Where can you go for quality, free financial advice when you, a relative, or friend needs help with a big decision?
Money worries blight all of our lives at times, but it can be difficult to know where to turn when you have to deal with an unfamiliar financial challenge or emergency.
You might be an investing whizz but have very little practical experience in dealing with long-term care issues for a close family member, for example.
- Who can you trust?
- Where do you go for reliable information so that, even if you can pay for some help, you know that you’re receiving good advice?
- How do you avoid being scammed, fobbed off, or taken for a ride?
Below are sources of financial advice that I’ve found to be genuinely useful over the years, or else are widely considered to be a go-to frontline service for money-related problems.
Where can I find free financial advice?
The Money Advice Service is a national treasure when it comes to straightforward, free advice on most aspects of financial life. Go there for a 101 on pensions, long-term care, debt, redundancy, self-employment, housing, benefits, illness, disability, death, and divorce.
The Money Advice Service is a government-backed initiative.
Inevitably you get a better handle on the issues by cross-checking multiple sources. This is also a good way of discovering wrinkles you’ll need to think about – or ask for more advice on – as you trim your decision tree.
It’s generally a good sign, too, when government, charities, professional bodies, and journalistic sources are all in agreement about the basic facts.
Free independent financial advice
Some financial advisors offer a free initial consultation. Obviously that’s no guarantee of quality – and it’s offered as a prelude to paid engagement – but at least it enables you to size up a few firms.
A number of unions have partnered with financial advisors to offer a free consultation. You’ll find some advisors make that available to anyone, regardless of affiliation. A Google search will reveal more.
Financial advisor comparison sites
More generally, there are free financial advisor match-making services.
Unbiased.co.uk pairs you with financial advisors, accountants, and mortgage brokers. It says its database will match you with an advisor who is independent, regulated, and qualified.
Vouchedfor.co.uk hooks you up with financial advisors, accountants, solicitors, and mortgage brokers. Vouched For includes reviews but you’ll need to check your advisor is independent. The site checks for qualifications and regulation.
Financial planner professional bodies
The Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment (CISI) administers qualifications for UK independent financial advisors (IFAs). Use its tool to search for advisors by postcode.
The Personal Finance Society (PFS) also enables you to search their membership for an advisor near you. Its tool includes a specialism function. The PFS is part of the Chartered Insurance Institute Group.
Later life specialists
The Society Of Later Life Advisors (SOLLA) enables you to search for a financial advisor who specialises in the domains of retirement planning, equity release, long-term care, inheritance tax planning, wills, and probate.
The Money Advice Service maintains a retirement advisor directory. These cover much the same specialisms as SOLLA and are regulated, but are not necessarily independent.
Note: no matter who you deal with, always check whether your financial advisor is independent. If they are restricted, check they’re restricted by their specialism, not because they are tied to particular product providers. And make sure you understand how much your IFA charges.
The Financial Services Register
Before you do business with any financial firm, check its bona fides on the Financial Services Register. This is your first port-of-call to ensure that you’re working with someone who is authorised to offer the services they’re advertising in the UK, and who is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority.
The regulators also maintain a list of black hats you may not wish to work with.
If you hope to be covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) then it’s essential you check your provider is UK regulated and also authorised to provide a service covered by the scheme.
There are FSCS loopholes that are likely to affect many Monevator readers.
Free financial dispute resolution
The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) offers free financial dispute resolution that enables you to seek redress against financial firms without going to court. The FOS handles consumer complaints involving bank, insurance, mortgage, financial advice, pensions, loan, and credit products.
You must be in dispute with a regulated firm to bring the FOS into play. You must have exhausted the firm’s internal complaints procedure first.
Happily, the FOS is independent, its rulings are legally enforceable, and it doesn’t preclude you going to court if you’re still dissatisfied.
There is also a Pensions Ombudsman, even though the FOS does handle some pension disputes.
Free pensions advice
If you have a defined contribution pension then you are entitled to a free appointment to talk through your options with a specialist from Pension Wise. You qualify for this service if you’re over 50-years old.
Pension Wise is also a good source of straightforward articles that guide you through the maze of pension complexity.
Pension Wise and The Pensions Advisory Service fall under the auspices of The Money and Pensions Service (MaPS), which is sponsored by the Department for Work and Pensions. The MaPS also runs The Money Advice Service.
Free tax help
The LITRG resources have been put together with genuine care by the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) – a trade body for UK tax professionals.
TaxAid have compiled some tips on choosing a tax advisor to make things a little easier.
Free tax help for those on lower incomes
TaxAid is a charity that helps people understand the tax system, pay the right amount of tax, and appeal unfair tax demands. Call its helpline if you need tax assistance and you earn less than £20,000 per year.
TaxAid is run and staffed by tax professionals.
Tax Help for Older People is similar to TaxAid but is specifically geared towards assisting the over-60s who earn less than £20,000 per year.
You can get tax advice from volunteer tax professionals including retired HMRC staff. Find out how they can help you or call them on 01308 488066.
Free debt advice
Thankfully there are a number of organisations dedicated to helping anyone worried about debt or bankruptcy.
Business Debtline is a sister service aimed at the self-employed and small businesses.
Go to AdviceNI for debt advice tailored for people living in Northern Ireland. (AdviceNI also helps with benefits and tax credits.)
You can find more online, telephone, and face-to-face debt help via the Money Advice Service resources page.
Debt advice, but also free guidance on other social issues
The following organisations can help you with debt, but they also cover many other life challenges including benefits, tax credits, council tax, social care, employment and redundancy, housing, and homelessness:
- Citizens Advice
- Advice Local provides links to organisations that are tailored to your location. It’s run by the Rightsnet charity.
- Age UK is a charity that specialises in later life advice on topics such as debt, money, legal, health, work, care, and support.
Free housing advice
Shelter is the leading charity for advice on housing issues including eviction, repossession, renting, deposits, benefits, and homelessness, if you live in Scotland, Wales, or England.
Go to Housing Advice NI if you live in Northern Ireland.
Free consumer rights advice
Most people will be familiar with these sources but I think that Which,2 Money Saving Expert and Citizens Advice are hard to beat when it comes to your consumer rights.
Free investing ideas
You could do a lot worse than browsing the articles at Monevator’s Passive Investing HQ. (Though it makes us blush to say it.)
Finally, the best two pieces of financial advice I ever got were:
You can have those for free!
Please let us know your favourite sources of free financial advice in the comments below. That way we’ll build up this resource using the wisdom of the Monevator crowd.
Take it steady,
- The Association of Taxation Technicians are in on the tool, too.
- Obviously Which isn’t entirely free but it has lots of quality information outside its paywall. Moreover, good organisations need to make a living to maintain their service.