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Owen Caterer

How to get organized: Questions to consider

Posted on November 21, 2016 Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinrss

We wrote recently about getting organized.  Let’s assume that you have done that and started blocking your schedule to regularly review your finances.  This is about what to do next.  Since every situation is very different this is very tricky to write about and far easier to do in person (hint hint).  But if you are shy and prefer to your own company when reviewing your finances, here are some things you could consider.


  • What is my goal for this year?  For 3 years from now? For retirement?
  • How much money do I want to have at the end of this posting?

We are a big believer in setting short, medium and long term goals.  Much like business planning or career planning where you break a big problem into small bit sized chunks.  We think the problem of facing retirement (how the hell can I save that much!) scares too many people into giving up before they start.  It’s important to have smaller goals (Get to $50,000 and we can go on holiday) and tick off those milestones.  We do find that many people often say “but I don’t have any short term goals”.  Create your own milestones.

Situation Review

  • Caterer Goodman Partners financial-planningHow does my income match
  • Do I have an automatic saving strategy that takes money from my account and puts it in another account you forget about?  You can do the same with share accounts?
  • Do I have a range of assets or am I just holding one thing?
  • Am I holding the right assets now, or am I in love with a share/property/account?
  • What risks do I face with regards to my family situation and do I have enough coverage?

Lack of diversification is almost always prevalent across 90% of portfolios we see.  The most common mistakes are having mostly or only owning property (that’s you, Australians and Brits) or having too much in your company shares (often Americans, and some Europeans).  Tying up much of your assets alongside your income is very risky.

Improving your habits

  • What mistakes do I often make with money?
  • Am I saving enough each month?
  • Am I wasting money, and if so on what?
  • What was the outcome of your first investment?
  • Do I take too much risk, or not enough?
  • Do I follow trends too late or am I habitually a contrarian?

There is research to show that the first investment you make, will then dominate you attitude long into the future.  If your first share investment is positive you will continue to invest.  If poor, then you likely won’t try again.  Ever, despite share returns being basis of pensions and most wealthy people.  Is your first investment holding you back?

Investment Selection

  • How long does the investment last?  When can I access the money?
  • What is the potential return?  What other options are there?
  • Do I have the skills/time to manage my own money, or should someone else?
  • What is the upside to this investment?  What is the downside?
  • Have there been any cycles in this investment class/holding before and what caused them?
  • Are we near the top of the cycle in this investment or the bottom?
  • What are the returns in this investment since 2000?

Many people confuse investment selection with financial planning.  Planning leads often, but not always, to investment selection.  Still the plan and situation comes first.  Once you understand your goals, values and risk parameters, then the investment selection begins.


  • Do you have a credit card balance?
  • What interest are you paying and what other options are there?
  • Is the interest on your property tax deductible or not?

A quick tip we got from a client years ago was to negotiate with your bank.  You might be surprised how much you can save in interest if you simply ask and shop around.  The savings could be thousands.  We like to use payment systems like clearfx for the same reason.

Caterer Goodman Partners 258600-wagesPicking an Adviser

  • How does my adviser earn money and how much does he/she earn?
  • Is my potential adviser trained, and if so what did they study?
  • What are his/her thoughts on exchange traded funds?
  • Does he/she rely too much on structured notes and fund platforms with high exit fees?
  • Can I speak to a client who has been with him for more than 3 years?
  • When can I get my money back?

When picking your adviser, you need to have a good fit.  Not just in ability but also in personality.  Sometimes I turn down clients who don’t respect our role or have unrealistic expectations (hello guaranteed 50% returns per annum fellow!) The most important in Asia, is to understand in detail the business model of your adviser and why they prefer commissions to a fee based management model (how the best advisers work in the US).

This is just a small list, but there are many others that are dependent on your situation.  In coming weeks we will look at some example portfolios for clients as case studies to illustrate some further points.

About Caterer Goodman Partners
Caterer Goodman Partners is a Shanghai based wealth management firm established with a clear vision to provide a new level of personalized financial planning services for expatriates in Asia. Our financial advisors provide guidance for our clients in all areas of investment, specialising in managed accounts, money-market funds, retirement planning and alternative investments. At Caterer Goodman Partners, we offer our advice and experience to provide low cost, tax-effective and simple solutions to match our clients’ interests.

About Owen Caterer
Since graduation Mr Owen Caterer has worked with the Queensland Premier's Department in Trade Facilitation and then as a financial adviser in Shanghai from 2005 until 2010.  He then rose to Senior Adviser, then Business Development manager and then to Chief Investment Officer responsible for portfolios to a value of US$280 million across Asia. Following that Mr Caterer left to found his own firm with a partner in the financial advisory and wealth management area.   This focused on developing China and Asia's first fee-based financial advisory (rather than commission-based). This has grown to now have 8 staff and and managing almost US$35 million for clients throughout Asia. This business success was recognized as a finalist in the 2013 ACBA in the Start Up Enterprises category and are one of a small number of foreign managed firms to have a full asset management license in China.  Owen has also been active in the community volunteering for the Australian Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai and acting as the Vice-Chair of the Small Business Working Group (2012-2014) and as the Co-Deputy Chair of the Financial Services since 2013 until the present. They have continued to grow their business and have now been selected as a small group of companies who are platinum members of the Australian chamber of commerce. The achievement they are most proud of is their efforts to reform the financial planning industry in China and push it away from a hard-sales commission driven model to a more ethical management fee and long term customer service model.   Owen has a Graduate Diploma of Applied Finance from the Securities Institute of Australia of which he was a member as a Fellow of Finance for many years and also has an undergraduate degree from Griffith University in International Business.  Owen's interests are tennis, running and his wife and two children.  He speaks fluent Chinese, first arriving in China in 1997.
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