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Here's the deal: You may read the information on the site for free and ask questions. As and when I have the time I'll answer the questions on the website and add new articles. Please do not consider it to be advice - the only free investment advice is to apply your own mind. If you are worried about your investments, I am willing to have a look and improve it. If you are destitute I will try to help free of charge (but you join at the back of the queue). If you are not destitute then email me and we can agree a lower fee (percentage terms, repeating monthly, is fine) than you are currently charged. I have limited time available, and will prioritise the work accordingly, so please be patient. Email me at invest@freeinvestmentadvice.org detailing the situation for which you'd like advice. Rob Baker

Independent Financial Advisors in the UK

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There are many different types of financial products in the UK market, ranging from mortgages and insurance to savings and investments. Knowing which product is right for you can be difficult. In order to choose the most appropriate products, you either need to equip yourself with the skills to do the job or suck up the expense of a independent financial advisor (IFA) - at the minimum you should educate yourself enough to know how to choose a good IPFA.

Many consumers still go to their own bank or building society for financial products, but there may be alternatives on the market that are better suited to them. Whilst some financial advisors only offer advice on services and products from one company or a panel of providers, an independent financial advisor is able to offer from the products available across the whole market (although this is by no means a guarantee that he does consider them all).

Some independent financial advisors specialise in a particular field, for example, mortgages or insurance, whilst others are able to offer advice across several fields, for example, savings, investments and pensions. An independent financial advisor should look at your circumstances and then give advice on the products that best meet your needs.

Exams

Independent financial advisors need to pass exams on a range of regulatory and financial subjects and also have to ensure that they keep up to date with any changes. In addition, independent financial advisors must be registered with the Financial Services Authority (FSA), which means that they must comply with certain rules and meet specified standards. If you receive advice that it not suitable, then there is a formal complaints and resolution process in place.

Choosing an independent financial advisor

There are a number of ways in which to choose an independent financial advisor. The phone book, the internet, or personal recommendations from friends and family are all ways of finding an IFA. It's a good idea to contact several different independent financial advisors before deciding which to use. This way you will get a feel for how you will get on with them, which is particularly important if you will be seeking advice in relation to large sums of money or for products with a long life span.

There are a number of questions that you can ask to help choose the right advisor for you. Check that the advisor is independent and not tied and ask what qualifications they hold. It is always worth double checking that the firm or individual is authorised to provide advice by the Financial Services Authority. The FSA has an online register of authorised parties, so this is straightforward to do.

You should ask about how the independent financial advisor is paid. Some will give you free initial advice and then charge an hourly fee, some get commission on the products that they sell and some use a combination of fees and commission. Your IFA should give you details of their charges and services and talk these through with you.

You should also ask the IFA questions to test their technical knowledge, but that is beyond the scope of this article.

Obtaining independent financial advice is a way of increasing the chances that the financial products that you have are appropriate for your needs. Whether you have calculated how much you can borrow using a mortgage calculator; and need advice on the best mortgage product for you, or are looking for advice on long term investments and pensions, an IFA can assess your needs and your attitude to risk in order to recommend suitable products.

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