravenes all these principles.

First. The approach will always come from the spruiker – it won’t be initiated by you. It may well be by an offer to attend a “free” seminar showing you how to become a millionaire, or else by a simple phone call asking you if you’d like to pay off your home loan quicker while saving tax. Of course, these concepts hit all the right buttons and you’re likely to accept. This will normally be followed by a home visit so they can “qualify” you, after which you’ll be asked to come to an interview at their office to give you more details. This is where the hard sell really starts and these interviews have been known to be as long as six hours, by which time the victim will agree to almost anything.

Second. Even though any seasoned property investor knows the way to wealth is to search out bargains for yourself, the spruiker will take control and try to convince you that they are the only people who can find the right property for you. This is so they can sell you an overpriced property.

Third. There will nearly always be a building contract involved and the rationale is that you’ll save stamp duty, get a new home, and therefore bigger tax breaks. The real reason is it gives the spruiker a better chance to load the price.

Four. In most cases, they will be a one stop shop – once again, to stay in control. You will find they control the lawyer, the mortgage broker, the builder, and the managing agent.

Five. The properties will usually be situated in outlying suburbs and in lower socio-economic areas. Often, the properties offered will be in a different state to the one you live in.

Six. There will invariably be a mortgage required over your own home. The last thing the spruiker wants is for valuation to be done on the overpriced property they are trying to force on you.

Seven. The spruiker will invariably have a most attractive website showing pictures of good looking ordinary Australians, and with heaps of testimonials of how the particular spruiker has helped thousands of people become wealthy.

The sad reality is that this section of the market is totally unregulated. Anybody who is unscrupulous enough can pressure unsophisticated people into buying overpriced real estate.

The only defence we have is to make this practice as widely known as possible to prevent other victims being caught, but we also need feedback to convince the regulators that the laws need to change. Unfortunately, many people who have been caught don’t know how bad their finances are until they try to sell the property, and then they may be too embarrassed to talk about it.

In this newsletter, I’m asking for your cooperation. As well as spreading the word as widely as possible, I’m keen to hear anecdotes and stories to add to my ever growing file, and the bigger the file grows the more chance we have of action being taken to stamp out these unscrupulous operators. Please let me know of your experiences by writing to my usual email address.

Contact Noel Wittaker via his website:  or email:


Surviving the Global Recession

It’s been 5 years since the golden economic period ended in 2007, and we have survived, although not necessarily thrived, during this great global recession.  To me it has been a little like watching and old WW11 movie, where after 5 of the 6 years at war the general feeling starts to come upon people who maybe the tough times are only going to last a little bit longer.

So you might be thinking, how much longer can we expect this to go on?  My prediction is that in Europe this might be another 3 to 5 years, in the USA possibly 2 to 3 years and in Australia things are expected to improve a little sooner, possibly in 6 to 18 months. So what should we do now to take advantage of likely improvements in the economy in the near short-term?

Firstly we need to acknowledge that the situation often can get worse before it gets better. So it is expected that there will be short-term hiccups and dare I say it, we will need to be patient for a little longer. Now is the perfect time to look to undervalued investment opportunities which are likely to grow well when the economy picks up.

Shares are a precursor to the economic conditions in 6 to 9 months’ time. The worst of the Global Recession seems to have passed us so it could be argued that opportunity knocks now for the medium to long-term investor. Cash rates are likely to drop further in 2013 to stimulate the broader Australian economy and take pressure off the high $AUD. This should result in helping housing and construction to start up again.  We also expect that this will contribute to growth and inflated residential property values resulting in the return of growing inflation over a 2 to 5 years a period.

Following this, we expect the cycle will start again, of rising interest rates on lending in 2 to 5 years’ time. So the logical thing to do now is to work out your individual goals and objectives, both short and long-term, understand your investment risk profile and adjust your investment and financial strategies for the next 5 to 10 years.  The next step is to get some professional financial planning advice to ensure you minimize the risks and factor in exit strategies and flexibility for unforeseen circumstances, which can impact on your strategies adversely.

