Meet Amanda: The adventure junkie putting lifestyle at the heart of investing

Sara Allen

Livewire Markets

If cave tubing, trekking in Uganda and open water diving is your thing, then you should talk to Amanda Cassar. The self-professed adventure junkie is far from finished, with her plans including skiing, skydiving and jetboating in New Zealand next year.

Her adventurous spirit extends beyond travel and adrenalin sports though. Amanda is actively working to make the world a better place through finance, whether through her charitable efforts with The Hunger Project and Hands across the Water, the training program she created for financial advisers to tackle economic abuse with Standards International or her work as a panellist and speaker at conferences and events.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that Amanda is a strong believer in the power of education to change lives and looks for learning opportunities for herself.

I like to educate clients from the start regarding market cycles and to expect them and I position from the start that I’m not in control of market conditions. 

Life isn't a one-size fits all and nor is Amanda's approach with her clients, with lifestyle a key focus in her personal investment philosophy.

In this Meet the Adviser profile, Amanda shares her go-to funds, the personal investments she uses for her lifestyle, the big questions for aged care finances and her plans for the 'Festivus of 50'.

Financial adviser profile

  • Name: Amanda Cassar
  • Company: Wealth Planning Partners and Trusted Aged Care Services
  • Licensed under WPP Licensee Services Pty Ltd
  • Years working as an adviser: 21
  • Investment goals: To be debt free with multiple streams of income
Some of Amanda's travel highlights. Image supplied.
Some of Amanda's travel highlights. Image supplied.

Why did you choose this profession and how did you get started as a financial adviser? 

The profession chose me. Like many, I fell into financial planning. I started working as a secretary for a Life Insurance adviser who was a friend of my dad’s, pretty much straight out of high school. After I had my children, I went back part time, completed my Diploma of Financial Planning, then Advanced Diploma and Masters and bought my former employer out completely as the succession plan in 2014.

Do you have a particular speciality or what types of clients do you mostly work with? 

Formerly, Risk and Retail Super were our bread and butter, as a legacy of ‘growing up’ under a Lifey. These days we target SMSF and have a small ad hoc fee based aged-care business as well, helping those whose family members are transitioning in to care. Our clients are mostly late accumulators stashing what they can, and retirees looking for long term income from their savings and investments.

Can you share a bit about your process for building portfolios and selecting investment products? 

Since becoming self-licensed, my son and I make up the Investment Committee. We used our clients existing portfolios as a starting point, but also redesigned the whole APL. We reviewed our investment philosophy and based our investment choices on good long-term performance, fees, the investment philosophy of the providers and research house ratings. Many clients are now expressing an interest in ESG so we have also tilted our focus towards this in some portfolios.

Can you share two of your “go to” funds with us? 

For an SMSF Cash hub, we use the Macquarie Cash Management Account. Its purpose built and easy for clients and advisers to navigate. Great for reporting too.

For those who prefer a low maintenance ‘set and forget’ strategy, we like a range of diversified Vanguard Index funds.

We don’t really have a one size fits all, but for retiree clients or those looking for regular fixed income, we like the La Trobe 12 month Credit Fund. It has been an award winner, established for 20 years and consistently rates well with the Research houses. And in a rising interest rate environment, it is still working while the Term Deposits struggle to catch up. It invests in first mortgages diversified across location and sector and has an average LVR under 65%. Good for monthly income for those who need a top up from the Centrelink Pension, or as part of an income layering strategy. It’s not for everyone but can be a good fit for some.

How would you describe your personal investment philosophy? 

My personal investment philosophy probably prioritises lifestyle decisions first. For most of us our home is our largest asset and that is certainly true for my family. We have taken on our biggest most challenging build to date and have hit obstacle after obstacle over the past four years. 

Our neighbour tried to sabotage our project, our stamp duty funds went ‘missing’, a mortgage broker took 18 months to NOT get us funds, the council called us in for meetings and took months to pass the plans, and then when all the ducks were finally in a row, the heavens opened and it pretty much hasn’t stopped raining. Our insurance claim for water damages is now around $80,000 and we’ve only just had the slab poured. I think if I’ve changed my philosophy, it’s all about patience. Many have told us we’re mad for continuing and that they would have walked away. 

