Money Talk: Self-help? We are not worthy

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The Independent Online
I WOULD NOT normally plug other people's finance books when you could buy mine instead, but I've been jolted into a rare moment of solidarity by a sniffy review of one of my favourite guides.

Be Your Own Financial Adviser is a really good introduction to financial planning. Written by Jonquil Lowe and published by the Consumers' Association (pounds 9.99), the new edition is out now. It also explains everything in English, unlike some professional financial advisers I can think of.

"I'm just wondering when the Consumers' Association will commission someone to write Be Your Own Plastic Surgeon," writes Tony Bridgland, who is, yes you guessed it, an independent financial adviser. And his review appears in a trade magazine for financial advisers, so he can pretty sure of a favourable reaction from the 99 per cent of his readers who might feel threatened.

The general message is that we punters should leave all this complicated stuff well alone, and let the professionals get on with it. I admit he has a good point. Financial planning is a massive subject and Mr Bridgland highlights a few silly mistakes and over-simplifications. He clearly knows his stuff.

Even so, he feels that the book ought to give readers enough information to do their own planning. In this world the only role for a financial adviser would be as a buyer who does the customer's bidding. In fact Ms Lowe does recommend that readers get advice from an IFA - if only because it is harder to get compensation if you do everything yourself and then something goes wrong. Many people don't realise that you lose much of the protection of the law if you buy your own investments and they turn out to be useless or wrong for your needs.

So if you take advice from financial advisers, and then buy through them, you get protection. Plus, they might well suggest a better investment than the ones you've already considered.

For some reason this makes advisers feel unloved. I get the impression that those of us who prefer to be informed consumers have offended them. I wish they'd start being a bit more grateful that people want to learn about money. It's almost as though advisers don't want us to know anything, and would prefer us to depend on their words of wisdom. Surely that can't be true?