There are many different kinds of financial planner, and making the best use of one means engaging an expert who can carefully steer you towards economic success, rather than hiring someone to rescue you from a financial mess.
A large number of people in different professions - ranging from life insurance brokers and real estate agents to lawyers, accountants, tax agents - and even property developers and bank tellers, can legally call themselves financial planners.
However, the Financial Planning Association of Australia is the only professional body that assesses and awards the Certified Financial Planner or CFP title, which it describes as the highest certification available to financial planners worldwide.
The association says no two financial plans are the same, especially if you are at different stages in your life. For instance, a person aged in their thirties will need quite different advice from someone in their sixties.
Young adults, who may be starting out in life with a HECS loan to repay, need to develop good habits early and start putting money away for their future.
"The earlier you start saving, the more likely you will reach your savings goal," the association says. "You should also consider protecting your income in case you can't work due to illness or injury."
Those further along their career path who have some cash to put away for their future should not lose sight of the long term.
"You'll want to avoid any excess tax and maximise any benefits available to you. If you've started a family, make sure they are protected by taking care of life, health an income protection insurance," the association says.
"In later years or retirement - with 20 years or more of retirement ahead of you - you will need to keep up your quality of life once your salary or other employment income stops.
"If you have savings and investments, you will need to generate enough income from them to meet your expenses. You will want to pay as little tax as possible once you retire so you have more to spend or save."
In general terms, financial planners function best as guides towards success rather than as salvagers from ruin. As a first step, people in financial trouble are able to see financial counsellors available free of charge through community organisations.
Both financial planners and counsellors are regulated by ASIC, which has a website at www.moneysmart.gov.au to help people learn about managing their money and achieving financial goals, and it has some of the best tools and resources available.
The Financial Planning Association's website at www.fpa.asn.au also has plenty of advice and resources, along with a facility to locate a qualified financial planner in your area.