A financial adviser can help you battle your worst enemy. Yourself.

It's easy to think of financial advice as being about numbers. Interest rates, exchange rates, returns generated. But it's about much more than that. 

In large part, financial advice is about psychology. To a large extent, it's about addressing emotional and behavioural issues that get in the way of achieving of our longer-term financial and lifestyle goals.

Good financial advice is about developing plans that work in the real world (ie, are human friendly). It also involves helping people work the plans. 

The term "akrasia" is used within some rationalist communities to describe the state of acting against our own better judgement. It's a phenomenon that's all too common. 

The example that hits home for most people relates to diet and exercise. If you're like me, living healthfully isn't so much an issue of education (there's always more to be learned, but two great things to keep in mind are: "Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much." Or: "Eat a crapton of vegetables."). It's a behavioural issue. Every time I reach for a biscuit or a piece of chocolate or pour a glass of soft drink I know I should be eating a piece of fruit or a vegetable or drinking water.

Like many people, I have systems in place to encourage me to act more healthfully. I try to make fruit and veges more accessible, and try to make sure that sweets simply aren't available - it's better to avoid temptation than resist it. But some weeks and months are better than others. 

The same dynamics are at work in other domains of our life. They're especially important when it comes to money.

For example. I don't expect to retire for at least another three decades, if not longer. It's really easy to forget this and prioritise the here-and-now over my long-term retirement goals.

But if I want the peace of mind of knowing I can look forward to a comfortable retirement, I need to be diligent and be accountable. To myself. I need to ensure that, in the broader scheme of things, I'm not acting against my own better judgement.

A financial adviser who understands this, and can help his or her clients navigate their psychological biases and failings, is not focussed on numbers alone. In large part, they are a behavioural coach, helping their clients act according to their best judgement. 

Sonnie Bailey

Sonnie is the founder and principal of Fairhaven Wealth.

Before founding Fairhaven Wealth, Sonnie worked in the legal and financial services industries for over a decade.

Sonnie first became involved with financial advice as a specialist financial services lawyer. For many years, he was an “adviser of advisers”, reviewing thousands of advice files prepared by hundreds of financial advisers, and providing feedback in relation to the quality and appropriateness of advice; industry best practice; risk management; and regulatory compliance. He has published work in industry publications and spoken at various financial advice conferences.

Sonnie has also worked with banks, investment management firms, insurers, and derivatives providers.

Sonnie has worked as a private client lawyer, focusing on succession, estate planning and trusts. He ran his own legal firm in Australia before relocating to New Zealand. He has also acted in independent trustee and company director positions.

Sonnie is passionate about helping people achieve their goals and manage the risks to which they are exposed.

He has written extensively on his blog, New Zealand Wealth and Risk, which can be found at www.wealthandrisk.nz.

Sonnie is married to his wonderful wife Chrissy, and has two young children, Ben and Anna.