In Part 1 of this article, we looked at the findings of a Treasury Select Committee report into the effectiveness of the Money Advice Service.
The report has been pretty damning, slating them for a number of reasons including overpaid executives, spending too much on marketing, not providing reliable financial advice and being too internet-based when some of its main users may lack the skills to access their site or the basics like an internet connection.
Much of the information within the report is over a year old and changes have been made since, but judging whether the Money Advice Service has turned itself around will equally take time.
In the face of this damning report, we look at some alternatives.
Citizens Advice Bureau
The Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) is a nationwide service that exists to offer people advice on all sorts of matters.
You can find information on their Adviceguide website on matters like “benefits, housing and employment, and on debt, consumer and legal issues”. Visiting your local CAB you can ask for a wide range of information on issues such as benefits, work, debt and money, consumer, relationships, housing, law and rights, discrimination, tax, healthcare and education.
One of the areas where the CAB shines is the ability to go in and speak to someone face-to-face.
A report by the Money Advice Service showed that all of the groups they were aiming to help preferred getting face-to-face advice over any other form of communication, this increased as those looking for advice began to divulge more sensitive information.
The Money Advice Service will help to arrange meetings at the CAB if you request one, which is good to see co-operation between institutions that are set-up to achieve similar goals.
Step Change are a debt management and advice service, set up to provide free help to those who are experiencing money troubles.
This is one of the areas that the Money Advice Service primarily deals in advice, indeed their most recent report looked at individual levels of debt compared to the population of specific local authorities and how the service could help them.
The advice and debt management plans that Step Change offers is tailored to the individual and makes greater steps to help people through their debt remedies than the Money Advice Service, Step Change are already one of the Money Advice Service’s listed providers of help with debt.
However, Step Change is not the place to go if you are looking for advice in other areas such as planning to buy a house or wondering what steps you need to follow to start writing a will.
Professional Financial Advisers
As they cannot give any specific recommendations as to which products may be suitable for you, and recommend seeking professional financial advice, it may be best to do so.
However, the major drawback is that this independent advice will cost you, this may rule out .
Before you decide to take the advice of any financial adviser, find out what they charge and for how long. Either for commission on products you take or a fee per visit.
To try and make the industry more approachable for customers, the FSA ruled that customers could only be charged in one way by financial advisers an “either or” situation with commission or upfront fees.
This is something that you should decide which is best.
If you are told about a product or scheme by an independent adviser and you do not understand it, then do not be afraid to ask questions. You are paying for this advice and it is your right to understand what you are buying into. Before you decide upon following a particular path, satisfy yourself that you are happy with it. Investing is full of risks, you are not guaranteed a return.
MoneySavingExpert.com And Other Financial Advice Blogs
MoneySavingExpert.com acts as a consumer championing website, fighting to ensure that consumers are getting a fair deal across all types of products and services.
They have plenty of tools and advice guides on a wide range of topics. There is also a forum that contains many active members all looking to give and take advice on money saving matters.
There are also hundreds of other blogs and advice websites who can offer advice and stories of previously made mistakes that you can learn from.
Most of these blogs will also state that the information displayed is a guide, rather than constituting reliable financial advice so you will still have to satisfy yourself that any advice is appropriate for your situation.
If you feel that you need advice on money matters, the Money Advice Service is still a good option to turn to, but this guide shows that there are alternatives. If you need help, do not be embarrassed to ask for it.
Doing your own research will always be of help as well as the decisions you take ultimately fall to you.