Financial advice is often viewed as providing solutions to problems, or meeting specific needs. This is part of what it does, but it’s also much more.
An adviser offering a financial planning service looks beyond short term problems and needs and looks at your situation more holistically. They’ll find out what you really want from life and about your hopes and ambitions for yourself and your family.
It’s not just about organising your finances, but about identifying where you are, where you want to go and building a financial roadmap to help you get there. Ultimately, it’s about helping you get what you want out of life.
Financial advice is most commonly talked about in the context of investments, but the reality is that your needs go a long way beyond that.
Good advisers won’t simply talk to you about the money you have to invest or the products you could invest in. Instead your wider circumstances and needs will come into play, to ensure that every step you take fits in with the overall plan to get what you want out of life.
That means your adviser will take tax into consideration, so that you invest tax-effectively, don’t miss opportunities to save money and don’t risk unnecessary tax charges. Your family needs are part of it too, including inheritance tax and your family’s financial security, along with insurance, savings and later life issues such as long-term care and wills.
Poor decisions are perhaps the biggest threat to successful long-term investing and we’ve already seen how human psychology means our decisions risk being driven by emotion rather than reason. Working with a financial professional can make a big difference here.
A financial adviser doesn’t have the same emotional attachment to your investments. Their responsibility is to you, which means helping provide a clear vision of the future and a view of the bigger picture. In other words, keeping that laser like focus on your longer-term goals.
A good adviser will thoroughly understand your needs and objectives and how to meet them. There’s a good chance they’ve been there before, know where the pitfalls are and recognise when emotions are getting in the way of good decision-making.
Under rules set by industry regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), all financial advisers must be qualified to at least ‘Level 4’ diploma status. That means they will have qualifications that cover personal tax, pensions and retirement planning and investment principles and risk at a minimum. They may also have higher qualifications up to Chartered status.
Your adviser will agree their fees with you upfront, and the services that will be covered for that. This is good business practice, so that you understand the cost of both the initial and ongoing advice that your adviser will give you. It is also something that the FCA requires advisers to do. You can usually agree for the fees to be taken out of your investments if you wish, rather than paid separately.
Advisers are no longer paid commission by investment providers, so you don’t need to worry that they may be influenced by this.
If you ever feel that your adviser gave you wrong or misleading advice, you can usually make a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service, at no cost to you. All advisers have to hold minimum levels of professional indemnity insurance, to cover complaints. And if your adviser firm is no longer around or able to meet a claim you may be able to access compensation from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. You can find out more about this scheme and how much you could be covered for at www.fscs.org.uk
Important notice: This information is of a general nature and is not an offer or a solicitation to buy or sell any financial instrument or provide any financial services. No responsibility is taken for any losses, including, without limitation, any consequential loss, which may be incurred by acting upon advice or recommendations contained in this piece. The value of investments and income from them may go down as well as up and you may not get back the amount you originally invested. Tax is dependent on your personal circumstances and may change in the future.
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