Independent Financial Advice

Small Acorn Money is here solely for financial education and information. If you require personal financial advice, including recommendations of financial products such as investments, pensions, insurance and mortgages, then I can personally offer a professional and personal service. Find out below how I can help you. This will be provided by me, Mark Underdown, acting as an independent Financial Planning Consultant with Paragon Independent Financial Advisers.

Paragon Independent Financial Advisers is a trading style of Paragon Independent Limited. Paragon Independent Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and entered on the FCA register under reference number 440589.

Get in touch with me today for a personal review.


Call: 07901 578 462

Or complete the enquiry form below.

Mark Underdown | DipPFS CeMap

Financial Planning Consultant, Paragon Independent Limited

Retirement plan

At retirement, you have some big life changes to make and you also have several financial products and options available for your pensions:

  1. Lifetime Annuity
  2. Fixed Term Annuity
  3. Flexible Annuity
  4. Drawdown
  5. Combination of the above
  6. Tax-free cash as immediate lump sum, gradually or in stages
  7. How much income to take or whether to leave the funds to grow.

Each of these have their different features, benefits and disadvantages. A personal and comprehensive retirement plan will help you understand your retirement options as well as help plan your overall finances ready for you to enjoy a worry free retirement.

Creating a retirement plan for you includes of the following steps:

  1. Financial Appraisal – Establish your needs and objectives, risk profile and financial capacity, health and life expectancy.
  2. Outline your options so you understand the product choices available to you.
  3. If you select an annuity style option, completion of fully independent research to select the right type of annuity with the most competitive provider.
  4. If you select drawdown or continued investment throughout retirement, then we will complete a full investment process to establish the investment portfolio that’s right for you.
  5. For drawdown, we will calculate a prudent withdrawal rate from your funds and outline parameters for reviewing and adjusting this. 
  6. Provide help and assistance with all required application processes and paperwork to tidy up and streamline your financial affairs.
  7. Provide an optional ongoing review service to keep your retirement plans on the right path.
Investment portfolio

In the modern world, there is a wide array of investment options available to you. With thousands of investment fund houses, hundreds of providers and numerous tax wrappers to consider, it is difficult to do it all yourself without expert professional advice and support.

By taking advantage of my advisory service, I can help you establish the right investment portfolio for your own needs, views and objectives. This could be as simple as selecting a multi-asset fund with one provider, or a variety of different investments to make up your own personal portfolio.

An investment portfolio will in most circumstances consist of shares, property, bonds and cash; the exact mix and type of underlying investments depends on your needs, views, timeframe and the prevailing financial market environment.

Selecting the most appropriate investments for your own unique requirements can only be decided upon after going through a comprehensive advisory process; one where your needs are front and centre.

Your investment process will include the following steps:

Step 1 – The Financial Planning Process

  • Financial appraisal of your current situation – find out where you are at today.
  • Establish your goals and objectives – find out where you would like to be at some point in the future.
  • Establish a plan to get from today to your desired future.

Step 2 – Risk Profiling and Investor Discovery

  • Establish your risk profile, including financial capacity and tolerance for loss.
  • Understand your experience and views, i.e. in what way have you previously invested, and do you have personal views that should be taken into account (such as ethical views).
  • How much capital and cash flow can/should be committed to investment and under what timeframe. What to you need to withdraw from the portfolio and when (e.g. monthly income for retirement).
  • Select the appropriate overall asset allocation for your needs.

Step 3 – Tax and Ownership Structure

  • Establish the most tax efficient way for you to invest while maintaining a balance over all of your financial affairs.
  • Consider the ownership structure of your investments (e.g. pensions, trusts, joint investors, spouse, children etc).

Step 4 – Independent Research and Report

  • As an independent financial adviser, I will consider our discussions to research the most appropriate providers and investment strategies.
  • Fully detailed explanation of my recommendations in written format.

Step 5 – Presentation, Discussion and Administration

  • Present my recommendations and discuss any questions you may have – ensure you fully understand all matters before you make any decisions.
  • Complete any necessary applications and paperwork.
  • Full support and communication through the application process.

Step 6 – Ongoing Review

  • Each year, we will review your personal investment portfolio and ensure that you remain on the right path to meet your goals (and to take account of changing financial market conditions).

The investment portfolio service is available for individual investors, families or trustees. You may have cash that you wish to invest, or you may wish to review your existing investments to see where you can make improvements.

