Consumer rights: Where to go for a helping hand with your cash
Make sure you get good advice on anything from a pension to a home loan, even if you have to pay
Saturday 25 January 2014
If you’re giving your finances a spring clean and need advice, make sure the adviser fits the bill.
Are you having problems paying the post-festive season bills? Or are you lucky enough to have money to squirrel away and no idea how to get the best return on it? You might expect anyone who offers any sort of money advice to be able to help with anything to do with money. But it’s a case of horses for courses when it comes to finances and you need to be careful that you don’t back the wrong one. Complex money matters need a range of skills and expertise and it isn’t always easy to know where to find the right person for the job.
If you have some money to save or invest and don’t feel you’ve the knowledge to do it yourself you’ll probably have to pay for advice. If you don’t have any money and need help to get out of a financial fix go for the free advice options.
Retail investment products - stock market-based investments such as unit trusts where the return on your money isn’t guaranteed, life policies, annuities and pensions - are the domain of financial advisers. Since last year advisers selling these products can’t take commission from the companies whose products they sell. They have to work out their own fees for the services they offer and agree those with you before giving you any advice.
You should be able to have confidence that you’re getting the best advice for you rather than the adviser giving you biased advice in order to get the best commission. The rules apply to advisers who operate independently and to advisers in banks, building societies and insurance companies who sell the products of those organisations.
Advisers must tell you whether the advice they give is independent or restricted. An adviser claiming to give independent advice must be genuinely free to recommend the best product for you. Restricted advisers will look at a narrower range of products and may specialise in a particular type of product such as pensions, or be tied to one or more providers and advise only on their products.
Financial advisers must also be qualified, subscribe to a code of ethics and keep their knowledge up-to-date. Check their qualifications and fees first.
Some banks and building societies that used to offer financial advice have switched to an “information only” service which won’t ask questions about your personal circumstances and won’t be able to assess which products are suitable for you. This might seem like a good option because there’s no fee but if you buy a financial product without advice you have less protection if the product turns out to be unsuitable for you or you lose money. You will only be talked through the bank or building society’s own products – not products from the whole market. And the advice provider will still take a fee out of the money you invest. Ask what that fee will be so that you can compare it against the cost of getting other advice.
The rules on regulated investments don’t apply to the sale of cash savings products, like general insurance, life insurance or mortgages – unless they are sold to you at the same time.
The Money Advice Service website has a lot of useful information on managing your money and finding the right advisers, and www.unbiased.co.uk has details of thousands of advisers. There is free advice available from Citizens Advice Bureaux on many high streets, and you can also get help from National Debtline on 0808 808 4000, and online from Step Change . Mymoneysteps.org is an interactive online tool on how to manage your money and make a budget. Taxaid on www.taxaid.org.uk and Tax Help for Older People give help on tax to people on low incomes.
So don’t stick your head in the sand and ignore impending problems. The sooner you get help the easier it will be to get back on a firm financial footing.
Q: I’ve decided 2014 is the year I finally open my own business and my partner and I have found premises for a coffee shop. We want to make it a real community resource and use local suppliers. We feel we’ve got our heads around the finances and legalities, but do we need to be VAT- registered? KC, Manchester
A: This is a decision you can put off until you see how well the business does. You don’t need to register for VAT until your income is at a level at which you think you will have made more than the threshold figure in the past 12 months. So if in December 2014 your figures are indicating that you’re likely to make £79,000 in the 12 months between January 2014 and January 2015 it’s time to register.
If the products you sell are exempt from VAT you can’t register but if you sell any on which VAT is added to the price you can choose to register. If you don’t register you won’t be able to claim back any VAT you pay on goods you buy in.
Food and drink for human consumption is, in general, zero-rated but many items are standard-rated, including alcoholic drinks, crisps and snacks and hot food – lots of which your cafe might sell. See http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/vat/start/index.htm for more information, and the VAT helpline is on 0300 200 3700.
