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What's the difference between guidance and advice?

Updated 22 December 2022

2min read

Nick Green
Financial Journalist

The government service Pension Wise offers free guidance on pension options, but is it the same as 'advice'? Here’s one way of looking at the difference between advice and guidance. Article by Nick Green.

Advice or just guidance?

Guidance can help you decide on a course of action. So can advice. Does mean the two are really the same? Well, not really. The difference lies in how much help you get with your decisions – and what exactly you’re trying to achieve. We think the following examples sum it up quite well.

Can you tell me the way to the High Street?

Guidance: Drive to the end of this road, turn left, then keep going.

Advice: Yes, but you won’t be able to park that 4×4 there today. I’d use this car park here, then take that footpath, it’s a short cut.

I need to hire someone for my son’s party. Any ideas?

Guidance: Here’s a list of some great clowns and magicians!

Advice: How old is your son? Eighteen, you say? In that case, I know a good DJ.

May I use your bathroom?

Guidance: Certainly, it’s at the top of the stairs.

Advice: Certainly. Mind your head on the low beam as you climb the stairs. Gentle with the flush lever, it breaks off in your hand. And careful how you use that hot tap, the water’s scalding.

What are my options for taking my pension?

Guidance: Here is a list of the choices now available. I can’t tell you which is best in your case.

Advice: After considering your personal circumstances, and your goals for yourself and your family, I’ve narrowed it down to a handful. I’ll take you through the pros and cons of each one in detail. By the end, you should be able to make a very confident choice. I will then help you put this plan into effect.

Of course, the Pension Wise free guidance guarantee is very important. Pensions are now highly customisable, and you can tailor your pension arrangements to suit your needs and lifestyle – but tailoring takes expertise that most of us don’t have. Many people approaching retirement will face a plethora of choices for which they are ill-prepared. Free guidance should, at the very least, help to prevent total bewilderment.

But once the guidance has laid out your possible routes into retirement, what then? Do you make your best guess? The consequences of getting it wrong are too severe. Guidance may be useful, but proper advice is essential, if you want a reasonable chance of getting where you want to be.

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About the author
Nick Green is a financial journalist writing for Unbiased.co.uk, the site that has helped over 10 million people find financial, business and legal advice. Nick has been writing professionally on money and business topics for over 15 years, and has previously written for leading accountancy firms PKF and BDO.