On Friday the Times ran a 4 page pull out which was entitled “how to become a financial expert”. Now this in itself doesn’t sound like a bad idea, after all, who wouldn’t want to be more informed about their money. What I would question, however, is just how much of an “expert” you are expected to become.
To put things into context, I am the proud holder of no less than 12 financial planning qualifications, which have a combined suggested study time of well over 1500 hours. I am also in the process of studying for two more! Combine this with many years of experience, countless hours of technical research and a rigorous continuing professional development programme and I don’t think I am blowing my trumpet too much if I refer to myself as someone who knows a thing or two about finance.
To expect others to possess this level of knowledge and experience is clearly un-realistic. For example, when researching an ISA recommendation (which is quite simple in the grand scheme of things) for a client, I was presented with no less than 240 options and variables. To arrive at a suitable recommendation took several hours of analysis. I would suggest that for someone who does not do this each and every day, the time required would be considerably more and the outcome probably not the very best solution available.
When I need advice on an employment contract, I seek assistance from a corporate lawyer. If I need to check if my proposed house purchase is a good investment, I ask a chartered surveyor to produce a report. I seek help from these professionals because I am well aware that I lack the knowledge, skills, qualifications and experience to do the work myself.
I think it is unlikely that next weekend the papers will run a pull out called “how to become your own legal expert” or “how to do your own structural survey”, so why should financial planning be any different. In the same way that I felt I had received extremely good value for money when a Chartered Surveyor told me that a house I was planning to purchase had subsidence, my clients feel that I have added significant value to their financial situation and are happy to pay for that service.
While I agree that we should all be a bit better informed when it comes to our finances, surely this would be best achieved by working in conjunction with an experienced professional, rather than going it alone!