Way To Get Financial Advice, Guidance or Information

It’s not that we’re trying to put financial advisers out of work: to the contrary, a good adviser is worth his or her weight in gold, so to speak. As a matter of fact there seems to be a shortage of financial advisers in the UK, despite a 5% rise in their numbers between October 2014 and November 2015. Some observers think that this rise will do very little to close what one expert called “the advice gap”. Given the big changes in pension regulations and other vital matters, it’s never been more urgent for people to have access to qualified advice about critical financial decisions such as savings or investment strategies, property purchases, retirement planning or lump sum management.

But not everybody needs a financial adviser, and you probably won’t need one for every money decision you make. Sometimes you just need financial guidance, or you simply need general information.

Financial Advice Images

The difference between advice and guidance…

Do you need financial advice or do you need guidance, and what’s the difference?

A financial adviser will review your personal circumstances and make specific recommendations of strategies and products to help you meet your financial goals. Advisers have more accountability than do guidance services or organisations; advisers are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and must adhere to very strict compliance rules. If something goes wrong with a financial choice you make because of an adviser, you can usually complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service or Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

Guidance services such as the Money Advice Service, on the other hand, are not regulated by the FCA. They can give you general information about various financial products or strategies that are available to you, but they are not supposed to recommend any one brand over the other.

If you’re in doubt about whether you are receiving guidance or advice, ask the person helping you to explain, or check the disclaimers on the web site if you are getting your information online. Most web sites, even those of financial advisers, spell out their disclaimers very clearly and specify that the information they are offering is not to be construed as advice and is not intended to replace consultation with a qualified adviser.

Differences between types of advisers…

Some financial advisers are known as independent financial advisers (IFAs), who give unbiased advice about a range of financial products from multiple companies. Restricted advisers give advice on a limited range of products and/or advise on products offered by only a limited number of companies. In general it is best to seek independent financial advice because you will be able to look at a wider range of choices.

In any case you should make sure that your adviser is properly qualified and registered. The charity Citizens Advice has some general guidelines about seeking financial advice or guidance, including what to look for in a financial adviser.

What about some of those “robo-advisers” or tools we have been hearing about? Clearly technology is playing an innovative role in the financial industry. The term “robo advice”, which originated in the US, involves computer algorithms that automate most of the delivery of information about financial product selection to consumers online. The technology is far from perfect and the FCA is still trying to work out regulatory issues, but within the next five years or so fully automated robot advice will probably be available to help investors and retirement savers, amongst other people. For now, don’t ever rely completely on “robo advice” when making a final decision that could affect your financial health.

Take advantage of all resources, online and off.

Absent the robo-revolution it is still best to consult with a qualified professional human before investing or making some other major decision that involves a significant amount of money, particularly if it concerns long-term goals such as retirement planning. But for day-to-day money management decisions such as purchases or loans you probably don’t need to hire an adviser.

This doesn’t mean that you are left to your own devices when you aren’t sure about your choices. There’s no need to struggle through any money issue by yourself. You may not require the services of a professional adviser, but you can and should take advantage of easily available information resources.

When taking out a loan, for example, even if only for a small amount or a very short term, it’s smart to research all of your choices. If you have limited income or poor credit you more than likely won’t be able to get the most favourable interest rates, but you still have several options that can be confusing if you don’t know what you are doing. It may be tempting to take the path of least resistance and go with the company that has the most persuasive adverts. But you’re better off researching all of the companies that offer the type of loan you’re looking for so you can get essential information about the deals they offer and the way they treat their customers. This is information you generally won’t find on the companies’ official sites so it’s best to seek out more objective sources.

Information is everywhere; you only have to take advantage of it. If you are having problems with debt or other money management issues and can’t afford an adviser or a solicitor, there are the aforementioned debt charities, as well as various government resources that can point you in the right direction for help. Or if you just want to become savvier about money matters there are books, websites and courses to help you become more financially literate. There is no substitute for a good financial adviser when you need one – but you don’t always need one.


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