Is a Financial Planner Right for Everyone?

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Creating your own financial plan is fairly easy and accessible. The internet offers budgeting spreadsheets, investment calculators, and trading platforms. Everything you need to plan your future and build a financially independent lifestyle is literally at your fingertips.

So why do we still need financial planners?

The web can provide you with the tools you need, but sometimes you might require some help putting it all together. A financial planner can offer a valuable objective opinion, and might have an insight that you hadn’t considered.

While not everyone needs a financial planner, everyone should have a financial plan. Below, we look at the main aspects of your financial plan, outline the parts you can do yourself, and point out when a financial planner might be able to help.

Goal Setting

The first step towards creating your financial plan is to understand what you would like to achieve. This may be a first step on the property ladder, a comfortable retirement, or anything else in between.

To make your goal more concrete, you should:

  •         Set a target date and amount.
  •         Write it down.
  •         Revisit it regularly. Are you on track? Is your goal still the same or have your priorities changed? Do you have any new goals you want to add?

Once you have your goals in mind, you can build your financial decisions around them.

Consider a Financial Planner If:

You would like some extra encouragement, and to be held accountable for achieving your goals even when other priorities take over.

Budgeting and Cash Management

To achieve your goals, you need to get your money working efficiently. To get started:

  •       Keep your spending under control, and ensure you have a purpose for any surplus income, whether this is reducing debt or investing towards your goals. There are a number of calculators available online that can help you set target amounts.
  •         Build up an emergency fund of around 6 months’ expenditure.
  •         Avoid holding more than £85,000 with any one banking group to benefit from maximum protection if the bank fails.

Consider a Financial Planner If:

You need some help with long-term cashflow planning, or if you have large amounts of cash that you are unsure what to do with.

Debt Reduction

Expensive debt can derail a financial plan, but there are times when credit can be useful. To manage debt successfully:

  •         Shop around for the best mortgage deal.
  •         Weigh up the benefits of overpaying your mortgage versus investing.
  •         Use a credit card to benefit from buyer protection, but pay off the balance as soon as possible.
  •         Avoid payday loans or other expensive borrowing.

Consider a Financial Planner If:

You are unsure whether to invest or clear debt, or if you need professional advice to find the best mortgage deal.

Insurance

Everyone of working age should have insurance, particularly if they have a family. The main types are:

  •         Life cover, which pays out a lump sum on death.
  •         Critical illness, which pays out if you are diagnosed with a serious medical condition.
  •         Income protection, to replace your salary if you are unable to work long-term.

You may have some cover through your employer, but is it likely to be enough? Taking into account lost earnings and pension contributions, could you (or your dependants) still live a comfortable lifestyle if the worst happened?  

Consider a Financial Planner If:

You need some help deciding how much cover to arrange, or if you have medical factors that might make it more difficult to obtain insurance.

Investing

Investing for the first time can be daunting, but there is an investment option out there for everyone. To get started:

  •         Use your Stocks and Shares ISA allowance. You can invest up to £20,000 per year and the returns are free of tax.
  •         Take an appropriate amount of risk based on your goals, personal attitude, and the amount you could afford to lose.
  •         Ensure your investments are well-diversified.

Generally index-trackers or multi-asset funds are good choices for novice investors, as they limit the amount of active involvement required. Asset allocation and selection is taken care of behind the scenes, so all you need to do is choose the right fund.

Consider a Financial Planner If:

You have money to invest over and above your annual ISA allowance, including any lump sums, or if you want to make sure that any existing investments are held in the best place.

Pensions

Pensions are highly tax-efficient and offer a great way of saving for retirement. To gain the benefits:

  •         Make sure you join your workplace pension if you have one available. Not only will you receive tax relief on your own payments, but your employer will also contribute.
  •         You can also make higher contributions, or even set up your own personal pension if you would like to target a larger retirement fund.
  •         Ensure your fund is invested mainly in equities, particularly if you are more than ten years from retirement.
  •         Increase your contributions every year.

Consider a Financial Planner If:

You have multiple pensions accumulated over the years. Higher rate taxpayers and business owners can also benefit from advice. Pensions can offer significant tax relief, but there can be penalties for getting it wrong.

Estate Planning

When you die, your estate may be subject to Inheritance Tax (IHT) of up to 40%. There are some exceptions to this:

  •         No IHT is payable on the first £325,000 of an individual’s estate (£650,000 for a joint estate).
  •         Providing your estate is valued at under £2 million, a couple may also be able to set up to £350,000 against the value of the family home.
  •         This means that a married couple could accumulate an estate of up to £1 million without being concerned about IHT.

Any gifts you have made in the seven years prior to death may be added back into your estate, unless they total less than £3,000 per year, support charitable causes, or qualify for other exemptions.

Consider a Financial Planner If:

Your estate is likely to be valued at over £325,000 (£650,000 for a couple) when you die and you would like to pay as little IHT as possible. 

Think of a financial planner like a GP. Most people are capable of managing their own day to day healthcare needs. But in some situations, you need the advice of a professional who can offer their expertise and call-in other specialists when needed.

One of the main benefits of having a financial planner is that they will hold you accountable for achieving your goals. It can be easy to procrastinate or be tempted by unsuitable investments. A financial planner can help to keep you on track, navigate your changing circumstances, and prioritise your goals.

Please do not hesitate to contact a member of the team to find out more about how we can help you with your plan.

Tax planning, Estate planning and Cashflow modelling are not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. The value of your investments and the income from them can go down as well as up.

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