 We’ve always kept the end goal in mind and know it’ll be worth it when we achieve what we set out to do. As my dad used to tell me… “all good things come to those who wait.” I guess I just didn’t think it would be this long.

Could you please share your top three holdings in your personal portfolio and tell me a bit about why you hold each of these positions? 

I own a property in my SMSF and it makes up over half of my holdings. We have experienced capital growth, but the returns in form of rental income have doubled since we purchased.

We’re also investing in building a larger home on our land so that we can have an intergenerational space to share with our children and have the option of taking in a parent as and if needed down the track. Thankfully, all are still very independent and happy at present.

Property is both a lifestyle and investment choice.

I also like thematic shares and have done well with some, such as Battery Tech and Metals, but not so well in others. Again, it’s a volatile time; they are a long term hold and I can ride the ups and downs. Aussie and international share funds will always make up a big part of the portfolio.

Could you tell me about your worst investment? How did you deal with this falling position or fund? 

I had not done extensive research into Crypto, so thought I’d take a punt with a small amount when BetaShares brought out their CRYP ETF. Naturally, owing to Murphy’s Law, it’s tanked since I purchased, now down over 75%! 

I added a bit more once it halved and will just play the waiting game. It was a small holding that I can afford to sit on for the long term so I’m not too worried. I went in knowing how volatile crypto was, so that’s on me!

Can you share one of your favourite client success stories? 

We had an older couple approach us recently and, although they are in their late 70s and early 80s, are still very sprightly. The husband’s main concern was that if he passed, his wife would be ok and that the SMSF would continue to work for her. They hadn’t reviewed their trust deed in years, had no investment strategy or formal estate planning arrangements for the fund. 

We were able to arrange a new Deed, SMSF Wills, Investment Strategy, set up a Corporate Trustee and ensure that the portfolio was streamlined for them and easily manageable. They’ve been more than happy and will happily allow us to also assist with their personal portfolio as well.

What three conversations are you most frequently having right now with clients? And what is your answer to these questions? 

There seem to be more conversations happening in the Aged Care space. Some circumstances make it an easy transition, others can be nightmarish, and the advice is always appreciated.

  Mostly, a basic understanding of how the fees work is the top question.

In times of high volatility, there’s often questions regarding how long this will last and how it impacts their portfolio

I like to educate clients from the start regarding market cycles and to expect them and I position from the start that I’m not in control of market conditions. 

 Most have been through a few cycles now and understand how things work.

What are the two most common mistakes you see in the portfolios that you inherit and how do you go about fixing them?

Some clients have been disengaged for a while and are a bit clueless about where they are actually invested. Sometimes they’re quite conservative and invested in high growth funds, or the opposite may apply. It really highlights the need for regular reviews and staying on top of portfolios.

One of the worst portfolios I reviewed was from clients who were double geared into products that had completely failed. They knew that they’d taken out extra on the mortgage to cover payments, but didn’t realise how highly leveraged the products were until they failed in the GFC. It highlights the need for education and to always put clients into products that both we and they can understand.

Can you share a personal passion or ambition you have for your future?

I’m a bit of an adventure junkie and love to travel and explore new places. I enjoy learning and investing heavily in coaching and conferences. 

Some highlights include:

    • Trekking the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda to see the Silverback Mountain gorillas
    • I’ve dived in freshwater Lake Malawi seeing the mouth breeder fish; 
    • Done cave tubing in Belize; and
    • Had a champagne breakfast in the Grand Canyon. 

I’ve got my motorbike license and PADI Open Water Dive License. Next year, my husband and I both turn 50 one week apart so we’re planning the ‘Festivus of 50.’ I’d love to head to Queenstown and arrange all sorts of adventures for the week. I’ve never strapped on skis, tried snowboarding, skydiving or done the jet boat ride, so would love to arrange that.

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Sara Allen
Content Editor
Livewire Markets

Sara is a Content Editor at Livewire Markets. She is a passionate writer and reader with more than a decade of experience specific to finance and investments. Sara's background has included working at ETF Securities, BT Financial Group and...

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