27 March 2015 08:30 PM
20 March 2015 07:30 PM
How to make the most of Isas: You can save more money now, the returns are tax-free and the rules are flexible
20 March 2015 07:30 PM
13 March 2015 09:00 PM
13 March 2015 09:00 PM
10 March 2015 09:03 AM
The Financial Conduct Authority found non-compliance in all reviewed firms
11 March 2015 11:38 AM
Pension expert John Lawson talks on why improved longevity is something to plan for carefully
06 March 2015 08:30 PM
02 March 2015 10:50 AM
The DWP and the FCA have joined forces to investigate transaction charges in occupational pension schemes
04 March 2015 03:00 PM
The company was found to have unacceptably long call waiting times
27 February 2015 07:30 PM
27 February 2015 07:30 PM
27 February 2015 12:01 AM
The NHS is currently bearing a yearly burden of approximately £1.5bn treating cold-related illnesses every winter
Debt in Britain: Numbers seeking help on how to cope with mounting bills goes up by more than half in three years
Bargain Hunter: BT improves its mobile reception with 'incredibly competitive' deals
Questions of Cash: Why was my case ignored by My Civil Service Pension?
Offset your mortgage and save thousands
Women to lose benefits from contracted-out pension scheme
- 1 Vladimir Putin says Russia will fight for the right of Palestinians to their own state
- 3 Germanwings plane crash: I have depression. That doesn't make me a psychopath
- 4 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 5 The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
iJobs Money & Business
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: To provide a prompt, friendly and efficient se...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will be the first point of contact for all...
£18000 - £24000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Of...
£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...
Day In a Page
This four-bedroom cottage is a Grade II-listed town house, well-located for the thriving market town of Nailsworth.
A four-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a stunning period property in North Yorkshire, with two kitchens and a large south-west facing garden.
This high-spec two-bedroom home is part of a smart collection of new flats at Beaufort Park and has a large decked balcony that's perfect for summer drinks.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Overlooking a golf course, this six-bedroom Edwardian detached home spans four storeys and retains many period features including the original, operational servants' bells...
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
In a Grade II-listed manor just outside of Bath, this three-bedroom home is arranged on two floors with a skylight in a vaulted roof line.
Open the living room's bi-fold wooden doors to reveal a retro-style kitchen, and a conservatory leading to a paved garden at this three-bedroom home.
A Grade II-listed, four-bedroom home, in a charming Somerset village, with a two-storey studio that could be converted into a holiday cottage
A modern four-bedroom Victorian home, within walking distance to the high street
A luxury apartment in the Gothic mansion of Wyfold Court in Kingwood, offers six bedrooms spread over three floors and a turret
This school conversion, near Stockwell Tube, oozes New York loft style. The one-bedroom flat features double height ceilings and exposed brick work
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
A boutique mews house, set around a central courtyard, with three bedrooms and a private roof terrace
A four-bedroom farm-conversion with three bathrooms and two reception rooms
A two-bedroom detached house with ensuite bathrooms and a sun-drenched decked terrace, £750,000
A modern and spacious two-bedroom, penthouse flat with two bathrooms in a prestigious development
A beautifully renovated five-bedroom terrace with three reception rooms and a courtyard garden, £700,000
A four-bedroom period house which has been extended to provide almost 2,500sq ft of living space, £675,000
A pretty three-bedroom Georgian home with a 22ft drawing room and a master suite with a balcony, £525,000
A substanstial family home with five bedrooms and landscaped gardens in the much sought-after Branksome Park area
A well-presented three-bedroom house with front and rear gardens, close to White City station, £475,000
A handsome five-bedroom house in a sought-after location close to the city centre
A five-bedroom country home with valley views, equestrian stables and 27 acres of land, £725,000
A six-bedroom farm house with separate, detached cottages and 371 acres of land
A two-bedroom cottage with parquet floors, chunky beams and an open fireplace
A three-bedrrom flat with 2,733sq feet of living space, a beautiful private garden and 15 acres of communal grounds
A four-bedroom chalet bungalow with three bathrooms and a spacious garden, £525,000
A two-bedroom flat with an open plan kitchen and two balconies, close to Arsenal station