Mohammad Uz-Zaman is the Founder of ADL Estate Planning and a Chartered Private Client Wealth Manager. He has worked in financial services for over ten years, is an associate member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP), and is a former senior adjudicator for the Financial Ombudsman Service. Mohammad works with business owners, property developers, and non-UK domiciled/non-UK residents who have UK-based assets. His clients tend to have at least £500,000 and require strategic investment advice. Mohammad is an expert in structuring clients’ wealth during their lifetime and beyond. Financial literacy is one of Mohammad’s passions, enabling his clients to become more involved in the decision-making processes of wealth management and understand how to maximise the value of their money.
As a wealth management professional, this is a question I get asked a lot – regardless of whether the person asking me is young and building their career, or experienced and supremely successful. But the question really misses the point. A better one would be: is there ever a bad time to ask for financial advice?
In a wealth management market where regulation is often impenetrable and poor advice proliferates there’s a strong case for saying that everyone should seek support with their finances right now.
This study reveals almost three-quarters of Brits struggle with money matters. In other words, UK financial literacy is poor. That means most people probably won’t be aware that good financial management isn’t something you can simply leave until later in life. Or that bad decision-making – or believing bad advice – can have disastrous consequences.
Most of all, you’ll lose a prime opportunity to protect your lifestyle and preserve and grow wealth with the simplest – and cheapest – planning available. No matter your age, professional standing existing wealth, or personal values, seeking advice is the first step towards sounder finances. There are three stages to tick off so that you can do this.
- A wealth management mindset shift:
Contrary to popular belief, a good adviser’s contribution to your personal and family wealth goes beyond what’s listed in your client agreement.
It’s the detailed answer to your question on a particular protection plan, investment option, or tax quandary. It’s an insight into shareholder agreements, knowing the consequences of selling a business, and being conversant on trusts. And it’s about the resourcefulness of an adviser who can wrap in the right experts to soothe your pain points – even those that weren’t on your radar.
The first building block in firmer financial foundations is a shift in mindset about the purpose of wealth management. Advisers shouldn’t focus solely on investment performance, because there isn’t much, they can do to manage markets.
It’s better to implement optimal principles, tailored to your unique individual circumstances, that:
- Prioritise your concerns
- Promotes your values
- Protect your lifestyle
- Prevent costly mistakes
- Preserve more of your wealth
- Taking stock of your financial situation:
To frame wealth opportunities and threats it’s useful to answer the following questions:
- Do you have sufficient emergency cash? If not, build it to a satisfactory level before seeking an adviser.
- Do you have appropriate protection plans? If you don’t have these in place, it’s worth getting help to point you in the right direction.
- Do you have an idea of your capital needs over the next five years? Great – that’s the amount you can’t afford to risk.
- Have you thought about how much income you need in retirement? If the answer is no, you need some coaching.
- Are you aware of how your Death In Service employee benefit can impact your inheritance tax? Again, coaching is required.
- Spend some time charting your life plan
With the best will in the world, your financial adviser may struggle to make their expertise count unless you provide some vital information upfront. This is about creating an overview of your current financial details, your dependants’ needs, and your dreams.
An initial helicopter view of your situation is enough to provide an adviser with insight into the amount of capital you’ll need, set against your level of disposable income today.
This enables you and your adviser to explore your financial hopes and concerns more thoroughly. It should cover your plans for the short, medium, and long-term future, in areas that include your family, career, property, and plans for retirement.
Financial advice covers a lot of ground. To illustrate, here are two (anonymised) people we’ve helped with wealth management input.
A healthy plan
A couple, both 70, have a main residence valued at £400,000 and nine investment properties valued at £1m altogether. They also have ISAs of £300,000; pensions worth £550,000; and a joint life policy for £120,000.
Concerned about their health and using rental income as a primary source of funding for their retirement, they wanted to tackle a £328k inheritance tax (IHT) liability to help their beneficiaries.
In response, we have identified surplus income; arranged specialist wills, trusts, and Lasting Powers of Attorney; determined the best investment equity settlement into trusts, and held over the gain on the properties.
In addition, we reviewed the couple’s existing pensions. We determined that by reducing the overall charges without compromising on investment strategy, sufficient rental income could be given up. The amount of rent given up was associated with the equity-settled into trusts.
A 79-year-old, divorced farmer wanted to protect her wealth for her two sons – but lived in a farmhouse with 195 acres of land, presenting a potential IHT bill of £2.4m. This was a complex situation where we needed to consider:
- Whether the farmhouse really was a farmhouse
- If agricultural property relief (APR) applied to the land
- Whether, on sale, the client would lose IHT exemptions
We determined the farmhouse and 25 acres did not qualify for APR. It meant those assets could be ringfenced and sold to help fund the new home she desired as well as her long-term needs. But the IHT issue remained – so speed and efficiency were key to protecting the client’s wealth. Our advice included a wide range of options:
- Whole of Life insurance policies; it often makes sense for large life policies to put in place multiple policies of £250k each
- Strategic settlements into discretionary trusts during lifetime
- Flexible Lifetime Annuity via a Protective Cell Company
We set out the cost-effectiveness and the risks of various options. For instance, the risk of the client not surviving for seven years. But we ultimately determined the cheapest option inclusive of all fees; not just our advice fees, but also related-product provider fees, would be significantly lower than the IHT bill.
It’s worth noting that in the ‘farmhouse’ case if the client had sought our advice sooner, her savings would have been greater. There really isn’t a bad time to engage in prudent financial planning and wealth management – boosting your knowledge and the power of your decision-making.