Advice & guidance


With more options now than ever before over how and when to finance your retirement, most people will have more than a few questions that need answering. So if you're one of those feeling confused and left wondering who you can approach for advice and guidance about retirement, then relax! We look at why advice and guidance is important and how to get started.

Why do I need advice or guidance about retirement?

You may be very clear about what you'd like to happen and how you're going to secure a comfortable retirement financially, but the fact of the matter is that decisions you make now could affect you for the rest of your life.

What's more, you may not be up to speed with the latest changes in pension rules and regulations. Pensions, annuities and long term financial planning are complicated subjects, so any information that helps you make an informed decision is a good thing.

Where can I get advice or guidance?

The government has introduced a free service called Pension Wise that can help you decide what to do. The service won't tell you what's right for you, but it will explain the options that you have available and provide you with information about aspects of your finances. You can access the service online, talk to someone over the phone, or meet face to face.

Using the Pension Wise service will enable you to think through key issues such as:

  • Understanding how you might be affected if you continue working, if you change your personal circumstances and if you wish to leave money after you die
  • Understand the different options for accessing your pension pots and the potential advantages and disadvantages of each
  • Understand the tax implications of your choice

The Pension Wise service is free and impartial. They will not recommend companies or tell you how to use your pension pot or invest your money. If you require someone to help you make these sort of choices then you might be better off seeking financial advice.

Where can I get financial advice?

For a start you may have access to financial advice through your workplace – it's worth checking to find out if that's the case. But if not, then an independent financial adviser is an excellent choice, as you'll be sure of getting an impartial view on your finances.

Some advisers offer a "restricted" or even "simplified" advice service which may be appropriate depending on how complex you feel your financial needs are, however, bear in mind you'll only get information about a limited range of products or product providers for these services. Don't worry, the adviser should clearly explain which service he or she offers, and how much they will charge for their services.

What can I do if I don't want to pay for advice?

Full financial advice comes at a cost as it requires a great deal of training and expertise to become a professional financial adviser.

If you cannot afford to pay for advice (even though it can prove to be a prudent decision for many), you can access the government's Pension Wise service. You can also get advice from not-for-profit groups such as The Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS) or the Citizens Advice, acting on behalf of the Government.

Where can I find a financial adviser?

You can always find an independent financial adviser in your area on thepfs.org or unbiased.co.uk – websites devoted to listing details of advisers, both restricted and independent.

What's the best way to 'take' advice?

We suggest you go armed to any financial appointment with three things – a notepad, a pen, and an open mind – but also spend some valuable time preparing in advance:

  • Dig out the information you have about your finances and remind yourself which products and schemes you're already involved with
  • Organise your thoughts so you know how much is in savings; where your investments are and what the risk levels may be; what your pension contributions are and with which providers you've made arrangements, and what your tax and estate planning situation is at the moment – what are you paying, which benefits do you receive, and what plans have you already made?
  • Make a list of questions, and don't dismiss 'silly queries' – they're often the most important
  • Take notes about the subjects you cover as you go. Even if you jot down your thoughts in brief, it's a good way to recap at the end of the meeting and make sure you've not missed anything

How will I know if it's good advice?

You'll get a 'suitability report' after a meeting, which outlines what you've talked about and makes recommendations to you. Read any information you're given carefully. Make sure it reflects the discussion you had, and if you're not sure why a particular product has been recommended – ask. Remember, you are not always obliged to take advice – but without it, you may make costly mistakes.

However, there are some exceptions where you are required to seek advice by law. For example, if you have a:

  • final salary or career average pension (known as a ‘defined benefit’ pension) worth more than £30,000 and you want to transfer it to a defined contribution pension scheme

or...

  • a defined contribution pension worth more than £30,000 with a guarantee about what you’ll be paid when you retire and you want to give it up to do something else with your pot

How much will it cost?

Plumbers don't fix taps for free. Realistically, it may cost you a few hundred pounds to get in-depth independent advice on products and services that help to look after you, financially, for the rest of your life. But the probability is that really good, sound advice will not only save you money in the long run, it could actually help you make wise decisions that give you a more secure income. Ideally, you should plan to review your situation on a regular basis.

To get you started on asking the right practical questions, why not take a look at our short video below: