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The likelihood is that you will require several financial products over the course of your lifetime. At a very basic level an independent financial adviser can provide you with advice on the best product, at the best price for you. This is due to the fact that being independent denotes that they are not tied in any way to any one provider, but can access the entire market, in order to identify the product that is best suited to your unique circumstances.
You may be considering saving yourself the associated cost and sourcing the products you require yourself as part of your wealth management, however, time and time again it has been proven that the initial cost you may incur by engaging the services of an independent financial adviser for wealth management, will end up saving consumers more money over time. There are literally thousands of products to choose from, with providers all jostling for your business, and an independent financial adviser is in the unique position to negotiate the very best rates and credit for you, as well as provide advice on the product that will best serve your requirements and save you money following a financial health check.
Over the course of the last few years the regulations governing advisers and financial services have tightened, providing consumers with much higher standards and protecting their interests by supervising the conduct and advice of firms that provide those services. This means that when you engage the services of an independent financial adviser who is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK, this is a regime that ensures that any advice you receive from that financial adviser is always in your best interest. Being regulated by the FCA also ensures that the financial adviser in question is in possession of a minimum attainment of Diploma but can be qualified all the way up to Chartered status.
In addition to this, the Financial Ombudsman service is on hand with statutory powers to help settle disputes between consumers and advisers in order to ensure a fair and impartial resolution should any issues arise on any topic.
Independent Financial Advisers v Restricted Financial Advisers
Individuals often ask what the difference is between an independent financial adviser and a restricted financial adviser. An IFA can provide you with the advice and products that can meet your unique wealth management requirements. They have access to the whole of market, are often self employed, and will always act on your behalf and in your best interests, supplying you with impartial financial advice.
Conversely, a restricted financial adviser is just that, restricted. Either in terms of the area of finance that they will specialise in and can offer advice on, or in terms of the limited amount of products or companies that they can recommend to meet your needs. To give them credit, this is not to say that they are not acting ethically, and it’s important to credit that they are still FCA accredited, however, they cannot access the whole of market, and therefore you may be missing out on a better deal elsewhere. The other important difference will lie in the cost of the advice you receive.
What Can an IFA Do?
This can vary from firm to firm and some advisers will specialise in certain areas so it’s always prudent to first check they meet your requirements before you engage their services.
A good financial adviser with relevant experience can help you first identify your financial goals in order to draw up a plan to help you reach them. Financial planning is much more than simply squirrelling away money, it’s about conducting a financial health check in order to draw up a timeline, knowing what may come up along the way, gathering details about you personal and financial data in order to create accurate financial projections that can illustrate how, and when you can achieve your goals, and how small decisions you make now can affect where you will be in the future. When planning your finances, independent financial advisers take into account entities such as inflation, investments, savings and spending, and leave no stone unturned so you can be sure you are on the path to success.
Financial Health Check
Many independent financial advisers will offer consumers a financial health check, sometimes for free, as part of their wealth management onboarding process. A financial health check can help to illustrate what, if any, advice you require. In order to complete a financial health check, you will usually be required to bring along details of all your financial documents including, savings, credit, investments, mortgages, loans, life insurance, pensions, and any other relevant financial material. All this information will be collated to perform the health check, and used to form a picture of your financial affairs and can help identify your financial planning needs and exactly where the advice of a professional can add value to your circumstances.
Securing mortgages is likely to be one of the biggest financial decisions you will make in your lifetime. There are thousands of mortgages available on the whole of market and getting advice on the right one can literally save you thousands down the line. Mortgage brokers will offer advice on the level of mortgage repayments you can afford by assessing details such as your income, spending, and any debt repayments you currently have in order to find the most suitable product. This information will be teamed with what is deemed to be the best possible term of your mortgage, along with the best possible interest rates, credit, and the lowest fees.
Another advantage of engaging the services of a financial adviser is they are best placed to act as your representative in the market, in order to handle all the paperwork for you, so your application is dealt with faster and you are more likely to be successful on your first application. Remember, each failed application can hurt your chances of being accepted the next time so getting your first application accepted is key to success.
As part of their wealth management solutions, an independent financial adviser can also provide clients with advice on how much credit you can afford to borrow, taking into account your circumstances, as well as access special mortgage deals that are not accessible to the open market. This is not only applicable to first time home buyers but can also be of advantage to anyone looking to remortgage, buy a second home, buy a new home, buy-to-let, purchase business premises, buy a holiday home, and release equity from their current home.
