Popping the right questions

When you decide to seek financial or mortgage advice, you want an expert you can trust to make the most of your money. Here are the key questions you should ask...

What services do you provide?

A financial adviser will let you know whether they are “independent” or “restricted”. They will generally be able to assist with preparing for retirement, building a pension pot, investments and inheritance planning. You may find that some financial advisers can also help with mortgages.

A mortgage adviser will let you know whether they are “whole of market” or “limited”. They can typically help with first-time buyers, remortgaging, buy-to-let properties, insurance and protection, and moving home. An adviser must be clear with regard to what services they offer.

Why are you suitable for me?

You want to work with someone who fills you with confidence and whose knowledge, skills and advice you trust to be both accurate and in your best interests. Any adviser should be able to list their key attributes and state why they are someone you can rely on. You can also look at their testimonials and reviews from clients they have worked with.

How, and how much, do you charge clients?

When considering whether to take advice, what it will cost will probably be one of your first concerns. An adviser must explain how much they will charge before you are taken on as a client. Mortgage advisers may charge in different ways: an upfront fee, payment through commission on the mortgage loan, or a combination of both. Many financial advisers charge a percentage of the value of your investment or pension pot. Fee structures can be complicated, so ask exactly what you’ll pay based on your wealth and requirements.

It’s important to have this clear in your mind as early as possible. By understanding how fees are charged, it may even be possible to negotiate a better deal for yourself.

Do you have experience of people in a situation similar to my own?

It is not uncommon for an adviser to only work with clients who have a minimum wealth level or mortgage size. For instance, if you have £20,000 in savings, but your potential financial adviser generally deals with people who have £500,000, you may be better off with someone who has more experience assisting those in a similar financial situation to you.

The same applies with personal circumstances. Major life events such as births, divorce, bereavement and critical illness can add a further level of complexity to your financial situation and it might be helpful to find advisers who have experience in these areas.

VouchedFor’s online adviser profiles include minimum wealth levels and mortgage sizes. You will also soon be able to run a keyword search through adviser reviews – such as “divorce” – to find ones left by people in a similar situation to yourself.

Why is the product that you picked the best one for me?

Supply anything you think is relevant, as your adviser can only recommend products for you (such as mortgage, investments and pensions) based on the information you’ve provided. Do ask why the product they have recommended is the most appropriate – so that you feel comfortable with your decision. Always bear in mind there may be alternatives that, upon closer inspection, you would prefer to go with.

What do you do that I couldn’t do myself?

With the rise of multiple online services, it’s important to know how your adviser can benefit your situation above what an automated service can offer you.

It may be tempting to use online services, such as “roboadvice” companies that offer investment and pension advice. However, a financial adviser should be able to discuss the additional services and assistance they can provide. For example, many advisers specialise in particular scenarios, such as helping you to understand how much you might want to draw down from your pension. Practical expertise and the human touch can make a huge difference to ensuring you hit all of your financial and personal goals.

Similarly, when speaking with a mortgage adviser, they will be able to discuss the full intricacies of your mortgage, so do be open with them. It is their job to advise you on which type of mortgage is the most suitable for you. They will factor in your whole financial situation, and will be able to display the full costs involved.

They are also usually able to secure better deals than those that are available on comparison sites; the latter will not show the full complexity of why each product is (or isn’t) suited to you. The sites also might not include application charges that arise down the line.

A good mortgage or financial adviser will be able to provide validation and give you peace of mind that no stone has been left unturned.

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