Good financial advice can be life changing. Finding the right financial planner can help you to achieve your life goals, give you peace of mind, and make you feel more in control of your finances.
Of course, not all financial professionals are the same. Many continue to focus on simply finding the right product for your needs, while others might help you once and then disappear into the sunset, never to be seen again.
To help you decide whether your current planner is right for you, or if you’re shopping around for a financial planner and you want to know what to look for, here are 10 things a great financial planner will do for you.
1. Ask you about your life goals and ambitions
Before we go any further, it’s important here to consider the difference between “financial advice” and “financial planning”.
A financial adviser will typically help you with a specific problem. For example, you may approach them because you need life insurance, or because you want to start a pension. They will typically provide transactional advice, and “sell” an appropriate product (or products) to meet your needs.
A financial planner will work with you to achieve your life goals. They are interested in creating a holistic financial plan that enables you to do all the things you want to in your life, and if appropriate, they may use products as a means to reach these goals, not as an end in themselves.
There is nothing wrong with either approach, they are just different.
Think of it this way:
- If the first question someone asks you is about your money, they are a financial adviser.
- If the first question someone asks you is about your life, they are a financial planner.
It won’t surprise you to learn that we are believers in the transformative power of financial planning. Everything we do is designed to help you to achieve your ambitions and aspirations, and we work closely with you over the long term to ensure you meet your goals.
2. Be independent
Choosing an independent financial planner means you’ll benefit from bespoke recommendations from the whole of the market.
Compare this to a tied adviser – perhaps a restricted adviser or someone who works in-house at a high street bank – who can only offer a limited portfolio of products.
Working with an independent planner means the advice you receive is highly personal. Any products and providers they recommend will be the best for you based on your objectives and aspirations.
3. Work with clients like you
Financial planning can cover a wide range of areas, from pensions to property, and from investing to insurance. It therefore follows that you’ll get the best outcome by working with a planner who has experience of advising clients like you.
Does your existing adviser have experience of working with clients who:
- Own their own business, and are focussed on their vision and growing their company?
- Are professionals, working flat out to look after their clients, but insufficient time to organise their own finances?
- Are approaching retirement and want to know they have “enough” to maintain their lifestyle?
- Have just inherited money but feel a strong sense of responsibility towards the capital?
If your existing adviser doesn’t have other clients like you, it’s hard to see how they could give you excellent advice.
Similarly, if you’re looking for a financial planner, ask potential firms if they work with clients like you, and seek out testimonials from these clients.
4. Model your financial future
A great financial planner will work hard to create a robust plan for you. A key part of this process is to use financial modelling (sometimes called “cashflow modelling”) to establish whether you’re going to be able to achieve your objectives.
We use sophisticated software to build a cashflow model, considering your lifestyle costs, planned expenditure, assets, and liabilities. We can then identify:
- What you have to do to achieve your goals
- Whether you have “enough” to retire earlier or gift money to family
- The protection you need to ensure unexpected events don’t blow your plan off course.
Financial modelling is an essential part of the planning process, so always find a professional that offers this service.
5. Motivate you to reach your financial goals…
Great financial planners don’t just help you design a financial plan – they will also help you to stick to it.
The best plan is worthless if you don’t have someone working with you to motivate you to reach your goals. Financial coaching helps you to develop excellent financial habits and can ensure you reach your goals. A really confident financial planner will help keep you accountable to your long-term plans.
6. …and counsel you against mistakes
Emotions can be a powerful driver of decisions. For example, you may have thought about exiting the stock market during the volatility caused by the coronavirus pandemic. On the flip side, you may have seen news stories about Tesla, GameStop, or Bitcoin and think you should invest in these assets.
A great planner will counsel you when your emotions take over and you want to make changes that could damage your long-term prospects.
7. Charge fair and transparent fees
If you have an existing financial adviser, how much are you paying them? If the answer is “I don’t know” then it’s time to find out; it may be a sign you need to think about a change.
Great financial planners are always up front and transparent about the charges they make. Everything should be transparent and discussed and agreed with you in advance. Be wary of firms that still charge big initial fees and exit fees on investments and pensions. Ideally find a planner that separates their financial planning fees from the investments. This way you know the planner will be paid for their work without the need to sell you something to receive remuneration.
Look for a planner where the first meeting is free, so you can find out if they are the right fit for you. Then, look for open and transparent fees that don’t lead to hidden surprises in the future.
For example, we’re clear about our fees, so you always know what you’ll pay for our service.
8. Treat you as an individual
Great financial planners return your calls and develop a personal relationship with you over the long term.
If you’re struggling to get hold of your adviser, it’s time to think about a change. For example, we work with a limited number of clients so we can always ensure a high level of personal service.
When you read or watch client stories, you’ll often find that clients talk effusively about the relationship with their planner, not how much money they have made. Let this influence your choice.
9. Regularly review your plan
Many financial advisers operate a transactional service. Typically, they will arrange a financial product for you and that’s the last you’ll hear from them.
Great financial planners are invested in your long-term future. Indeed, a regular review of your plan is essential to ensure you remain on course to achieve your life goals – whatever they may be.
Ask a planner how often they conduct reviews, and find a planner with whom you can develop a long-term relationship.
10. Add value
Studies have shown that financial planning adds lots of value.
- A 2019 International Longevity Centre study found that receiving professional financial advice between 2001 and 2006 boosted wealth (in pensions and financial assets) by an average of £47,706 a decade later.
- A 2020 Royal London study revealed that working with a financial planner makes you feel more in control of your money, gives greater peace of mind, and makes you more confident when it comes to financial decision-making.
If you feel your financial adviser isn’t adding value, it’s time for a change. Find out what we can do for you by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 020 7467 2700. Our first meeting is always on us!