Financial products are not exactly easy to understand. Most of them come with acres of gobbledegook, complex terms and conditions, baffling caveats and dense small print.
How come? They have always spoken gobbledegook. It’s what they do. But there’s more. The industry has behaved so badly at various points in its not-so-illustrious history that it has also been forced to accept regulation. Which is all very well but the regulators themselves speak the same ridiculous language, and the consumer-facing information they insist financial services companies provide punters with is almost as difficult to grasp as the products themselves.
It’s a very silly situation. Take our home insurance policy. It renewed a couple of weeks ago, which meant we received a massive bundle of bumph, much of which is opaque in the extreme as well as repetitive, so dull you want to curl up and die and about as far from plain language as it gets. Thanks to the Financial Services Act… not!
Anyway, I thought it might be useful to look at some reliable sources of information about financial products, places where you can find out what’s working and what isn’t, identify new products and services and take a long, hard, fully informed look at the personal finance landscape itself.
8 places to get reliable advice about personal finances
- Insurance brokers act like middle men, with a deep knowledge of the financial markets and the products they sell. Never be scared to ask a broker to explain your insurance choices in language you can understand – that’s what they’re there for, and they will also be able to find the best deals for your particular circumstances. If you don’t know of a good insurance broker, ask around and see if anyone you know can make a word of mouth recommendation.
- IFAs also act as middle men between you and the financial services companies themselves. There are great IFAs and terrible ones, so again a word of mouth recommendation is your best bet. Some deal with the products of only one company or a group of companies, others have access to the entire market.
- The Scotsman finance pages are great if you live in Scotland, which operates under its own law rather than English Law.
- The Telegraph is an excellent source of consumer-focused information written in language everyone can understand. Here’s a link to The Telegraph Personal Finance pages.
- You can also rely on The Financial Times for trustworthy, customer-focused information with no bullshit included. Here’s a link to The Times personal finance pages.
- The BBC website is a prime source of reliable, accurate, plainly-explained information about your money, investments, insurances, saving, pensions and so on. Here’s a link to the BBC’s Your Money pages.
- The Money Pages have been delivering great insight in plain language for 16 years. Here’s a link to their site.
- Personally I wouldn’t trust anything the tabloids say. But they also provide financial insights for their readers. Here’s a link to The Mirror personal finance pages and The Express personal finance resource. The Sun doesn’t come up on page one of Google when you search for ‘personal finance news’, so I’m not bothering to include it.
Like most circumstances, knowledge is power. If you find the whole thing so desperately boring you can’t bear to explore the ins and outs of everything yourself, a broker or IFA is probably your best solution!
What about your bank?
Would you trust a high street bank to deliver sensible, accurate financial advice? I wouldn’t, after a series of dreadful scandals, the banking crisis they started and the recession they played a leading part in creating. I especially wouldn’t trust them to give me advice about stuff like insurance, mortgages and investments, which don’t fall under the banner of core banking services. You may feel differently, in which case a visit to your branch and a meeting with someone senior and experienced – if there is such a person on the premises – might help.
What’s your story?
Where do you get your financial advice? Have you ever fallen foul of the market’s complexities and got it horribly wrong? We’d love to hear your stories…
(thanks to http://efffective.com for the excellent image)