Why use an IFA?

It is never really the wrong time to review your finances to ensure that they are on track. After all, your financial well-being plays a part in nearly everything you currently do, or look forward to doing in the future. Whether you are looking for the best pension plan, mortgage, investment arrangement or protection policy, so some planning and advice can prove invaluable in making the right choices for your own circumstances.

So why would you need advice?
All sorts of organisations are increasingly approaching consumers with details of their financial product offerings and special promotions, but how do you know for sure that they are right for you?
Some financial products are simpler than others. For example, most people understand how home insurance works and can check the terms, levels of cover and conditions of the policy for themselves without the need for advice. However, when it comes to long-term savings products, such as investments or pensions and other areas such as protection, it isn’t so easy. These come in numerous shapes, sizes and forms, so care is required to find out which best suit your needs, whether there are better alternatives and what level of risk is involved.

It follows that in the same way as you would turn to a doctor if you have health problems, you should seek a professional's help when it comes to your finances.

Who to ask
There are many places you can turn to for advice; friends and family, your bank, or a professional adviser. Only an independent financial adviser (IFA) is able to offer you financial advice based upon an assessment of the whole of the market in the world of financial services products and providers. Any other route will generally offer you advice from a much narrower range; either limited to just one, or a relatively small number of products / providers, but not all.

Experience also often shows that when the choices are clearly explained, people recognise the value of independent financial advice. A visit to Unbiased.co.uk, which operates a free "Find an IFA" service, can help you locate IFAs in your area.

Choosing the right adviser for your needs
Once you have chosen your IFA, you next have to ensure that they have relevant knowledge and experience.

Of course, personal impressions are important when selecting the right adviser, after all, you are looking for someone that you can forge a trusting relationship with, but also be sure to ask how long the adviser and their firm have been practising, and check their credentials by asking them what qualifications they

Advice costs
Your first meeting will usually be a "getting to know you" session, where you will be asked about your priorities and plans. Remember, whilst most initial meetings are usually free, an IFA must offer you the option of paying for their advice by a fee, as well as the option of paying by commission - or a combination of the two. Tied and multi-tied agents will also charge you, but do not have to offer you these options, although some may.

Financial planning and adapting to changing circumstances is a lifelong commitment, so taking a little time now to find the most suitable type of advice from someone you are comfortable with could save you a great deal of time and money in future.

Nathan Glaister
Financial Planning Consultant

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