Financial adviser: How a near-death experience got me into financial advice

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A horrific injury led this risk specialist to understand the true value of wealth protection. It's a lesson he now passes on to his clients.

“Look mate, it’s not going to happen to me.”

This is the excuse that David Baccinelli hears all the time, but he knows from personal experience that nobody is immune to the risks that life throws their way.

“We all think we’re pretty bulletproof. I really have a belief that there’s almost a genetic programming in our brains that makes us steer away from pain,” he said at this year’s AFA National Conference.

“Obviously nobody likes pain. So, for that reason, it’s difficult to comprehend that it might happen to us. But unfortunately we all know that it does.”

Baccinelli, for one, is all too aware of the importance of preparing for the worst. Back in 1993 he had an almost fatal accident while working on a fishing trawler that put him out of work for five years.

Fortunately for him, he had just mailed a cheque to his insurer to make sure his income protection policy payments were up to date. This move proved to be a real lifesaver.

“I’m here as an adviser, but I look bat at my life and insurance actually came into my life at an early stage,” he explained.

Starting young

It was at the princely age of 17 that Baccinelli was advised to look at wealth protection. He had just scored his first job as a hairdresser when he crossed paths with a financial adviser.

“A few months into my role I was cutting hair and a guy came in to talk about whole of life insurance. I thought, ‘that sounds like a bloody good idea’,” he said.

“Not long afterwards someone said ‘there’s this great thing called superannuation, you should really jump on board’. So there I was earning $97 a week, and putting $10 into whole of life and superannuation.”

Crucially, he also took on an income protection policy before moving into construction, and then trying his hand at prawn fishing. And this was when life got really interesting.

“On my way to the trawler I rang up the insurer and sent a cheque for two months’ worth of premiums, and jumped on board,” he said. “What an adventure.”

“One day I’m lying in bed and I hear a bit of noise up on the deck. I race up, and the idea was we pull this thing in called a try net. We’d dropped it into the water and had a rope hooked onto it.”

He noticed that the net had come over the ship’s gunwale, and sprung into action.

“Here I am, doing as I should do and hauling this net in. And at that stage the rope twisted around the winch, this thing swung around and hit me from behind, and I did a massive headbutt straight onto this thing,” he said.

“I looked down and had this huge handful of blood. Every tooth was facing outwards, I’d split the top of my mouth. At that point they lay me down. I was drowning in blood at that time.”

Getting back on track

He was rescued by helicopter, taken to Darwin to be stabilised, then transferred to Brisbane via flying doctor. A long layoff and numerous visits to the hospital ensued, but Baccinelli’s income protection insurance payments helped him to recover and get back on his feet.

“Since that day I’ve probably had 16 different operations to stick my head back together again. But the thing that drove me forward was the fact that I had income protection. What it did for me was it gave me financial freedom,” he said.

The positive result that Baccinelli got out of what was a terrifying personal experience saw him move into financial advice in 2001, and he now takes great satisfaction in helping his clients to protect themselves against the unexpected.

“When you hand that client that cheque and they can see that that investment that they’ve made in insurance is represented by something that gives them the financial security that they really need at that point. I think it just evokes such an emotional feeling,” he said.

“At the end of the day I think we’re all human beings, and what we do is such a special thing. And I feel very privileged and honoured to be able to give that to people.”