I intend to set up a meeting with a financial adviser. I have not taken my private pension as yet.

The financial adviser will be changing me, I think 0.75 per cent of what the pension is worth, which I can understand.

I am going to elect for a face-to-face meeting. What do I need to ask him or her?

I know everyone’s case is different, but can you give me just a basic overview of what I need to ask them please?

The financial adviser is also saying they can offer me yearly ongoing help. Again, it’s a percentage of what the pension is worth.

Can you steer me to what I need to think about on this and if I need it, as for me this would come to thousand of pounds a year.

They suggested I would need an accountant to help with filling in tax forms, but that is not included with the ongoing fee, so I might need to find one separately.


Steve Webb replies: High quality financial advice can be a good investment, often paying for itself many times over through better financial outcomes and greater peace of mind.

But it can be hard to find the right adviser and not all advisers are of the highest quality.

So, I will consider how you find an adviser in the first place as well as what to ask at your first meeting.

If you simply put ‘find financial adviser’ into an internet search engine, the top ‘hits’ are likely to be paid-for adverts.

But just because someone has paid to come out top, it doesn’t automatically mean they are a good advice firm.

If you go to the Government’s MoneyHelper site you can find information about types of adviser and also some suggestions on how to find one.

MoneyHelper has its own ‘Retirement Adviser Directory’ but this simply gives you a list of advisers close to your postcode.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t give you a clue as to who would be the best in your circumstances.

There are various other adviser directory services including Unbiased, the Personal Finance Society, or Vouched For, though in some cases advice firms will have paid to be listed on these sites.

You can also look at online ratings of advisers by consumers on sites such TrustPilot or ask around friends and family to see if they have used the services of an adviser who they would recommend.

However, as you rightly say, there is no substitute for a face-to-face meeting when deciding if an adviser is right for you.

In terms of what to ask at a first meeting, a key point is that you don’t have to go with the first adviser you see.

Most advisers should be willing to have a free introductory conversation and, if possible, you should try to see a couple of advisers before deciding who to choose.

During those conversations, take note of the questions which the adviser asks you.

Ideally their priority should be to get to know you and what is important to you. Good financial advice should be tailored to the individual, and if they don’t take time to get to know you, how will they give good advice?

Second, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Pensions and retirement is an area which can be complex and has a lot of jargon.

A good adviser will welcome your questions and answer them clearly. If you don’t understand what your adviser is saying, or they make it difficult for you to ask questions, then they’re probably not the right person for you.

After a first meeting you should have a clear idea of what services the adviser will provide and how much you will have to pay.

You should know how much you have to pay upfront for initial advice, and what you might be paying on an ongoing basis.

In your question you suggested that you weren’t 100 per cent sure what you would be paying, and you should definitely clarify this before committing yourself to anything.

If there are ongoing charges, you should be clear what you are getting in return. The adviser shouldn’t simply take a slice out of your pension pot each year without doing something for it.

You would not dream of spending thousands of pounds on a car or a new bathroom without shopping around and being clear what you are getting for the money, and it should not be different with financial advice.

Some other topics to cover could include how the advice firm typically invests their client’s money, and what qualifications the adviser has?

For example, some advisers might specialise in particular areas (such as members of the Society of Later Life Advisers) or have taken additional exams or qualifications.

Finally, if, after having given an adviser a fair try, you decide that they are not right for you, it should be straightforward to end the relationship.

Before entering into any deal, therefore, you should be clear whether there would be any charges or penalties if you changed your mind at a later stage.

I’m grateful to Claire Walsh, Chartered Financial Planner at Dartington Wealth Management, for helpful insights in responding to this reader’s question, but all views expressed are my own.

Ask Steve Webb a pension question

Former pensions minister Steve Webb is This Is Money's agony uncle.

He is ready to answer your questions, whether you are still saving, in the process of stopping work, or juggling your finances in retirement.

Steve left the Department for Work and Pensions after the May 2015 election. He is now a partner at actuary and consulting firm Lane Clark & Peacock.

If you would like to ask Steve a question about pensions, please email him at [email protected].

Steve will do his best to reply to your message in a forthcoming column, but he won't be able to answer everyone or correspond privately with readers. Nothing in his replies constitutes regulated financial advice. Published questions are sometimes edited for brevity or other reasons.

Please include a daytime contact number with your message - this will be kept confidential and not used for marketing purposes.

If Steve is unable to answer your question, you can also contact MoneyHelper, a Government-backed organisation which gives free assistance on pensions to the public. It can be found here and its number is 0800 011 3797.

Steve receives many questions about state pension forecasts and COPE – the Contracted Out Pension Equivalent. If you are writing to Steve on this topic, he responds to a typical reader question about COPE and the state pension here.

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