The pensions freedom reforms introduced four years ago means more and more individuals are having to make complicated financial decisions with regards to their pension. This all comes as pensions are moving towards being the responsibility of the saver themselves, and less the responsibility of their former employer. Workplace pensions are more likely to involve a scheme that you pay into yourself, while your employer tops your contribution, and you invest the money to build up your pension pot. This is known as defined contribution.
Once you retire there are various options to consider, the complexities of which are often misunderstood and can lead to unnecessary tax payment and higher charges that erode into savings. Many pensioners are deterred by the perceived costs of engaging the services of a financial adviser for their wealth management, and a proportion are also hindered by a sense of mistrust in the financial services industry. However, the new regulations governing financial advisers mean that they are always acting on your behalf, and certainly an independent financial adviser can offer advice on the best possible products on the market for your situation. A financial adviser can ascertain the best method by which to invest your pension in order to secure an adjustable income. Recent research has found that seeking advice resulted in higher financial assets and greater pension wealth despite the associated costs.
When it comes to investing your money, few people have the time, or indeed the knowledge, to fully understand the volatile investment market, and mistakes here can end up costing you more money. Wealth Management at the hands of a good independent financial adviser can be worth its weight in gold, not only in terms of paying for their fees, but to assist you in growing your wealth in line with your financial aspirations.
Financial advisers will take the time to understand your personal needs and objectives, often in the form of a financial health check, in order to create strategic investment planning with a well diversified portfolio that can meet your financial obligations and ambitions. They can also offer advice on tax efficient wrappers such as ISAs and investment bonds and ensure all your investing activity lies within your attitude to risk.
Of course markets are unpredictable, and a robust investment strategy requires constant reviews and rebalancing to ensure that it remains in line with your financial objectives.
Protection is a vital part of wealth management and financial planning, and one that is often overlooked outside of professional circles. The chances of being unable to do your job due to critical illness are higher than you might imagine and most people don’t think about what would happen to them, or their dependents, should this happen. It is also important to consider the financial impact your death would have on your dependents. As with all the other products, there are thousands of protection providers all competing for your business, and protection often costs less money than most people imagine, so it is worth getting the advice of financial advisers to ensure you get the right level of cover at the right price for your unique circumstances. Protection can include some of all of the following products:
- Life Insurance
- Critical Illness Cover
- Income Protection
- Private Medical Insurance
The correct level of insurance can provide you with confidence that you are covered, with the correct advice, to ensure your financial affairs remain in the right direction to provide you and your family with support and security for life.
Effectively mitigating your tax liability could have a significant impact on your bottom line. In fact, recent research has revealed that around 30 million people are currently paying too much tax amounting to around £5 billion, a significant amount. If you don’t have confidence that you are not one of the people who is currently contributing to HMRC’s income by paying too much tax then it might be time to consider employing the advice of professional planners for your wealth management needs. Some of the areas where you can feasibly mitigate your exposure to tax include:
- Tax efficient savings for children (JISA)
- Personal pensions and self-invested pensions (SIPPs)
- Estate planning and the creation of trusts
- Individual savings accounts (ISAs)
Financial planners can also look at the amount of income tax you currently pay in order to ascertain whether you need assistance reducing this figure. Some firms will even have dedicated experts to help with this area of finance, and should you be self-employed, you are likely to be pleasantly surprised by the amount of tax an advisor can save you over time.
How to Choose an Independent Financial Adviser
There are several things to consider first when choosing an independent financial adviser, afterall, it’s an important relationship and decisions should not be taken lightly. Here are a few things to bear in mind when making your choice.
Is the Financial Adviser Authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority?
Being authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority can guarantee that the financial adviser you are considering will always act ethically and on your behalf. The Financial Conduct Authority register will also be able to confirm whether the advisor, or firm, has the correct level of authorisation in order to advise on the transfer of pension benefits.
Check the Adviser has Professional Indemnity Insurance
Whilst this is not crucial in order to provide excellent advice, Professional Indemnity Insurance does offer peace of mind and checking any previous claims or financial settlements against the firm can give you an insight into the historical practice of the financial adviser.
