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This post was written in collaboration with CISI.

If you’ve followed my career (or even just followed me on Twitter) then you know I love a freebie. So when I heard that the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investments (CISI) are marking Financial Planning Week by offering everyone in the UK a free 1 hour session with a Certified Financial Planner I was very impressed. 

I was able to have my free 1 hour session ahead of Financial Planning Week itself (7th – 11th of October) so I could write up my experience and let you know what to expect. 

So many money blogs focus on the lighter side of money saving; fun side hustles and penny-pinching tips, but the elephant in the room that we can’t legally talk about in specifics are pensions and investing. A free session with a Certified Financial Planner is a fantastic opportunity to get the opinion of someone trained to discuss these topics with you. I definitely recommend you give it a go! 

It’s so hard to know where to start, or what your next step might be. You won’t regret getting a second opinion from someone who knows what they’re talking about.

There’s no need to be clueless! via GIPHY

How does it work? 

The first thing you’ll need to do to claim your free financial planning session is to find a planner you like the sound of either through the CISI website or by calling 020 7645 0777. 

Your free session can take place in person, over the phone or via video chat through Skype, Zoom or FaceTime. 

What do financial planners offer? 

A Financial Planner will listen to your life goals, whatever they may be, and help you draw up a plan to help achieve them. It can definitely be difficult to look at the whole picture when you’re considering your own finances. Your current account could be over-flowing, with a flawless credit score, yet you might still be heading for retirement on the bread line. It’s just not fair.

You can read a more in-depth explanation of what financial planners can do, here

Financial Planning Week 2019

My appointment

I was put in touch with Josh Butten from Milton Keynes based financial planning firm boosst. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I’m glad I was paired with someone young and internet savvy.

My one hour session took place over video chat, so it was pretty convenient for me to fit into my day. I started off by grilling him on the sort of things Certified Financial Planners can offer in general (sorry Josh!), then turned my attention to my own situation, and the common questions I hear from other people my age. 

It’s pretty amazing that Certified Financial Planners like Josh can look at your current situation and map out what your money will do from that point, all the way until you die. He assures me it’s a bit scary, but these forecasts can actually be incredibly accurate. I’d definitely like some pre-warning of what my financial future could hold! You can try out the sort of software financial planners use for free here.

Unfortunately, there’s still a lot of uncertainty ahead of me as I’m only in my mid-twenties, so I can’t get a plan like that at the moment. But, what I did get from Josh is some incredible tips to help me level up my finances. 

Here are some general takeaways I got from my appointment that might help you, too:

  • Financial independence isn’t just when you finish working. I’m not sure what I really think about the FIRE movement, all the people who preach about it the most all seem to still be working, selling courses and doing speeches years after they allegedly “retired”. I thought Josh’s idea that financial independence is just when you work because you want to, not just because we have to. 
  • We’re all already investors. Have a bank account? You’re an investor. Your money isn’t just sitting in a vault with your name on it, it’s being used to make the bank money. What’s up to you is whether you’re seeing a good return on it, or letting someone else get rich from your work. 
  • Don’t pay attention to “top 10” lists on investment platforms. ’Top 10’ lists look like advice and feel like advice – but the company providing the list takes no advice responsibility for their selections.  As most “top 10” fund lists are promoted by companies who receive a kick-back, it’s impossible to be sure if they are the best funds or just the ones that offer the platform a tasty commission. If you’re going to choose funds, do your own research or talk to a pro!
  • Seeing a Financial Planner as a couple can save you 364 days of arguing and worrying about money a year. I think it’s a fantastic idea to try financial planning with your partner, it allows you to discuss your goals and the realities of your monetary situation in the presence of someone who really KNOWS if one of you is talking total rubbish. 
  • The UKPF flowchart on Reddit is actually a really solid place to start. I was really surprised that someone with actual financial qualifications would trust something from an anonymous forum, BUT he assured me that you can’t go too far wrong by following it. 
  • Australians take their pensions really seriously. In the UK at the time of writing, the minimum workplace pension is 5% total. However, down under it’s quite typical for normal people (not millionaires) to be paying 25% of their wage into their pension! They’re up there at the top of the worldwide table of pension savers. We need to catch up!
  • Your wildest financial dreams probably aren’t that ridiculous. If you plan realistically, and far enough ahead, you can make sure you have the money in place to help you achieve that round the world trip, or the fancy car, or just making sure your family is looked after.

What’s the difference between a Certified Financial Planner and a financial advisor? 

Initially, I definitely did not understand the difference between these two job titles, but Josh put it like this: financial advisors are someone you go to in order to buy a financial product (i.e. you’d see a mortgage advisor to help you decide on a mortgage) but a Financial Planner will look at your whole situation and how that could affect your whole life. 

Financial planner young

Is it worth seeing a financial planner when you’re in your twenties?

I’m pretty lucky at the moment, I don’t really have many responsibilities. I’m quite comfortable with my salary and my outgoings, I have the occasional expensive month, but I don’t have any ongoing debts except my mortgage.  

However, I’m definitely not on the ball 100% with future planning. Even though I made a pretty big fuss about starting to invest back in March, I only actually pulled the trigger on opening a Stocks and Shares ISA in August.

I got into the pension game relatively late, I was only given the opportunity to pay into one after four years of full-time work when I was 25. I’d definitely like to find out whether I’m on track to be able to ever retire, and possibly receive some advice about what to do about the funds I’m invested in through my workplace pension. 

Why start financial planning now?

A pretty common cheesy inspirational quote I see thrown around Pinterest is “The best time to start is yesterday, then next best time is today”. If you’ve ever seen one of those amazing compound interest graphs, you’ll know this is definitely true when it comes to saving or adding to your pension. 

Compound interest graph

This graph is from the Financial Minimalist based on someone saving $100 a month and an assumed 7% interest rate. You can see how compound interest over twenty years doubles this person’s initial investment. If you look at the graph at 5 or even 10 years from starting, the returns are much less impressive. 

As it stands, I can access my pension pot at 55 (28 years from now) and receive the State Pension at 68 (41 years away). By my reckoning, if I start focussing on the future properly now, I should have a swimming pool of cash by the time I’m in the Pear Drops fan club.

Josh told me that it’s pretty unusual to have financial planning clients at my sort of life stage (young-ish, no kids), and the ones he does see are often the children of existing clients. The goal younger people is usually to buy a house, and he helps them sort out their Lifetime ISAs, and get ready to apply for a mortgage. 

Want to join a community of other people trying to buy their first home? Join my free Facebook group First Time Buyer Wannabes.

However, even if you’ve already bought your first property it’s definitely a huge bonus to be able to have someone impartial on hand to talk about the tricky topics you were never taught at school, and the sort of questions only someone with their type of qualifications are legally allowed to answer. 

My free session really focussed me on thinking about the future of my money. If you ever feel unsure if you’re on the right track, it’s totally worth giving financial planning a go. Make sure you find a CISI accredited financial planning firm. It’s never a good idea to take a risk on a dodgy “professional” with this type of thing.

Have a spare hour this week? Take up the offer of a free session with a Certified Financial Planner, your money will thank you for it. Book your session here.

Want more? Slummy Single Mummy wrote about her experience with a Certified Financial Planner.

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