Wanted: IFAs to help the needy

14 March 2008

Whilst current financial ‘hard times’ have forced people to become more money-savvy and having an independent financial adviser is not unusual, it seems that not everyone is able to make use of their services.

 If you are looking to clear debts, start building up a small nest–egg, or need a more dramatic overhaul of your spending patterns, turning to an IFA seems like the next logical step.Consumers are attracted, funnily enough, by the ‘independent‘ aspect of IFAs. After meeting with frustrating ‘computer says no’–type responses, here are professionals able to offer impartial advice that will benefit the consumer rather than the banks or providers.

 However, to put it simply, it seems to get advice about money you need to have money. On one level this makes sense, after all who would go to a business adviser if they weren’t running a business? In the same way if you haven’t got funds to play with what can an IFA do for you?

 Equally if you don’t have a business but one day hope to run one – you would still go and see an adviser. Likewise, if you are in a bad way financially but want to improve your situation, it would be nice to be able to call on the experts. Instead of getting advice from the best–qualified people, those in debt or poor financial situations must turn tothe Citizen’s Advice Bureau or to debt helplines (eek). Typing ‘debt advice’ into Google brings up a confusing array of ‘free’ and ‘independent’ services.

 While Citizens Advice offers general guidance on legal and monetary queries,it relies upon 20,000–plus volunteers and, as Rachel said in her blog, some bureau have 12 week waiting lists.At the start of this month, Otto Thorensen’s report, commissioned by the Treasury, proposed setting up anational service called the Money Guidance Service. It will be sales-free and impartial but it will also stop short of recommending specific products.

 So while I am not knocking this proposal – or the Citizens Advice Bureau – I am appealing for a new breed of IFAs who caters to clients with less spending power behind them. Just as Robin Hood gave to the poor (I am omitting the ‘stealing from the rich’ part), there must be some IFAs out there who want to give to those who really need their help.

 In a shameless plug, I should add that another way to get your finances looked at, if you can’t afford meeting with an IFA, is to apply for a Money Makeover, where IFAs do give free advice and help.


 Nathalie Bonney is editorial assistant at Moneywise.