Check for Historical Complaints
Checking first with the Financial Ombudsman Service as well as the FCA for any historical complaints made against the financial adviser or firm you are considering can be invaluable. The Financial Ombudsman is easily accessible online and on the phone and there to help consumers get a fair service and the right advice for their situation.
Ensure the Advisor is Independent
Obtain confirmation from the financial adviser or firm that they can access products and services from the whole of the market and have no affiliation to any particular provider.
Understand the Process
Most financial advisers and firms will offer an initial consultation, either in their office or on the phone, free of charge so you can meet with them first and understand how they can bring value to your current circumstances with their wealth management. This financial health check is a perfect opportunity for you to understand the process from start to finish, including what information they will need about your current finances such as mortgages, savings, credit, and life insurance, as well as a financial plan. It is always useful to see an example of their financial planning so you know what to expect. Understand whether this is an end to end user journey with ongoing reviews and support, and whether reviews will be on a monthly or annual basis, as well whether this level of service is necessary for your requirements.
Take References and Recommendations
The experiences of friends with the adviser you are considering can provide you with valuable insight as to the level of service you can expect from the person or firm you are considering. Recommendations and credit from family and friends is always a great starting point.
Understand the Costs
It’s essential to get a firm understanding of what the advice you will receive is going to cost you and it is compulsory for an independent adviser to declare all costs up front to any person who is a prospective client. This gives you the opportunity to compare and negotiate with financial advisers and also provides you with reassurance that the adviser in question has no conflicting interests such as a commission from a product that they recommend.
Pricing structures vary between different financial advisers and the money you pay will largely depend on the scope of advice and support you need. The three main methods that advisers will charge for their time are:
- Percentage fee: this will usually be worked out as a percentage of the amount of money you wish an adviser to manage on your behalf. For the advisor it most closely resembles the commission structure they would previously have worked by, and it can be argued that this kind of structure is most likely to incentivise your adviser to grow your wealth. This percentage can range anywhere between 0.5% to 5%, which may depend on the sum of money you are looking to invest.
- Fixed fee per service: With this payment structure you will be charged a fixed cost for each solution you require, i.e. mortgages advice, pensions freedom, or putting protection in place. This may be the most cost effective method of paying should you require once only advice for a specific area of your finances and is useful if you require an upfront cost.
- Hourly rate: As always with an hourly rate, ensure you get an idea from your adviser of how long this kind of job has taken them previously so can know what cost to expect. This rate can vary between £50 and £250 an hour, depending on what you need and the level of credential your adviser is in possession of.
Check Their ‘Contact Us’ Page
The Contact Us section of an advisers website can provide an invaluable insight into the level of service and support you can expect from the adviser you are considering as well as ensuring that they are based in the UK. Once on the Contact Us page you should check the means by which your adviser has made themselves available to support you.
When should I see a financial adviser?
It can be tricky to quantify exactly when the best time is for you to first contact an adviser. Good advice can give your savings a much needed boost, save you money on your tax bills and help you steer in the right direction through financial changes in your life such as buying a home or getting divorced. Here we look at some of the reasons it might be time for you to take the leap and engage the services of a financial adviser.
You’re ready to start growing your wealth
If you have enough savings to see you through a rainy day (an adviser can help you ascertain what’s enough savings with a comprehensive financial health check), then you might be thinking about investing anything beyond that in order to grow your wealth in line with your financial aspirations. Of course investing is fairly complex and mistakes can cost you dearly, so this is definitely an area where an expert team can help.
Studies have illustrated that without the support of an expert we are likely to make mistakes, such as selling when the market crashes , or buying when it’s rising. As well as this, investments should all be done within your personal appetite for risk, taking into account your overall financial situation, and carefully diversified in order to navigate volatile markets.
You’re looking to mitigate your tax liability
Tax is currently a hot topic in the UK and can seriously erode your wealth, and a vast percentage of the population are currently paying too much tax. Unfortunately the UK tax system is notoriously complex and whilst the tax allowances available can make a significant impact on your money, it’s not always clear how you can take advantage of them. Tax allowances include entities such as income tax, capital gains tax, dividend income, contributions into ISAs, pensions and other savings accounts.
Ensuring your investments are tax efficient can also have an impact on your bottom line and an adviser can utilise products like ISAs and other wrappers as well as taking advantage of Capital Gains Tax allowances to ensure you are taking advantage of all the tax breaks available.
