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The financial services industry moves so quickly that keeping up with the latest laws, products, services and deals can be both tricky and confusing.

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  • A financial planner or adviser will help you through choosing the most suitable financial products and will often play an essential role in helping to secure your finances for the future. But when should you use a financial adviser and what should you look for when it comes to choosing one?

    Why should you use a financial planner or adviser?

    The world of financial services can be a confusing and daunting one, particularly if your circumstances and financial arrangements are a little complicated. While most transactional products, such as credit cards, loans and basic insurance, are often relatively simple to choose and arrange, many individuals benefit from the expert advice and help that a dedicated financial expert can provide on more complex issues. They often have access to the whole of the market and can even negotiate preferential deals for you. In many cases, a financial adviser is a one stop shop for your financial needs.

    If you buy the wrong products at the wrong time, you could see your hard earned money wasted. A good adviser will assess your finances and listen to what it is you want to achieve, either in the short term or long term, and will advise you on the best way to achieve your objectives. Seeking sound financial advice is the right way to minimise your risk and increase the chances of your getting the most out of your finances, whatever lifestage you're in.

    In what circumstances should you consult a financial planner or adviser?

    There are a number of areas where seeking financial advice is beneficial and these are generally for the more complex, long term products.

    Pensions

    The pension market can be extremely difficult to comprehend. The chances are, your pension will be a sizeable asset and should therefore be planned very carefully in order to make sure you can retire whilst maintaining the lifestyle you are accustomed to.

    Whether you're just starting out in your working life, or you're getting close to retirement age and have accumulated a number of company pensions along the way, a financial adviser will help you manage your assets to make sure they meet your objectives when the time comes. Your adviser should be able to inform you of what your retirement income is likely to be and what you may need to do to increase it if required.

    Investments

    Whether you have just received a lump sum inheritance, or are planning on generating income for your retirement, a good financial adviser will question you extensively about your goals and ambitions and will provide you with the relevant solutions from the whole of the market to help you achieve them. They should also inform you of all the risks associated with the options available and work with you to create an investment package tailored to your needs.

    Life insurance and protection

    While many life insurance products, such as level term insurance, are relatively straightforward, others are more complicated. If your circumstances and financial affairs are a little less straightforward, you should always seek advice. Once again, you will be asked about what your objectives are and what your financial situation is. You may want some form of income protection in the event that you're unable to work, or maybe you want your mortgage paid off if you die, or you may just want to leave a lump sum tax efficiently for your family should the unthinkable happen. Whatever you needs, your adviser will be able to guide you to a solution. Read our guide to life insurance right now on PrimeLocation.

    Tax planning

    Particularly for high earners, successful tax planning can be invaluable. Minimising the impact of Inheritance Tax, for example, is just one of the areas an adviser can help with. In addition, dealing with tax on second properties, or helping the self-employed manage their tax affairs, are a couple of other areas where getting financial advice may be prudent.

    Mortgages

    Not all financial advisers will provide you with mortgage advice, but a dedicated mortgage broker will. It's a complicated market with literally thousands of different products out there to suit a range of circumstances, such as 100 per cent mortgages, buy-to-let mortgages and even mortgages for those with credit problems. While some consumers still prefer to research the market themselves, a mortgage adviser can save you both time and money by searching the market for the best deal for you. Make sure your mortgage adviser has access to the entire mortgage market and not just a selected range of providers. Read our guide on choosing the best mortgage for more information.

    Financial planning

    The process of successful financial planning will involve you articulating your goals to an adviser, who will help you bring all of your financial arrangements together to meet your objectives, whatever they may be. Often the process can be complicated and there are dedicated fee-based financial planning advisers who can help you. Visit the Institute of Financial Planning for more information and to find a suitable financial planning adviser. Financial planning can be more expensive than seeking advice on just one or two products, although once the plan is in operation you can set up annual reviews which may be conducted for a smaller fee.

    Is your financial adviser truly independent?

    Possibly the most important consideration when selecting a financial adviser is to choose one that is able to select the most appropriate products from the entire market. Generally speaking, the adviser market is split into three categories: Independent Financial Advisers (IFAs), Tied Advisers and Multi-tied Advisers.

    Independent Financial Advisers (IFAs)

    Independent financial advisers are so-called because they are completely independent of any particular organisation. This means they can search the whole market for the best products for you.

    Tied advisers

    Tied advisers are effectively salespeople for one financial services company. Their job is to go out and sell that they company's financial products. Therefore there is no guarantee that the products are the best on the market, or will be right for you.

    Multi-tied advisers

    Multi-tied advisers offer products from a limited selection of banks and insurance companies. Although these are slightly more 'independent' than tied advisers, they are still some way short of the objectivity and breadth of market offered by an IFA.

    You should always make sure that any advisers you speak to have the freedom of the whole market to work in and are not just working for one or two organisations whose products may not be the most competitive or effective. An IFA is best placed to offer the most objective advice.

    How do you find and choose the right financial planner or adviser?

    The Internet is a useful tool for finding the right adviser.

    A good recommendation from a family member or friend might be an indication of a quality service, although you should still do your homework on the company in question to make sure they tick all the right boxes.

    Once you've found an adviser, make sure they operate on a whole of the market basis and are not limited to just one or two organisations' products. You should also make sure the firm you choose is regulated by the Financial Services Authority. 

    Check your documents before you commit

    Greater regulation in the industry should give you extra peace of mind and there are now mandatory documents that FSA-regulated firms will provide you with before you commit to taking any advice and buying products. These include the 'Key Facts' document and the 'Key Features' document.

    The Key Facts document

    The Key Facts document will contain the following information:

    • The type of service being offered (information or advice)
    • Whether they cover the whole of the market, a limited number of suppliers, or just one supplier
    • How you will be charged for their services (commission or fee)

    The Key Features document

    The Key Features document will contain the following information:

    • The objective and benefits of the products being offered
    • The risk involved in any of the products
    • An illustration showing how your product(s) might work
    • The fees or commission you will need to pay for the adviser to arrange the products for you

    Make sure you read carefully and fully understand the documents and that you agree with everything before signing. If there's anything you don't understand, keep asking until you are confident you know exactly what you're agreeing to.

    Some information contained herein may have changed since it was first published. PrimeLocation strongly advises you to seek current legal and/or financial advise from a qualified professional.

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