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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Pensions and financial advisers: who to contact

If you're considering taking out a stakeholder or personal pension you can shop around yourself. It can be a good idea to get professional financial advice from a specialist before you buy. For information on any pensions offered by your employer, speak to your HR department or employer.

Who can offer pensions advice?

Firms must be regulated by the Financial Services Authority (FSA), the UK's financial services regulator to advise on financial products such as personal pensions. This means they must follow certain rules and standards when dealing with you.

Meaning of financial advice

When you get professional financial advice, the adviser looks at your individual circumstances and needs and recommends financial products suitable for you.

Personal or stakeholder pensions

A personal pension is one that you take out yourself, for example if you're self-employed or your employer doesn't offer a pension arrangement. They are a type of defined contribution (or money purchase) pension.

Stakeholder pensions have to meet minimum standards laid down by government. Some employers offer them or you can start one yourself.

Information you'll get

Before you buy a personal or stakeholder pension, the financial adviser will usually give you a 'Key features document' that explains important details, like:

  • the aims and benefits of the product
  • the level of risk
  • an illustration showing how the pension might work for you
  • the commission and charges you will have to pay the product provider to manage the product for you

How to check whether a firm is authorised

Check that a firm you're dealing with is regulated by the FSA. Use the FSA’s online register or call the FSA Consumer Helpline on 0845 606 1234. Lines are open 8.00 am to 6.00 pm Monday to Friday.

Finding and using a professional financial adviser

There are several ways you can find a professional financial adviser. You can:

  • search online
  • check specialist investment publications
  • talk to your accountant or solicitor
  • check the investment pages in major newspapers
  • contact trade bodies, like unbiased.co.uk or the Personal Finance Society

The Pensions Advisory Service

The Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS) is an independent, non-profit making organisation that provides free advice about pensions. They provide information and guidance on all pension matters, covering state, workplace, personal and stakeholder schemes. They also help any member of the public who has a problem, complaint or dispute with their workplace or private pension arrangement.

The Pensions Regulator

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) regulates workplace pension schemes in the UK. They ensure that people responsible for providing and managing workplace pensions fulfil their obligations.

Buying without advice

You can invest in a pension based on 'information only', after shopping around. But it's important to be aware that you have fewer rights to complain if you buy an investment product without taking financial advice. Read the details in the related pages.

Advice on workplace pensions

A financial adviser should ask whether your employer offers a workplace pension scheme before suggesting a personal pension. If your employer does offer a scheme it's often a good idea to join, especially if your employer contributes. To find out more you'll need to talk to your HR department. Read 'Understanding company pensions' to find out more.

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