General financial advice
By Mike Narouei, Content Producer at Boring Money
9 May, 2017
I don't want your money, honey, I want your love... advice on debts, savings and the stock market.
Regulated, personal financial advice is good (usually), but it is expensive. For many people with relatively small savings pots it is worth looking around for other options, particularly because there are an increasing number available. Even stuffy old finance isn’t immune from the digital revolution.
First, quick caveat, if your finances are complex, you don’t know anything about money and aren’t willing to learn, it can be worth paying an adviser to get your ducks in a row. Messy ducks are no fun at all, and can drive you quackers. Ho ho.
But if your financial affairs are straightforward, a personal pension here, an ISA there, the chances are that you probably won’t need to fork out for a financial adviser and you could pick up all the info you need on t’internet.
This site is focussed on where to save and invest. BUT thinking about saving or investing when you are carrying expensive debt isn’t a good idea. If debt is the massive monkey on your back then think about Citizens Advice (https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/) or the Money Advice Service (https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en) – the latter particularly has some really useful stuff.
If it’s advice on cash savings you’re after, there are a zillion ‘best buy’ websites out there. We like Savings Champion (https://www.savingschampion.co.uk/best-buys/), which also has some handy explanatory notes.
You could also check out ThisisMoney (http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/saving/article-1583864/Best-savings-rates-Isas-Cash-Isa-accounts-fixed-rate-Isas.html) – that’s the Mail’s money site which has regularly updated cash rates for savings accounts and cash ISAs.
Although it is very boring, it is really worth doing your homework. Especially as interest rates are so low. The difference between good and bad can be significant.
The stock market
One of the best places to start is what we call an investment platform. Platforms will usually take you through a guided process, asking about your level of wealth, your age, your ambitions and your tolerance to fluctuations in the value of your savings pot. The Fidelity Pathfinder tool (https://www.fidelity.co.uk/investor/getting-started/the-basics/help-choosing-funds/pathfinder-funds.page) is an OK example. They will then offer a few potential investment options. It’s the equivalent of finding a restaurant which only has three choices, instead of 58. What a relief!
Many also have ready-made portfolios (or baskets of investments) that can be used. For example, Charles Stanley's Foundation portfolios (https://www.charles-stanley-direct.co.uk/Foundation_Portfolios/) give options for different risk levels (cautious, balanced and so on – this is all about how spicy they are). It also has a Foundation Fundlist (https://www.charles-stanley-direct.co.uk/Foundation_Fundlist/), which is its top fund picks in each sector – Europe, the UK etc.
Most platforms will also have recommended fund lists, where their panel of experts pick out the best collective fund of each type, like the Hargreaves Lansdown Wealth 150 (http://www.hl.co.uk/funds/help-choosing-funds/wealth-150).
If you want someone to do it for you, have a look at Wealthify, MoneyFarm or Nutmeg. These guys have pre-packaged portfolios. MoneyFarm is regulated to give advice so there is more help available with picking the right basket of investments to suit your particular needs.
General financial help
The Government sponsored Money Advice Service (https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en) has a loads of basic info – covering debt, pensions, investments and all sorts. It is a bit bureaucractic and personality-less but it does convey the facts in a kinda utilitarian way.
Yes, journalists might not be everyone’s cup of tea but the personal finance pages can be a really useful source of information. ThisisMoney (http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/guides/index.html?ito=timhomebut_guides) do some very good user-friendly guides, for example. They will often be sponsored by a fund company, but you shouldn’t necessarily mistrust them on that score. We also use The Telegraph’s finance pages – these are still free to access online and you don’t (yet?) need a subscription.