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Looking for financial advice? Key points to consider

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

The second Monday of the New Year has been dubbed ‘Advice Day’ as apparently more people search for a financial adviser than on any other day of the year. But of course, advice is available all year round. Here is a checklist of things to consider if you’re on the look-out for an adviser.

A helping hand to disentangle your finances may be appealing, but a financial adviser does not come cheap with the average hourly rate coming in at £150, according to Unbiased.co.uk, a directory of advisers.

But an independent financial adviser is more often than not worth the money. They can offer both general and specialist advice on areas such as ISAs, inheritance, mortgages, insurance and pensions.

They’ll asses your situation and consider your wider personal financial objectives, needs and interests, before offering suggestions on how to optimise your finances. They will then suggest which financial products may be the best way to achieve your goals.

Where can I find an adviser?

To find an adviser, YourMoney.com suggests using online services such as Unbiased.co.uk or vouchedfor.co.uk. These sites allow users to search for an adviser by specialism, location and cost. The latter also publishes client reviews.

How do I know if an adviser is right for me?

When you’ve identified a list of potential advisers, the next step is to pick the best one for your circumstances. The person you hire to look after you finances is one of the most important financial decisions you’ll ever make.

Here are four key questions to ask your candidates:

  • 1. Are you an independent financial adviser?

This might seem obvious, but the legitimacy of an IFA should be your first consideration. For an IFA to qualify for the title, at the very least they need to hold a Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) -recognised financial planning diploma, and a valid Statement of Professional Standing (SPS)

  • 2. What are you best at?

Most financial advisers can advise on a number of topics, but whether you specifically require general support across financial affairs, or seek expertise in one or two areas, it is important to identify an IFA’s core strengths.

  • 3. What’s your philosophy in respect of…?

Every financial adviser will have their own views, beliefs, and personality. It’s important to understand an IFA’s philosophy – their strategy, selection process, risk appetite, and more – to see whether their characteristics match with your own.

  • 4. How are you paid?

Since 31 December 2012, all advisers must charge an upfront fee they agree with you in advance. However, how they charge these fees varies significantly.

Most common is a percentage fee, proportional to the money managed. First, you will pay an initial percentage for becoming a client, then an ongoing percentage for each year the IFA manages your money. The percentage can vary significantly (it could be as low as 0.5 per cent, or as high as 5 per cent), so ask for clarification.  Other financial advisers bill by the hour, a payment structure associated with the legal sector.

Is an IFA worth the money?

In simple terms, an IFA offers value for money if you don’t feel confident making financial decisions yourself, or believe that you require professional help to maximise the potential of your finances.

As an example, if you want to get involved in shares, funds and investment trusts, an IFA could help you make the right choices, and save you much time and money in the process. However, an IFA can also help with wider issues that affect you and your family, such as pension planning, tax affairs and inheritance arrangements, structuring your finances in a way that works best for you.

According to the 2015 Value of Advice report published by Unbiased.co.uk and MetLife, people who had taken financial advice saved on average £71 more per month than non-advised savers.

It also found that on average, people who take advice on their retirement planning have an estimated £48,279 more in their pot compared to those in a similar income bracket who do not take advice, with tax relief and interest factored in.