– Peter Stewart (CFP, AEPS, FAFA Dip FP Dip Li)

Peter Stewart the Principal of Benchmark Consultants is a Certified Financial Planner. Benchmark Consultants has been accredited as a Professional Practice of the Financial Planning Association (FPA). Benchmark Consultants is a corporate representative #289570 of Australian Financial Services Ltd AFSL#297239


Disclaimer: This information by no way constitutes financial advice.  We encourage any reader to seek out professional advice specific to their circumstances from a qualified Financial Planner.


If you are seeking Financial Advice from an adviser who runs their own Financial Planning Practice then contact Benchmark Consultants on 92932922 for a complimentary initial meeting to discuss your needs.

Phone: 08 9293 2922


Setting the Benchmark for local teachers

 MEDIA RELEASE – 23 January 2013


Local financial planning business, Benchmark Consultants, recently presented selected teachers from St Bridges College, Kalamunda High School, Swan Christian College, Darling Range Sports College, Carmel Adventist College and Lesmurdie Senior High School with awards recognising their selfless contribution in nurturing children, particularly in raising confidence and increasing self-esteem of struggling students.

Created by the Principal of Benchmark Consultants, Mr Peter Stewart in 2000, the Benchmark Award takes the form of a small sculpture representing the figure of a teacher with arms circling a student displaying encouragement and nurturing. Peter felt that many teachers in local schools went above and beyond the call of duty to provide support for students who are dealing with personal issues and stressful times at school.  Teachers provided the valuable link and positive encouragement required by many students to feel comfortable at school and fit-in with their peers.

Teachers, parents and students are encouraged to submit nominations to their school for selection of the award recipient and each school decides on their own recipient for that year.

Winners of the 2012 Benchmark Award were;

St Brigids College                               – Magdalena Lambie
Swan Christian College                     – Meril Myers
Darling Range Sports College          – Amanda Fleming
Kalamunda Senior High School      – Noelene Clarke
Lesmurdie Senior High School        – Allyson Goodhew
Carmel Adventist College                  – Devin Stafford

photo 11Benchmark Consultants are proud to present this annual award to the special people who support our local children.  All of the Benchmark team live locally and have a genuine interest and involvement in the local community.  This award is one way of demonstrating the ongoing commitment to improving the quality of life within our local community.

Benchmark Consultants are your local financial planners, providing professional investment and wealth creation advice.  Centrally located at Suite 2, Barber House, 16 Mead Street Kalamunda 6076, Benchmark can provide clients with a financial plan tailored specifically to suit their lifestyle and financial goals.

For more information contact Benchmark Consultants on 9293 2922 or email or visit our website Benchmark Consultants are a division of Australian Financial Services Ltd.  AFSL: 297239

How to Avoid an Investment Train Wreck

Seek professional advice from a Financial Planner who is licensed and regulated with ASIC

The Post Global Financial Crisis landscape and trying to navigate through the cycles of pessimism and optimism is a dilemma for investors in deciding whether to be risk averse or get back into growth investments particularly those investments in Superannuation.

Europe is going to take a decade to get back to better times and has yet to make the economic policy changes to achieve this.  The USA and Japan have to deal with their large debt position and will need to reduce their government spending. The valuation of domestic residential property in Australia is at very high multiples of average incomes. Shares have been volatile and interest rates are coming down.

Setting a multi asset mix of investments in cash, fixed interest, shares and property and then forgetting about it is no longer good enough. Increased diversification is now needed.  Investments that have strong medium to long term growth prospects by the mere fact that their current valuations are fundamentally good value today is what investors should be looking for.

More and more players are coming into the investment advisory business. Some of these so called wealth creators that spruik their wisdom at seminars to the public. Generally they are not Financial Planner/Advisers and therefore not licensed or regulated under ASIC. These so called investment experts once the facade is stripped away are no more than glorified property sales people or property developers. These people are quick to say that they are not giving financial or investment advice but then sell you on the idea of a particular investment generally in direct residential property.

Buying one single asset as the main source of wealth creation is not diversification. If you’re primary investment is in say a direct residential property and you also borrow the funds for this investment to achieve some tax savings. Taking on new debt you also increase your investment risks. These include lack of investment diversification, lack of cash liquidity or part thereof. Also many unforeseen circumstances such as changes to employment, family situation and expenses, taxes can be impacted with property investment returns.

