Updated 23 April 2020
The coronavirus outbreak means that mingling and meeting new people may be out – at least for a while. But the advice to self-isolate is no barrier to finding financial advice – as most IFAs and mortgage brokers are happy to help you remotely. Article by Nick Green (currently working from home).
Even in a pandemic, you can’t just put your life on hold. People aged 70 and over have been advised to limit contact with others as much as possible, as a precaution against catching the potentially fatal COVID-19 disease. But if you’re in or near this age range, you will have another big concern on your mind: your retirement income.
There is, ironically, a big overlap between those who are most at risk from coronavirus, and those most in need of receiving one-to-one financial advice. If you’re entering your sixties, you should be thinking seriously about how you will access your private pensions. On the other hand, if you’ve already started to draw on these pensions, you may have concerns over how the coronavirus might be affecting them (given its impact on global stock markets). Or you might be at the point of retirement itself.
All of which means that financial advice simply can’t wait. Traditionally, a financial adviser will meet you face to face, often coming out to your own home. But remote advice has always been available from many IFAs and mortgage brokers, and in the current circumstances looks set to become far more common – whether from choice or necessity.
To find a financial adviser (or mortgage adviser) who will advise you via phonecall or video call, simply use the Unbiased Matching Tool in the normal way. When the tool asks you for more information about your enquiry, just say you’d like to receive advice remotely (you can even specify how). Your enquiry will then be directed to a suitable adviser.
Under normal circumstances, most people prefer to meet their adviser in person, and advisers agree that this method generally works best. ‘It’s easier for both parties,’ says Richard Lee, a Chartered Financial Planner and managing director of Windsor Financial Planning. But like many advisers, he recognises that for some this will have to change.
‘Given the current situation with coronavirus, I’m reminding my clients that I offer remote meetings using Facetime, Skype or any other means that are convenient for them,’ he says. He points out that waiting until later is not always an option, as some financial arrangements and transactions may be time-sensitive.
For example, if some is considering transferring their defined benefit pension, they must keep to a strict 12-week deadline before a new transfer value will be calculated. ‘There’s no saying whether this [transfer value] will rise or fall quite significantly at times,’ says Richard. ‘This in itself can be detrimental to their plans.’ Furthermore, someone may be transferring their pension on grounds of ill health, and may not have the luxury of waiting a long time.
More broadly, you might simply be approaching your chosen retirement date and don’t want to work past it if you can avoid this. That means you will need to access your pension pot, and you shouldn’t do this without first seeking advice.
Another urgent situation may have arisen if you are currently taking your pension via drawdown, as this may have been affected badly by the stock market. Financial advice can help you navigate the rough periods where your pot shrinks due to market crashes.
Delaying a financial decision may have unforeseeable or undesirable consequences, and in general it is better to act in plenty of time. Therefore, during the COVID-19 crisis, remote advice will be the way forward for many more people.
A financial adviser will of course be happy to talk to you on the phone at any time. However, this may not be the best way to build up a relationship from day 1. Given the personal nature of what is being discussed – from finances to family circumstances and retirement dreams – people like to put a face to a name and build trust that way.
Online video calls are generally the next best thing to meeting in person. Of course, not everyone is familiar or comfortable with these channels of communication, so it can sometimes help to have a family member around to assist. If this person is someone whom you see regularly anyway, despite restricting your other social contact, then at least you won’t be increasing the number of people you come into contact with, so won’t run a higher risk of contracting the coronavirus.
Your financial adviser will need to have sight of certain documents in order to assess your finances and provide an expert view. In most cases these can either be posted, or scanned and sent electronically.
One possible advantage of being able to take advice remotely is that you have a greater choice of potential advisers. This can be especially helpful if there are not so many advisers based in your area. That said, even if you don’t initially plan to see them in person, it is probably still better to choose an adviser who is reasonably local. The virus-related restrictions will not last forever, and if you like your adviser you will probably prefer to hold future consultations in person.
There can also be immediate advantages to having your IFA within reachable distance. Richard again cites the example of time-sensitive transactions. ‘If you are waiting on a report on your pension transfer, for instance, you don’t want it to be delayed by the postal service. If my client is reasonably local, I’ll happily hand-deliver important documents to ensure they get there on time.’
A majority of advisers agree that local is usually best, even when remote advice becomes necessary. Still, it is reassuring to know that many more financial experts are potentially just a video call away.
Richard believes that financial advisers share the moral responsibility of trying to control COVID-19 in the UK, while enabling people to take the financial decisions crucial to their retirement and other future plans. ‘At present, I’d encourage my own clients, particularly those over 50, to adopt this method at least for the interim to help reduce the spread of the virus.’
To find an adviser near you who can provide a remote service during the crisis (or indeed at any time), just click the link below.
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