Kate Hughes: If I'd won £148m I'd call for financial advice

 

I'm not sure about you, but if I'd just won £148m and change in the Euromillions lottery I wouldn't be elated, I'd be terrified. And I certainly wouldn't be doing press interviews no matter how cajoling the people at Camelot were.

The first things it seems Adrian and Gillian Bayford did was call their families, friends and Domino's, pick out the dream car, decide one of them would quit work and browse the EasyJet website.

Now all these are things I imagine I'd consider myself at some stage in the proceedings, especially as I'm more than a little bit partial to pizza. But the very first thing I'd do, without hesitation, is go scrambling for my independent financial adviser's mobile number.

The quote from the Camelot press release claims they said: "This money has come at the right time for us and is going to benefit the whole family... everyone's life is going to be so much more enjoyable and stress-free."

Which rang alarm bells with me. This is just shy of £149m we're talking about which, as we all gleefully reported, puts them above Jamie Oliver, Sir Tom Jones and Eric Clapton to claim 516th spot on the Sunday Times Rich List.

I challenge you to try to even imagine that level of cash and its effects. Surely life won't be stress-free, there will just be different stress, such as, ooh I don't know, inheritance tax planning.

Camelot offers all winners of more than £500,000 the opportunity to take on independent advice, which is somewhat of a relief because there was never a couple so in need of guidance.

But no-one should need a £148m incentive to seek financial advice. The most recent figures from a joint report from unbiased.co.uk, the not-for-profit advice search facility, and Standard Life, has found that, of those who took financial advice in the first week of June alone, 76 per cent believe they made suitable product decisions for their financial circumstances, compared with only 67 per cent who didn't seek a second opinion. And the reported advantages included a renewed peace of mind, confidence in being able to provide for their family, the ability to understand complex financial products and saving time, as well as the chance to regularly review financial circumstances and goals.

Into the midst of all this arrives the news this week that the Money Advice Service (MAS), the much-criticised public service created by the Government for consumers, has only referred 3,000 of its 1.3 million users for regulated financial advice over the last year – a miniscule 0.2 per cent – according to its annual review. This will come as a blow to advisers who contribute massively to the industry levy that funds the service.

The MAS sits in a very weird position, reportedly keen to avoid providing or regulating financial advice and subsequently having to answer questions, including from the Treasury Select Committee, about what it's role actually is. And then there was that issue of a marketing budget of £11.25m, and its chief exec's salary.

It's certainly a summer MAS won't forget, but if it can't get its house in order, what hope have the rest of us got? Now where did I put that number...

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