We caught up with MPA’s Independent Financial Adviser, Chris Wheeler, to find out more about his route into financial services, his specialism in pension planning and his highlights of helping people with their retirement finances.

How did you get started in Financial Services?

By following a bus through Swindon! I was working at Autoglass, helping out the accountant, it wasn’t that stimulating. One day I was driving behind a bus with an advert to attend Swindon College and study AAT Accountancy course. So I signed up to two nights per week, doing a three year course, while working.

After a year a platform provider was looking for someone to do the books and payroll, I joined them and carried on studying. I got involved in a pension wrapper, went through accounts payroll, reconciling client holdings and fielding adviser calls. Then in around 2006, when the market crashed, I set up and managed a pension scheme from scratch.

Eventually I joined a more experienced pension provider and could see that clients were being left to plod along, so I helped clients and the advisers on site.


What qualifications do you have?

From the initial AAT Accountancy course, I went onto take the Chartered Institute of Insurance (CII) Financial Planning and Regulation, whilst working. I never set out to be a qualified adviser but did a pension admin course and was over qualified for what I was doing, but just carried on until I became Chartered and Fellow IFA.


What attracted you to join MPA?

I was working in Southampton and relocated up to the Midlands. I had three interviews in a day and got offered all of them, but something about Phil McGovern made me pick MPA. Phil had a vision and cared about clients. MPA was the first interview and none of the others matched up. I moved to Henley and joined MPA in March 2014.


What do you enjoy the most about being an IFA?

Helping clients to understand where they are and where they are going, through cash flow planning or pension consolidation. It is about providing a roadmap to understand how to afford retirement.

I enjoy helping people get clarity about their finances, helping their future self. People can still keep working but they know they can retire whenever they are ready.


What have been your highlights to date?

There have been many highlights throughout my career so far. For me it’s about helping people understand their current financial position and plan for what they want to achieve in the future. I’m a bit like a nosey detective!

One individual had mountains of paperwork and wanted to get a clearer idea of where they stood. We found a valuable sheet of paper from 1986 which allowed him to slow down from work.

Another client with four bin bags full of paperwork, found title deeds from 1927, life insurance policies, death certificates and probates. They had a lot of assets but didn’t know how to deal with them. By knowing their history, building up a picture of a person and their financial status, we can help them navigate what they are worried or concerned about.

One stand-out case happened pre-Christmas one year and a client had a pile of debts, outstanding HMRC bills and they couldn’t put the heating on. We helped to release finances from a pension, get the heating on and the bills paid, taking away the worry. With that you can see an immediate impact and the thank you text message on Christmas Eve made it even more worthwhile.


Do you help businesses as well as individuals?

Absolutely. As an example, we’ve helped one business expand by introducing a Self-Invested Personal Pension (SIPP). A funeral firm was able to buy up funeral homes in their local area and at the same time grow the business and the pension pot, without having to go to lenders. Any money paid on the property goes into pension.


When should you start financial planning?

The average age of most clients is around 55 and above, but we also talk about their children and getting them on the ladder. For different generations in a family, getting children who are in the early stage of work to create savings and a safety net for their future can set them up for life.

Most people worry about day to day and week to week, as an IFA we look to the future and look forward to make the best use of investments and tax opportunities that become available.


How has COVID changed financial planning?

It has given people time to reflect and think about what they do or don’t want. In some cases they’ve experienced a taste of what retirement could look like. One client had full plan in place for retiring at 55, yet lockdown has completely changed their plan, as they hated lockdown and want to continue working for as long as possible.

On the flip side, some people loved it and enjoyed the free time. Some people are considering how to retire as soon as possible as their savings have grown as spending has reduced.

We have received many more life assurance queries, as people are worried are how to deal with future generations.


As the end of the tax year looms, what advice do you have to prepare?

Forward planning and forward thinking is key.

Last year’s end of tax year contributions was 1st of the month, shortening the window of paying into ISAs, so people resort into paying money into cash ISAs and sorting it the next year. Sort your ISA contributions at the start of the year, as growth for the year is out of tax.

Providers have deadlines to act on – so you are better off in March making decision for the next tax year, then you have a full year of ISA growing.

Start early, time pressures lead to rushed work and potentially errors or missed opportunities.


Final words from an IFA…

Think about your end game and what you want to get out of it. Is it a house, a yacht, a round the world cruise? Get a date in for retirement and work back from that to make a smooth transition into whatever it is you have your sights set on.

For more information about financial planning and wealth management advice from MPA Financial Management, visit: https://www.mpafm.co.uk/services/.