How to Choose a Financial Planner

  • What type of help you need, can afford and would value
  • Decide which type of service you want
  • Independent or restricted advice?
  • Choose which level of advice you need
  • Organisations such as  VouchedFor.co.uk have lists of qualified financial advisers
  • Choosing the right person for you
  • Be clear on the fees you’ll be paying.
  • Watch out for the warning signs.

It seems like it’s easier to focus on the negatives of financial advice, rather than the positives. Pension mis-selling scandals. PPI mis-selling scandals. Various investment scandals – such as Endowment Mortgages – that are also easy to recall and high in our consciousness.

So if it’s easier to think of negatives in financial matters, how do we know we’re getting good advice that will lead us down a positive path? To the average layperson, it seems that the world of finance couldn’t be any more complex. We may as individuals have much greater control of our financial affairs than at any time in the past, but are we in a position to make use of them?

Pension freedoms, the rise of cheap tracker funds and technology platforms make it much easier for those with a degree of savvy to run their own money, and cut out the middleman. But not everyone feels capable of dealing with their own personal finances without a degree of help. So what is the best way to get that financial advice? Have a read through these following steps and then use them to help you decide.

Step 1

Do you really need to use a financial adviser? Consider what type of help you need, can afford and would value. Individuals with larger amounts of savings and investments or higher earnings can gain the most benefit from taking financial advice. Significant events in your life, such as inheriting money, having a child, getting divorced, or deciding when to take pension benefits, are some of the more obvious scenarios in which a professional opinion could prove a wise investment.

Step 2

Decide which type of service you want. If you require regulated financial advice — which typically involves an investment recommendation — do you need this for a single issue, for example, devising an investment strategy, transferring a pension or setting up a trust? Or do you need a more comprehensive ongoing service? Before you start your search, you also need to consider whether you want face-to-face advice, or whether you are happy to receive advice or guidance remotely by phone, or via a low-cost online platform. It may be that you just need some initial information, and will then be happy to make your own decisions.

Step 3

Independent or restricted advice? Advisers fall into two broad categories — independent or restricted. An independent adviser will carry a greater upfront cost, but can recommend their pick of retail investment products from across the market. Restricted advisers, as the name suggests, can only usually recommend certain types of products or those from a limited number of providers.

Step 4

Choose which level of advice you need. The more your financial adviser does for you, the more you will pay. At one end of the scale, wealth managers — whose clients typically have investable assets of more than £1m — will offer a suite of services from investment services to tax planning and divorce. IFAs also offer investment advice, and can recommend specific products such as pensions or annuities, plus bolt-on services including inheritance and tax planning, mortgage advice and insurance brokerage.

Step 5

Finding an adviser. You can search for an adviser using various directories or databases. Organisations such as  VouchedFor.co.uk have lists of qualified financial advisers, and you can tailor your search by region or types of advice required. For example, you can say you want someone based within 10 miles of your home, or specify a male or female adviser. You can also ask for someone who is qualified in a particular area, such as pensions or mortgages. Whichever adviser you choose, you should ask to see their qualifications. While all regulated advisers will need to have achieved a benchmark level of professional qualifications, you should understand what qualifications an adviser has in addition to this. This is particularly important if you have complex needs or want advice on a specialist area such as pension transfers, inheritance tax planning or long-term care. Broadly speaking, most IFAs will have the basic certificate in financial planning, but experts advise looking for someone with a diploma or advanced diploma in financial planning. Alternatively, find a chartered or certified financial planner: this requires an adviser to have a minimum three years of experience and to have signed up to a code of ethics. To check that an adviser is authorised and for suggestions of questions to ask, try the Financial Conduct Authority, fca.gov.uk, or to check an individual’s status as a certified financial planner, see financialplanning.org.uk.

Step 6

Choosing the right person for you. As with most things in life, personal recommendations carry a good deal of weight. If a friend or a colleague in a similar financial position to you (or even your accountant or solicitor) can suggest someone to contact, that is a great place to start.

Step 7

Be clear on the fees you’ll be paying. At your first meeting, find out whether you are entitled to ongoing advice or reviews of your products, and whether you will have to pay additional fees for these. A sign of a good adviser is that they want to talk to you about your personal circumstances rather than just the products they are investing in. You want someone who understands your lifestyle, requirements and attitude to risk, and will translate these into actionable decisions. Make sure you are getting all the information you need. All IFAs are required by the Financial Conduct Authority to carry out a full fact-finding exercise to prevent their clients from, say, being advised to invest in high-risk funds when they have large amounts of unsecured debt. Before you buy any product, the adviser must give you a key features document that explains details such as the level of risk, how the product might work for you and commission charges.

Step 8

Watch out for the warning signs. It is easy to feel cowed by someone’s greater knowledge of a subject, particularly in complex financial matters. Experts recommend keeping an eye out for warning signs such as an adviser trying to sell you their own products or investment funds, or finding yourself being recommended products that you don’t understand.

Start planning your future. Speak to us today.

Contact Us

Seventy Financial Planning
The Apple Store, Haggs Farm,
Haggs Road, Follifoot, Harrogate,
HG3 1EQ

01423 611004

[email protected]

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