Human nature and emotional investing trends or fashions are like following a herd mentality. The herd follows what is fashionable or dressed up as the latest or best way to go….. but is it?

A true cost benefit analysis is needed to determine the most appropriate solution for the individual investor. This analysis must include all the advantages and disadvantages, what will be gained and what will be given up with a change strategy.

Only licensed Financial Planners/Advisers can provide this comprehensive analysis for investors. Yes this will require a payment of a fee for receiving this advice. Without proper analysis investors’ risks are increased even more and could result in a train wreck and financial loss. In most cases this could be their investments for their retirement.

We advise clients what is the most appropriate investments for them.  This doesn’t necessarily mean the cheapest option. Other considerations such as clients Goals, Objectives, Investments Risk Profile, Cashflow needs Personal and Family circumstances and Estate Planning all need to be considered.

Benchmark Consultants is a Corporate Representative of Australian Financial Services Ltd AFSL#297239.  For more information about how Benchmark Consultants can help you contact us today on 9293 2922.

Follow us on Twitter @AFS_Benchmark

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Copy. Store. Retrieve.

What would you do if you couldn’t find your important information when you needed it?  If you couldn’t find a copy of your Last Will and Testament, Mortgage Papers, Insurance Documentation or Marriage Certificate?

Having access to copies of these forms of documentation can be essential at times, and if you work away from home, for example Fly In – Fly Out workers, finding this information can be a challenge.  Not to mention if your partner or spouse, or parents were suddenly incapacitated, would you be able to locate all necessary paperwork with a simple phone call?

Benchmark Consultants have the answer to this issue.  We offer our clients (Silver and above) the ability to scan and store copies of their documents on our system at no charge.

Document storage includes;

  • Wills,
  • Power of Attorney authorities,
  • birth certificates,
  • marriage certificates,
  • divorce certificates,
  • parents of partners death certificates,
  • TFN’s,
  • Tax assessments and past tax returns,
  • Passport
  • drivers licence photo ID,
  • investment
  • superannuation documents and statements,
  • insurances policies details and renewal notices.

(Note these are only COPIES of documents.  We will not store original documents.  It is the clients responsibiltiy to ensure the most recent copy of their documents is brought to the Benchmark Consultants office and scanned.  We take no responsibilty for ensuring copies stored are up to date)

Benchmark Consultants provide this service as a value added service to our clients.  We look forward to talking to you about how we can help to make your financial situation simpler.  Call Benchmark Consultants on 9293 2922 to arrange an appointment.


Find out more at


Benchmark Consultants is a corporate representative #289570 of Australian Financial Services Ltd AFSL #297239 AFS ABN #50116900362. Peter Stewart, is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional, and a member of the Association of Financial Advisors Ltd and Financial Planning Association of Australia Ltd.

Reducing the Frustration

I’m not sure about you, but I HATE call centres.

The frustration of calling an organisation and having to go through the seemingly never-ending gauntlet of press 1 to talk to this person, press 2 to talk to someone else, press three .. four .. five… HELP!!! If it’s not automated call centres it’s the frustration of speaking to someone who clearly has no idea how to help you as they are based overseas and can hardly speak a word of english or being transferred from department to department.


This is why at Benchmark Consultants we can help you to reduce the frustration.


As a Silver or higher client of Benchmark, you can authorise us to act on your behalf when you have to deal with financial institutions, Superannuation Funds or Government Departments.  Allowing you to spend you precious time somewhere a lot more enjoyable.

Our clients can enjoy the benefit of having someone else handle their financial issues on their behalf.  This is the joy of having your own Financial Planner.

So to reduce your stress and the time spent on the phone to financial institutions, talk to us about how we can help you.  Contact Benchmark Consultants on 08 9293 2922 or email to arrange a meeting.


Peter and the Team

Benchmark Consultants


Benchmark Consultants is a corporate representative #289570 of Australian Financial Services Ltd AFSL #297239 AFS ABN #50116900362. Peter Stewart, is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional, and a member of the Association of Financial Advisors Ltd and Financial Planning Association of Australia Ltd.


The Art of Procrastination

PROCRASTINATION:  delay, hesitation, slowness, slackness

According to Freud, the ‘Pleasure Principle’ (Psychology) may be responsible for procrastination.  This principal is described as the psychoanalytic concept of people seeking pleasure and avoiding suffering (pain) in order to satisfy their biological and psychological needs.

