This article is part of my Q&A series on financial advice. Today’s question is ‘Where can I get free financial advice?’
Finding a financial adviser to build and monitor your investment portfolio can be an expensive process. It’s natural to research any free alternatives before committing to pay financial advice fees and sacrificing some of your hard earned savings.
Are there any ways to receive financial advice for free, or do free sources of information come with drawbacks. What about charities and government organisations – can they give free financial advice?
Where can I find free financial advice?
Money Advice Service
The Money Advice Service is a true public good. Funding for this website comes from the government Department for Work and Pensions, which sponsors the Money and Pensions Service which operates the website.
This makes MAS an authoritative and impartial source of financial information.
I particularly like their guides on spotting pension scams and student finance.
However, their articles fall short in length and detail. If you are a keen reader, I suspect that you’ll hit the limit of their content within a single hour.
Furthermore, the MAS gives facts about some asset classes but does not practically give advice on how to build an investment portfolio.
Citizens Advice Service
The Citizens Advice Service can be accessed over the phone, online and even at physical branches across the UK.
It operates on four key principles:
- A free service
Many folks incorrectly assume that Citizen’s Advice is a government department. In fact, it is an independent registered charity, offering financial and legal support to those in need (for free of charge). However, it does receive sponsorship from government sources.
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Their website is always up to date with plenty of relevant and topical articles in response to recent events or changes in law. This makes Citizens Advice a great source of reliable information in times of crisis.
Helpfully, Citizens Advice offers a telephone or face-to-face consultation regarding financial matters.
This probably makes it the closest free equivalent to finding a financial adviser.
However, don’t put your purse away just yet! Citizens Advice is not a free replacement for a qualified financial advisor.
The goal of citizens advice is to help people navigate the financial and legal world. With the right information, citizens will be empowered to get the service and justice that they deserve. Citizens advice was not founded to help save investing costs and subsidise our investment returns.
In practise, this means that advice from CA will ensure that you understand:
- How to find a financial adviser
- How to complain about a financial adviser
- Advice on the costs of financial advice
Citizens advice will not actually recommend individual investments.
This isn’t unreasonable when you consider what else Citizens Advice does.
It advises tenants on how to force their landlord to make repairs, it doesn’t act as a landlord nor does it suggest where to live.
Other ways to get financial advice for free
Here is a list of other free advice services, albeit where the focus is on people struggling to make ends meet rather than investing:
Free advice for older people
The Pensions Advisory Service
The Pensions Advice Servce is a sister website to the Money Advice Service covered above. Focusing on matters such as:
- Moving pensions (a complex and high risk area)
- Choosing a pension scheme
- How to setup a scheme as an employer
A charity website offering guidance on a wide range of issues affecting older people.
- Reducing the risk of investment scams
- Protecting the financially vulnerable
- Accessing benefits and assistance only available to the elderly.
TaxHelp for Older People
Useful service partly funded by HMRC which offers advice on its website and over the phone.
Avoiding tax when investing is difficult enough when you are switched onto the news cycle and keep an eye open for changes on the horizon.
Some retirees aren’t as in the loop, may no longer have the disposable income to seek help from a professional. This is where Tax Help for Older People steps in to fill that information void.
Free advice on tackling debt
National debtline is a UK charity with a sizeable team of debt experts manning the phones and ready to answer calls about debt problems.
The debt management industry is full of private companies looking to offer expensive advice to people already in deep financial difficulties. A charity like National Debtline (and StepChange below) can help to break this cycle by providing advice on how to negotiate with lenders without adding to the debt burden.
StepChange (Formerly known as Consumer Credit Counselling Service)
Like National Debtline, StepChange offers assistance at scale to people who feel they are falling into a debt trap. Advice on individual voluntary arrangements, debt consolidation and bankrupty.
Free advice if you’ve been mistreated
Financial Ombudsman Service
The Financial Ombudsman is a regulatory body. It’s the watchdog of the financial services industry.
Unlike the organisations above, the Financial Ombudsman will remain impartial as it investigates both sides to a financial dispute and attempts to resolve complaints in a fair manner.
However, before you officially make a complaint about a financial services provider (such as the stockbroker you chose), you can speak to their staff on the phone to understand what an effective complaint looks like.
The drawbacks of free financial advice
Free information may cost nothing upfront, but it could turn out to be more costly in the long run.
It’s helpful to think of free financial information as ‘financial guidance’ rather than tailored financial advice.
If you need detailed, actionable and clear financial advice which is tailored to your circumstances, you should consider paying for the real deal.
Not only will you receive a high level of service, a dedicated professional and tailored advice, but you will also unlock avenues of redress if things go wrong.