The importance of independent, fee-based financial advice, combined with the resolve to also do your own research, cannot be stressed enough if you want to both maximise your wealth AND protect it these days from the onslaught of falling asset markets, inflation and recession.

Unfortunately, this hasn’t been the way the vast majority of savers and investors see their situation. They will pay thousands every year for two weeks in the sun, or to pay for a new car, but they won’t write a cheque to have an impartial assessment of their entire financial position.

Instead, they opt to buy financial products – investment funds, shares, pensions, property – piecemeal from the manufacture or from the sales intermediary (often a local life and pensions broker) who earns a hefty commission.

No cheque with your name on it may change hands, but you still pay.

Genuine, experienced, professional fee-based financial advisors and wealth managers are few on the ground. They typically charge at least €200 per hour for a comprehensive initial report – a ‘wealth check’.

Depending on the value of your assets – property, savings, investments, pension, business – this initial sum could easily amount to a few thousand euro and if you remain a customer, you will be usually charged an annual retainer that is a small percentage equivalent of the on-going value of your portfolio, usually subject to a minimum annual amount. The size of this fee varies between advisors.

This is the kind of service that everyone should have, but is usually out of the reach of all but the wealthiest who are usually serviced by the wealth management divisions of the big accountancy practices or high profile practitioners, of whom Eddie Hobbs would be one.

A shortage of people willing to pay these substantial fees means that even some previously fee-only firms of advisors have returned to commission-based sales.

Last January, the Dublin-based gold bullion dealers, Gold and Silver Investments (; 01-632 5010) launched a fee-based wealth management service that it claims to be different from others by providing three different services – Platinum, Gold and Silver to customers of different net asset worth.

Clients with assets under management starting at a minimum of €250,000+ (excluding their family home) are offered a fee service that begins with an initial report costing €2,500 and further implementation fees of between 0.5 per cent and 1.5 per cent of their wealth depending on its value.

Clients with at least €100,000 worth of assets to be managed (excluding their family home) who want long term financial planning that matches their financial arrangements with their expectations should expect to pay €2,000 for the report and implementation/on-going fees between one to three per cent of their wealth per annum.

Those clients who only want a specific area of advice, say for retirement planning, or other investment purposes, will pay €1,000 for a report and implementation fees of between two and four per cent depending on the size of the fund involved.

In all cases the initial report fees may offset the implementation fees – where a commission would otherwise be payable, for example, says the head of the new service, Mark Westlake.

What is pretty unique about The Gold and Silver Investments website is the amount of solid investment information and guidance it gives to anyone to download and study.

It not only lays out exactly what services they offer but also their ‘mission statement’ which is one that every investment company should be adopting: to preserve the client’s wealth, and not just to find ways to create more wealth (and earn sales commissions).

It’s an important distinction these days. According to Westlake, too many Irish people have too much of their wealth tied up in too few assets, like property or Irish equities, both of which are now taking a hammering.

Their investment philosophy, he says, is an old fashioned, conservative, holistic one of diversifying the client’s holdings, suitable to their age, income, risk profile, current needs and longer term expectations.

At this point, he says, even just realigning the existing property or equity part of a person’s portfolio could stop further losses, whatever about achieving new gains.

The attraction of a new wealth manager like this one in the market is that even if they are unaffordable to many readers, the information they supply on their website should give you a better idea of how to start reviewing your own financial position.

It includes an excellent, mostly jargon-free report by Mark Westlake on investment risk. Read it, study it. See what proportion of risk you are taking with your pension and the savings and investment funds you already have.

Other links explains investment strategy and asset allocation and includes is pie charts that show the sort of wealth portfolio they typically see that are heavily dominated by property, Irish stocks and cash.

The second pie chart gives a breakdown of all the different sorts of stocks and shares (and geographic locations), cash, property, bonds, commodities (including precious metals) that should be represented in our investment portfolios.

Spreading your investment means spreading your risk, says Westlake. The company’s emphasis on conservative asset allocation and on keeping costs low means that they favour cheaper ETFs and index funds over expensive, actively managed life assurance based ones.

Their link to the offshore stockbroking service Internaxx keeps dealing costs very low too, says Westlake.

Next week: just what does constitute a diversified investment portfolio? What assets are financial advisors recommending you hold and dump and what questions do you need to ask before you engage and advisor or buy their recommendations.