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  • Colin Lea, BBus (Ag Comm), BA, GDFP, CFP®

The Only Stupid Question is the One Not Asked…

Updated: Aug 7

The end of the financial year is approaching at the speed of an F-14 Tomcat with the arrestor cable hook extended, and with it the opportunity to address some crucial aspects of your financial plan, before some of these opportunities disappear altogether.

Which brings me to the title and opening photo of this thought piece, “The only stupid question is the one not asked”. In my case, when my US Navy mate Dave asked me to sign up to do the Tough Mudder in Vermont, New England in 2011 - rather than saying “Sure, she’ll be right mate” - perhaps I should’ve asked him the following question… “Dave, what’s a black and red diamond ski run?" (Hint - I don’t ski). But then again, my inclination to say yes may have wavered had that question been asked and answered…

On the Psychology of Difficult Questions

But in all seriousness, there’s a reason people don’t ask what they perceive may be a stupid question:

  • They don’t wish to be perceived as stupid (obviously);

  • They don’t know how to frame the question it is they are trying to ask (you don’t know what you don’t know);

  • They are apprehensive they may not understand the answer to their question;

  • They are worried they may not like the answer to their question; and

  • They are worried about the cost of their question (both to ask and the potential cost of any solution).

But in all reality, the potential ramifications of not asking ‘stupid questions’ may end up costing a lot more then bruised pride, if the root cause of the situation for each question is not adequately addressed. For example:

  • You’re a really conservative investor, and you don’t realise you are invested in an aggressive growth strategy within your super.

  • You don’t want to seem stupid by not knowing what an ongoing advice fee is, yet you are paying for a service you aren’t receiving.

  • You think you have your insurance covered, but you have read the brief synopsis of your policy in super, and don’t understand what they mean when they say you must satisfy a condition of release to be paid a benefit.

  • You think your death benefit nominations and wills are current, but you are hesitant to ask your solicitor because of the cost it might require to update, and you fail to find out that your assets are all left to your former partner even though you are in a new relationship.

  • You sign a contract to sell an investment property near the end of the financial year and don’t ask when the contract should be dated for potential tax outcomes.

Difficult Questions Explained from a Military Context

In my experience, there’s no such thing as a stupid question, only the one not asked. You can look to the military to lead by example in this regard, because when you are planning for a mission in a hostile environment with potentially deadly outcomes, no one sits on the fence and doesn’t ask a question for fear of being perceived as stupid.

Often a question can draw out a point that has been overlooked or poorly considered; other times it serves as a discussion primer to more clearly articulate why a particular decision has been made. But the end outcome is a better-informed operator who is about to turn a complex military plan into reality.

Or from a financial advice perspective, a better-informed client who is fully engaged in the strategy they are about to implement as part of their financial plan. And make no bones about it, Financial Advisers want their clients to ask questions, so that they can become fully engaged and have ownership of their financial future.

It’s tempting for an Adviser to take the easy route and gloss over issues, but that only makes them an average adviser who doesn’t have their client’s best interests at heart. A great adviser listens, prompting their clients to ask difficult questions, no matter how uncomfortable the experience. Because what matters most is understanding the issues causing their client’s concern, so that the real satisfying work of developing and implementing a solution that puts those concerns to rest can be commenced and then implemented.

No ums about it; Do yourself a favour!

So, in the run down to the end of the financial year, I challenge you to ask yourself those hard questions you have been reluctant to address, because you feel nervous about asking or are concerned about what the potential outcomes might be. But ask them from someone who is going to be able to listen, put the questions in context, and then help you to understand the core issues and discuss ways to help you address them.

It could be a Financial Advisor, an Accountant or a Solicitor, or depending on the complexity of the question it might be best put to all three at the same time. But make sure you see a professional, because here’s the real kicker; most genuine professionals won’t charge you to ask those initial questions. Genuine professionals will be happy to have an initial obligation free consult with you so you can ask those questions without being concerned about potential costs. They’ll simply see it as an opportunity to listen, understand your problem, and provide you with some initial feedback to put your mind at ease. Only then will they discuss how they may be of service, and can discuss their fees should you wish to engage their services.

So to paraphrase Molly Meldrum, “no ums about it, do yourself a favour” and ask those questions you have been putting off for too long. Trust me, you won’t regret it - just like agreeing to do the Tough Mudder!

Get in Touch: If you have any questions on the above article, or would like to book an obligation free appointment to discuss your personal financial position in more detail, please email me at or phone (07) 4760 5900.


This information is of a general nature only and has been provided without taking account of your objectives, financial situation or needs. Because of this, you should consider whether the information is appropriate in light of your particular objectives, financial situation and needs. Including if you elect to do a Tough Mudder – you’re on your own there!


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