Clients often state that they have thought long and hard about seeking financial advice.  When I ask them how long it has taken them to come to the decision, it is surprising to hear that some people have put it off for years.  Often they have made major decisions and come to us after the fact, causing a lot more drama when trying to create a financial plan, than it would have been had they seen us prior to making these decisions.

This is not to say that there is a set time in which you should get advice.  As far as we are concerned, there is always something to offer regardless of where you are at in life, however seeking professional financial advice is important in the years leading up to and transitioning into retirement or making investments.

“Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today” – Lord Chesterfield

Our office discussions quite often circumnavigate around the ideas behind why people need advice but chose to put off seeking it.  Financial Planners can put in place a variety of measures to ensure that if you fell ill, were permanently injured, unable to make decisions for yourself or died, that you and your family would have control over your finances and the process to obtaining payouts or assistance was smooth.

You might not be aware, but your financial planner will take the hassle out of these things, all that is required is that you have an initial meeting with a financial planner to discuss your goals objectives concerns and current circumstances, from this meeting will be determined what level or type of advice is appropriate for you.

All the best.






For more information call Benchmark Consultants on 92932922 or email to arrange your first free initial appointment. 

Benchmark Consultants is an authorised corporate representative (289570) of Australian Financial Services Ltd AFSL 297239.

What Is Old, Is New Again …

What do Greece, Asia, South America and Russia have in common? The have all been through the same economic troubles at some point in their history.

This is not to say that what is currently happening in Greece and Europe is not unnerving and creating great worry amongst clients who are concerned about their retirement investments.

Investors must remain disciplined and have a diversified investment portfolio in quality assets including; shares, property, fixed interest and cash.  It is inflation which will cause a loss of capital when income is needed and your investments aren’t growing over the long term to keep apace.

If you have a diversified investment, with 70% to growth assets, there is a 32% chance that your savings will run out in 30 years.  If you had another diversified investment, with only 50% in growth assets, you increase your chances of running out of money over 30 years to 85%.  – Source:  Millman Research Report, May 2012

Studies undertaken in the US have shown that investors sticking to a long term disciplined and consistent approach to investing despite volatility made 11.8% where those driven by emotional decisions only achieved 4.3%.  – Source: Daybar Inc Experience of United States investors in equity mutual funds, compared to S&P 500 20 years to 2008

At this time investors should be looking at undervalued investments which demonstrates a good investment growth potential and produces good income returns.  Companies such as; BHP, National Bank, Woolworths, Woodside and Westfield, in other words, companies which are still likely to be around in ten, twenty, thirty years’ time.

It is important when investing for the long term that making emotional decisions based on short term market volatility and uncertainty, can have a disastrous impact on achieving your long term investment goals.  Take heed and think carefully before making any rash decisions based on current world economic woes.

INTERESTING FACT:  The average 60 year old now has at least another 30 years to live. – Source: Australian Life Tables 2006-08

If you really are concerned about your current portfolio for the long term, please feel free to contact us to discuss you investment strategy relative to your long-term goals and investment risk profile.

Call 92932922 or email to make an appointment.

The first of many

Hi, this is your local Financial Planner speaking…

I’d like to welcome you to the very first of many (hopefully) interesting and informative blog posts by Benchmark Consultants.

In case you don’t know who we are, here is our story.  Benchmark Consultants was established in 1986 by Peter Stewart.  Originally located in West Perth, Benchmark moved to the beautiful suburb of Kalamunda, in the Perth Hills, Western Australia in 1998.  Located at Suite 2, Barber House, 16 Mead Street Kalamunda, we have a fantastic team made up of many talented individuals. Financial Planning is about creating the best financial plan suited to a clients personal financial situation.  A financial plan can be made up of many facets including; salary packaging, superannuation, investments, insurances (life, TPD, income), tax minimisation, wealth creation, retirement planning, aged care advice, estate planning and more.

Our website contains some fantastic information on each individual topic so why not have a look? 

We hope you enjoy our blog and look forward to your feedback.

The Benchmark Team

PH: 08 9293 2922