Pension review

Is your pension on the right path for your chosen retirement age?

Are you looking to review your pension arrangements?

Are you just looking to make sense of the paperwork you have received, or consider what options you have available?

If so, then why not have your pensions reviewed by an independent financial adviser.

An independent adviser can help make sense of your pensions and review them to take account of the following features:

  • Full charges review and outlining the effect of these charges over the lifespan of the investment. Charges can have a huge impact on how much actually ends up in your own pension at retirement.
  • Investment risk and allocation review to ensure your funds are invested in keeping with your own personal objectives. If you haven’t made active choices with your pension, you often find that you will have an off-the-shelf investment, much like many of your current or former work colleagues. Investment should always be made on a personal basis with full consideration of your own personal views and objectives, timeframes, risk profile and financial capacity.
  • Full explanation and disclosure of special features. Many older contracts have unique terms that are beneficial to you. They are often hidden in pages of confusing paperwork so we can explain these in clear English.
  • Understand what pension options are available in retirement from your current scheme. Some pensions only offer limited terms from their own plan, but other plans offer the full range of options in retirement, allowing you to take income in a way suitable for you.
  • Consideration of whether consolidation will be helpful for you. Sometimes, people have multiple plans and find it difficult to keep up to date with their pensions. Other times, it is beneficial to keep more than one pension arrangement running (e.g. complying with auto-enrolment or diversification of plan provider).
  • Service standards and administration efficiency. No single provider offers the same customer service standards, ease of administration, or online functionality.

An independent financial adviser can help you discuss your pensions and review them to ensure they meet your own personal aims and objectives. 

Protect your life, family and business

Your ability to earn an income is the most valuable financial asset that you have. Your income repays your mortgage, pays your bills and supports your family and lifestyle.

What would happen to your family finances and quality of life if this income were lost?

There are several ways you can help to ensure your family’s finances are secure – no matter what happens:

  1. Life Cover. Life cover will pay a lump sum to help clear your mortgage and other debts, or it can also provide a lump sum that can be invested and used to help support your family, replacing the income that has been effectively lost from your early death.
  2. Critical Illness Cover. This pays out if you are diagnosed with a diagnosed with a specific serious illness (such as stroke, heart attack, certain types and stages of cancer, and other serious conditions). It is a little more costly than life cover but probably more important as the impact of a serious illness can often be more severe than early death.
  3. Life/Critical Illness Cover. Policies often combine life and critical illness. You can have options such as paying out only once, or you can have the policy pay out for critical illness, and then life insurance still continues on the policy.
  4. Family Income Benefit. This is a life and/or critical illness policy but instead of paying out a lump sum, an income is paid out for a set period of time. It can be useful when trying to keep insurance costs down, but still have sufficient cover.
  5. Income Protection Cover – This is the main one for directly protecting your earnings. If you suffer from a long-term illness that prevents you from using your skills to earn a living, this policy will help replace a good part of your lost income and allow you to continue with your life until you are healthy enough to return to work, or until you retire.

These are the main policies for protecting lost earnings that could arise from a variety of situations. They will help ensure that your family is financially protected from any loss of potential earnings.

There are many types of policies available from separate providers, all with different terms and features. You are also likely to have some protection via your existing employment, or you may already have some policies in place.

I can help provide independent advice on these matters and help create your personal protection plan.

Your personal protection plan is a personal and comprehensive advice process which includes the following benefits:

  1. A personal discussion of your needs and priorities.
  2. Appraisal of your financial position.
  3. Review of your existing employment benefits and protection policies in place.
  4. Independent research to select the most appropriate type and amount of cover, with the right provider and for the right price.
  5. Presentation of your options in written format.
  6. Discussion to help you understand your protection policies in full.
  7. Assistance with the application and underwriting process.
Mortgage advice

Do you want to find the right mortgage, the best rates and help with the whole process?

Whether moving home, buying your first property, investing into buy to let, raising extra finance or simply looking to remortgage, then you need an independent and whole of market mortgage broker.

A good mortgage consultant will help you in the following ways:

  1. Find the best rates and terms from the whole market.
  2. Double check you can qualify without wasting your time.
  3. Help make the application process smooth and efficient.
  4. Help you understand how much you will pay, both now and over the term of your mortgage.
  5. Impartial advice and assistance along the way.
  6. Fully independent advice to ensure you also have the right protection arrangements in place for your needs.

Get in touch with me today for a personal review

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