MONEY issues can play on people’s minds and many of life’s big events have a financial consideration, whether it’s having a child, buying a house or approaching retirement.

It’s no wonder that often the first time people seek professional financial advice is when they have a financial problem associated with a major life event and they’re not sure what to do.

If you take retirement as an example, since pension freedoms were introduced by then Chancellor George Osborne in 2015, there have been a huge number of ways in which people with defined contribution pensions can turn their savings into a flexible income.

But with choice comes complexity around how much can be safely taken to last a lifetime, as well as income tax and investment considerations. As a result many people have chosen to seek financial help.

Some have opted for free guidance services from either the Government or from their product provider. While this can be very informative, it leaves you to make the decision on what’s best.

If you want a personal recommendation, based on your personal circumstances, you need to get professional advice.

The challenge, however, is that for some, financial advice is harder to come by than it once was.

Back in 2013, the financial regulator implemented a big change to the advice market called the Retail Distribution Review. With the aim of further enhancing the professionalism of the advice sector, it raised minimum qualifications and banned advisers from receiving commission payments from financial service providers, which the regulator feared could bias them towards that provider’s products.

Instead, advisers must now agree a payment for advice with each customer. This is a much more transparent way of working, but it can put off some individuals who are not used to seeking advice or who have more modest finances.

This, coupled with fewer advisers, has meant that advice is increasingly being accessed mainly by those with fairly significant sums of money who aren’t put off by the upfront costs.

Given the huge value that receiving professional financial advice can bring, this trend is worrying, not just for individuals unable to access advice but for the financial regulator, which is now formally looking again at how to ensure people who need either guidance or advice can access it.

There are at least three big factors driving people to seek advice. The first is the pension freedoms already mentioned, which have made accessing a pension much more flexible but also involve more complex decisions, making taking advice a wise option.

As the freedoms are available only to people with defined contribution pensions, some people with defined benefit versions have taken a greater interest in transferring their pots into a money purchase scheme.

While giving up a guaranteed retirement income is unlikely to be the right answer for most people, the freedoms coupled with historically high transfer values have led many to want to explore their options, and here advice is compulsory.

Lastly, there’s stock market volatility. Markets have been rising steadily since the financial crash of 2008, but in the last 12 months in particular volatility has returned, prompting people to seek professional help about where their money is best invested.

The chances are, regardless of your wealth or the complexity of your finances, there will be points in your life when you’d benefit from seeking not just some guidance, but professional financial advice with a personal recommendation.

In our view, finding ways to broaden access to financial advice is one of the biggest challenges facing the industry and its regulator. If you think you might benefit from advice, you can find an adviser through sites like

Many advisers offer an initial free meeting to assess whether you would benefit from their services.

The costs may be less than you think and the benefits for you and your family’s long-term financial future could be far greater.

Steven Cameron is pensions director at Aegon UK.