If your financial affairs are complicated, or you’re not sure if investing is right for you, a professional financial advisor could prove worth their weight in gold.
However, if like many people, you don’t have much in the way of savings, it’s not always easy to know whether to turn to a professional financial advisor for help, especially as advice comes at a cost. Here, we outline a few of the questions to ask yourself when deciding whether you need professional advice, how to find an advisor, and where you can go for information and guidance if you decide professional financial advice isn’t the right option for you.
Do you need financial advice?
Most people tend to manage simple money matters, for example, savings, credit cards and loans, themselves, using help and information from services such as Citizens Advice and the government’s Money Advice Service.
However, there are several reasons why you might consider paying for financial advice. These include:
- If you’re keen to invest but aren’t sure which funds or assets to put your money into, you may want an advisor to recommend products for you and invest your money on your behalf. They will ask you lots of questions about your approach to risk, your financial objectives and your investment timeframe so that they can choose the right investments for you.
- If you want advice on pensions, perhaps because you’ve saved into lots of different schemes over the years and are considering consolidating them, or perhaps you want to know which pension funds to invest in or how best to start taking your pension, a financial adviser can talk you through the available options.
- If you’re looking to buy a home or remortgage, or if you want help understanding which type of financial protection products you might need, such as income protection, life insurance or critical illness cover, you might want to speak to either a financial advisor or a mortgage and protection advisor on which products are right for you.
- If you need help with inheritance tax planning, and are looking for ways to reduce any potential liability by making the most of annual allowances and other tax planning opportunities, an adviser can suggest the best ways to do this.
- If your financial affairs are really complicated and you’re finding it difficult to keep on track of everything, a financial adviser can take over the reins for you, and help you to simplify your situation.
The value of advice
There’s no escaping the fact that professional financial advice comes at a cost, so you’ll need to be clear on exactly how much you’ll have to pay and whether you’re comfortable with these charges.
You’ll also need to think about whether you want one-off advice, for example, you might want help consolidating your pensions, or whether you want ongoing support, perhaps because you’d like someone to monitor your investments on your behalf indefinitely.
Financial advisors will usually offer you a free initial consultation, during which they should explain their fees, along with what they’ll do to earn them. A recent review into financial advice conducted by the financial services regulator The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) found that the average initial advice charge was 2.4%, equivalent to £480 for someone with £20,000 to invest. There’s typically a further average annual ongoing advice charge of 0.8%.
Although costs can seem steep, according to research conducted by Royal London and the International Longevity Centre, in the space of just 10 years, customers who had sought financial advice were, on average, £47k better off than those who had taken care of things themselves. Those who fostered an ongoing relationship with their adviser were up to 50% better off than those who had only received advice once. Interestingly, the analysis showed that the financial benefits of advice for those of modest means were greater than for those customers who were considered to be affluent. You can read the report here.
As well as the financial benefits, seeking professional advice can also help build financial resilience. A subsequent survey by the insurer found that 44% of those who received advice said they felt prepared to deal with financial shocks compared to 32% of those who had not been advised.
Sarah Pennells, head of financial capability at Royal London, said: “We know that taking financial advice will have a positive effect on your financial wellbeing but what is less well known is how it can improve our emotional wellbeing. The fact that taking advice makes people feel more able to deal with financial shocks is particularly important in these current times. We all need to do more to ensure people know what to expect from receiving financial advice and the benefits it can bring.”
Another benefit of professional financial advice is that if you’re recommended a financial product which turns out to be unsuitable, you may be able to claim compensation for ‘mis-selling’. Bear in mind, however, that if an investment you’ve been recommended performs badly because markets fall rather than rise, you won’t be protected against losses.
Alternatives to a financial adviser
If you don’t plan to invest, or you do invest but want to manage your financial affairs yourself, then you might decide you don’t need to pay for financial advice.
Whilst you won’t find personalised recommendations for your situation and circumstances, there are plenty of resources available which can help steer you in the right direction if you are happy to go it alone – here are some of the options you may want to consider.
There are plenty of services available which can provide you with financial information free of charge, but it’s important to understand that any suggestions made won’t be personal recommendations tailored to your circumstances.
For example, the Pensions and Retirement Planning section of our website has loads of useful articles on everything pensions and retirement-related, so it’s well worth a look if you want to explore the options which might be available to you. The government’s Money Advice Service also has lots of useful financial information on financial matters.
If you want to talk to someone about your pensions, Pension Wise, set up by the Government, offers free and impartial guidance to people who have a personal pension scheme (telephone 0800 138 3944).
If you are aged 50 or over and have a defined contribution pension, you can book a free telephone or face to face appointment with them, to help you make sense of your options.
If you specifically need help with a mortgage, then fee-free mortgage brokers such as Fluent Mortgages or London & Country Mortgages can research the various options that may be available to you on your behalf. They’ll also be able to advise which deals may be best for you based on your individual circumstances.
If you want free and impartial support over the phone on other money matters, the Money Advice Service can be contacted on 0800 138 7777).
If you can’t afford financial advice, or are reasonably comfortable managing your money on your own but don’t want the hassle of choosing investments yourself, one option might be to consider a robo-adviser.
These are essentially online investment services which point you in the direction of a ready-made investment portfolio based on your responses to a few simple questions. Questions usually focus on your approach to risk (how much can you afford to lose), your financial objectives, and when you might need to access your money (how long you want to invest for).
There are costs for using these services, but as they are automated you won’t have to pay as much as you would if you received personalised face-to-face advice from a financial advisor. Robo-advisers include Nutmeg, the UK’s largest robo-advice service, Evestor, Wealthsimple and if you’re looking specifically for help with pensions, PensionBee provides a range of seven different pension plans, designed to meet different investment needs. Learn more about how robo-advice works in our article What is robo-advice?
Where to go for financial advice
You can go to your bank for financial advice, but bear in mind that they will usually only recommend their own products, which may not be the best option for you. This is known as ‘restricted’ advice, as you won’t be offered access to products from the whole of the market. Some financial advisors who aren’t linked to banks are also restricted, because they can only advise on some, but not all types of financial product, even if they aren’t tied to offering products from one provider.
If you want to be able to choose products from a wide range of financial providers, you should seek advice from an independent financial advisor who can recommend products from any financial provider and can advise on all types of products. For more information, check out our guide on How to find the right financial advisor for you.
When choosing an advisor, word of mouth can be incredibly helpful and many advisors focus on building their reputation locally so it can be worth asking friends and family who they have used and if they would recommend them.
If you feel uncomfortable asking others, you can also use an independent rating service such as VouchedFor or Unbiased, who allow customers to independently rate the service they have received from their advisor. They have reviews on thousands of professional Financial Advisors all over the country, and you can find one with experience in Mortgages or Pensions depending on what you need. VouchedFor also offer a Free Financial Health Check with a trusted, well-rated advisor in your local area so you can see if you think advice might be for you.
Given many advisors offer a free first session to give you a chance to try out their service before paying for anything, it can make sense to meet more than one. This way you can make a comparison and see who you have the best rapport with – to ultimately help you decide who you trust most to give you the best advice for your circumstances.
Do you have a financial advisor and are you happy with the advice you’ve received, or do you prefer to go it alone? You can join the conversation on the Money section of the Community forum or leave a comment below.