When it comes to retirement there are many vehicles that can help minimise your tax liability including making pension contributions or pension carry forward, taking income from alternative accounts such as your ISA and even organising your affairs such that your pensions remain untouched in order to reduce your inheritance tax bill for your family.
You’re ready to retire
When it comes to retirement, the services of an adviser can prove an invaluable support as you attempt to navigate the complex pension landscape including pensions freedom. At a very basic level, an adviser can perform a financial health check to identify whether you have saved enough in your pension to retire now and how long you can reasonably expect your money to last, taking into account factors such as inflation and the cost of any long term care you may need in the future. Robust pension planning can ensure you can maintain the cost of your current lifestyle throughout your retirement and give you options for your future.
Whilst most people will qualify for a state pension, it is a mistake to rely on this as the age you can claim the state pension is rising more and more and the amount you will receive from your pension is barely enough to support even the most frugal of lifestyles. Most people will therefore have saved into a pension pot throughout their working lives, and as movement between jobs has increased over the last few decades, it is very likely that you will have more than one pension pot in existence. Locating all these various pension pots and consolidating them can help give you an indication of where you stand and allow you to get some pension planning in place. An adviser can assist when it comes time to group your pensions together so you can make them a part of your financial plan.
The new flexibilities and freedoms options surrounding how you manage your pension income requires more and more careful financial planning and consideration. Many people are now opting to leave their pension invested in order to generate an income and consideration about when you leave your job and decide to retire could result in more time for your pension fund to grow. Many people approaching retirement also look to unlock equity in their property to help maintain their lifestyle.
If you are wondering the best method to go about engaging a financial adviser to assist you with your financial planning, then you should head straight to the contact us section of their online site. The contact us page should provide you with information as to the hours the adviser is available, the address, email, and by what means you can get in contact should you need help.
What Does an Independent Financial Adviser Charge?
There are many different factors that can affect the cost of advice, but as with all things, you should be aware that you get what you pay for. That being said, the following can influence what you should expect to pay:
- Your location: as with all services, there can be a variation on cost depending on where the IFA you are considering has their office in the UK. If you want to employ the services of an IFA near you, then it will make a difference if you are based in expensive locations across the UK. Obviously some of the most expensive IFAs in the country will have their office based in the city of London, however, there are many advantages to employing an IFA that has their office located near to you so you may want to weigh up whether this is worth the additional cost. To check the actual location of the office of any financial adviser you are considering, head to the contact us page on their online site.
- The method of delivery: There are many IFAs that now offer consumers their service online, or over the telephone and email, especially during the Coronavirus pandemic. This can work to lower the cost for the adviser, a saving that is often passed to you, the consumer. However, if you require an ongoing service, then it is often an advantage to build a working relationship with your adviser and this can often be achieved more successfully if you can meet face to face rather than over the phone. That being said, for one off advice it may be worth the savings to engage a remote IFA on the phone, but you would be wise to thoroughly check their credentials beforehand.
- The level of qualification: IFAs will hold varying levels of credentials, and this can affect the cost for their services. How qualified the IFA you are looking for needs to be will largely depend on the level of service you require. For simple assignments like setting up an ISA or finding the best mortgage product, it may be best to stick with a IFA that holds the minimum qualification of Diploma, or even employ a Chartered financial planner, whereas for more complex issues you may want to pay for a Chartered financial adviser to help you with entities like Chartered financial planning.
- The level of service you require: It stands to reason that very complex financial situations that are likely to require a lot of time, will cost you more money. Any sorting you can do yourself may save you money in this regard. One off jobs will cost less over time than an ongoing life service, however, remember that good advice will more than pay for itself and can result in a better financial situation for your life. For further information on the level of service the adviser you are considering is offering to consumers, head to the contact us section of their online site and get in touch via email or telephone. They will usually be more than happy to have a conversation about your requirements over the telephone and advise whether you would be best engaging a financial adviser or whether chartered financial planners could meet your requirements. A comprehensive financial health check can often help answer questions about whether you actually need help.
Should I pay a financial adviser?
It’s natural to want to know if the cost of financial advice is worth paying for, as with all things it’s good to know that you are getting value for money in life. With so much information now available on the internet, many people feel that they would be just as well to save themselves the cost and go it alone.
However, putting a monetary amount on the value that financial advice can bring to your current finances is complicated, but not impossible, and a programme called Advisers Alpha has in fact identified that the rate of return on investments for advised investors, versus unadvised investors is around 3% per annum. Given that the average cost for financial advice is between 0.5 percent to 1 percent of the value of your portfolio, this makes financial advice well worth the cost.
That being said, financial advice isn’t for everyone, and there is a proportion of the population who will be disciplined and obsessive enough with their self invested portfolio to go it alone, following the markets and creating financial projections as well as making informed, unemotional decisions regarding their investments. This requires an extreme level of self discipline but can achieve great returns when maintained over a long term.
However, investing wisely is more than just making the right decisions about when to buy and when to sell, it’s about having a robust investment strategy, with informed asset allocation, minimising taxes, rebalancing, and timing withdrawals. Most importantly, a financial adviser adds value by implementing unemotional decisions that can lead to gains amounting to around 1.5% of your total portfolio. Selling when funds are low and buying when they are high has been found to cost investors 8% of their fund performance, often resulting in them seeing far lower returns than the funds they invest in.
Investors who are looking online for cost free financial advice from tips, articles, ideas and calculators, should be wary of placing too much credit on what is essentially vague, basic information which is not intended to replace tailored recommendations based on the back of a comprehensive health check. This is because information found online is unable to take your unique circumstances into consideration, like how much savings you have, the amount of credit you have, or how much debt you have accrued in your life.
Of course that’s not to say that the information you will find online can’t be of help to you. Certainly it’s prudent to have a basic understanding of the financial products that are available as well as get to grips with general approaches and popular rated investments, providers or accounts. However, in order to identify the best possible products for your situation, as well as plan financial strategies that can realise your financial aspirations in life, it’s best to go to a certified financial planner who can provide a complete service and cover all areas of your finances in order to ensure your money is working hard towards securing your future financial life.
Do You Need A Local Financial Advisor?
Of all the things to consider when hiring a financial advisor, is location another thing to add to the list? Afterall, the wizardry of technology has certainly made it possible to communicate on many levels including email and live chat, so is this really relevant today?
You may be surprised to learn that the answer is yes, and one of the main reasons for this is the customer orientated approach that a local advisor can bring to your financial situation. To remote, national driven firms you could end up being little more than an account number, with a one size fits all methodology and an impersonal customer service. Often these large national firms will see a high volume of staff turnover, resulting in a lack of cohesion. Conversely, a local adviser will often build a lasting, relationship with their clients, understanding them and their family, providing a clear ‘contact us’ page on their online site with details of their email and phone, seeing your financial plan all the way through over the decades of their life and remaining focused on your requirements and aspirations.
This level of service orientated advice can serve to guarantee a completely holistic approach starting with a complete financial health check, which in itself can result in more cost effective financial planning. Rather than simply chasing the bottom line and pushing your investments, they can make all areas of your financial plan work cohesively together in order to achieve the best possible results for your life, taking into account factors such as pensions, income tax, credit, expenditures, costs, savings, and mortgages, to name a few.
The other entity to consider is the standardised approach that large national firms will often employ in order to achieve the economies of scale that drive their profits. There is little time for analysis of individual circumstances and you are much more likely to be categorised in order to receive systematic advice that is barely relevant to your life and money. This leaves little room for a truly tailored experience, with the exact level of financial planning to best help you achieve your unique financial goals.
Of course, perhaps the greatest advantage of hiring a local adviser is the ability to meet face to face. This can help build long term, beneficial relationships for life that are built on trust and professionalism. With something as important as your money, it’s important that you feel confident that they are all working towards your future. Your local advisor can take the time to get to know you, your family, your circumstances and your aspirations in order to provide financial planning that is bespoke, clear, and most importantly of all profitable. If you are asking yourself if it is worth seeking out the services of independent financial advisors near you, then perhaps this can strengthen the argument, that there is still scope for a highly personalised local service that offers comprehensive wealth management, in today’s crowded market.
In order to ascertain whether an adviser is local to you, you are best to check the contact us section of their website. The contact us section of the website should provide you with their office addresses as well as information about how you can get in touch via phone and email. Many advisers will also display information on the contact us page about where they offer meetings, either at their offices, or even in the comfort of your own home.