Steve Hennessy
Financial Expert

I am an independent financial adviser and I’ve been advising people on their personal finances for over ten years. The bulk of my work covers savings and investments for things like school fees, university funding or retirement planning. I also do a lot of work around estate planning and risk management. I love my job!

Many of the people I work with are more than capable of managing their own financial affairs but lack the time or inclination to do so. Very often they are put off by the jargon that permeates the world of financial services, and I get great satisfaction from cutting through the language and concepts so that they can make educated decisions for themselves.

Very often I will liaise closely with other professional advisers (lawyers, accountants, actuaries etc.) on behalf of my clients toensure that all the financial components of their life are coordinated efficiently.

I started my career witha large national firm, but I am now self employed devoting my energies and intellectual capital to those clients who prefer to work directly with me, and benefit from a more personal relationship.I am directly regulated by the FSA, and I work with Myers Davison Ginger Ltd – Chartered Financial Planners based in Buckinghamshire.

Outside of my business I’ve got a young family that occupies every spare minute I have, butwhen I can sneak off I like to read, run, and play golf. I have a BA (Hons) in Politics, Philosophy and History and as a result I spend a lot of time shouting at the television.

I am really proud to be associated with this website and the service it aims to provide. I firmly believe a trusted adviser can make a huge difference to people’s lives.

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Q. Hi, I could do with a little advice and also any idea what support options I may have. I am going to be a father but the mother and I are not together and live over 4 hours drive away from each other. It isn't currently an option for either of us to move to the other and as things stand it doesn't look like we can or will be in a relationship together. In all fairness to the mother she wants me to be involved as much as I can etc although the distance clearly means i'm going to miss out on so much and not allow me to be the father I ever could have wished to be! It's hard to deal with and take in but I am, and I have to. So
besides the distance etc I'm also aware that I have to consider my finances - am I right in thinking as the mother will be caring for the child I wouldnt be able to get any financial support? Ultimately the mother and I will be sorting things best we can in terms of myself being part of the childs life as much as possible but are there any suggestions to make any of this any easier? Thanks in Advance
A. The financial support available from the state is a complex area and, without knowing your personal circumstances, my first piece of advice is for you to arrange an appointment at either your local Jobcentre Plus or Citizens Advice Bureau where you can receive bespoke guidance on benefits and money issues.

Having said that, there are some very useful online resources that you may wish to use, and some of the following may be relevant in your circumstances:

The directgov website ( is very useful and here is a link to the page that deals with money, benefits and taxes:

The following link takes you to a short questionnaire on the HMRC website which will establish your potential to access working tax credits:

If you are responsible for at least one child or young person who normally lives with you, you may qualify for Child Tax Credit. If you work, but earn low wages, you may qualify for Working Tax Credit, even though you do not live with your child. If you work and pay for childcare you may also be able to get extra tax credits to help with the costs.

In terms of child maintenance, this is something that separated parents can arrange between themselves by making a family-based arrangement. They can also ask the CSA or courts to get involved, but given that you have explained that you and your child’s mother want to maintain good relations, I would suggest a family-based arrangement is simplest way forward. The following link is a calculator that can aid this arrangement.

It sounds like you have a good line of communication with your child’s mother and long may this continue.


Q. im a single mother, ive nearly finsihed my civil dicvorce and i had to stop working of a leg injury. and my lawyers bills have been pushed of, i was wondering is there any orangiztion that will me cover these fess?
Q. Hello my name is Richard moss , I have one child who lives with her mother , since we split I have had my daughter for a weekend every 2 weeks, then for longer during half terms and end of terms , I live 50
miles away from my daughter . since November 2010 I have had ill health due to back problems , and in may 2011 had surgery , the problem is I have 5 slipped disks and am now claiming esa benefit as I am unable to work , but I have stilled maintained seeing my daughter religiously , I basically want to know if I'm able to get some financial support for when I have her, as I regularly had to borrow money of my parents to be able to collect her and feed her , cuz living on 67.50 a week doesn't really give me a chance to be able have her with out help, obviously my daughters mum claims all the benefit for her , and my parents arent in a position to keep helping me and to be honest it isn't up to them to provide for her ,
is there any kind of financial help I can get please for when my daughter is in my custody, because she is my life and don't want to think about the consequences of me not being able to have her anymore, it would break both of us
A. Hello Richard,

This is not a Financial Planning Solution but as a father myself I understand your need to see your daughter.

My first advice is to see if you are entitled to any Mobility Benefits as you are currently incapacitated. Secondly where are you travelling to and from as if you book well in advance 12 weeks plus you can get cheap fares. Thirdly if you have internet access (if not try the Library) then you could Skype your daughter on a regular basis and this is free. Lastly are there any other Only mums/dads members who make the same trip that you could car share?

Best of luck, Phil
Q. I think I am about to become a single dad of two children, one is a year old, the other about to start school. I have a mortgage with 23 years left that that even when both parents contributed to just about
cleared us out. My question is how can I cope financially? Can I get help with this? Or will it be a case of losing the house & trying to find somewhere else to live?

A. You should contact the mortgage provider or talk to an Independent Mortgage Adviser (IMB) or an Independent Financial Adviser (IFA). There may be possibilities with reducing your payments such as extending the loan, going on to interest only for a while or changing to a cheaper mortgage. Some providers also allow payment holidays which may help in the short term whilst you sort things out. Most of all do not get stressed about this and go and speak to a IMB or an IFA as there is a possible solution which does not mean losing the house..

Kind regards,

Philip O'Toole Cert PFS, CeMAP, CeRER

Q. Dear sir, I am contacting you on behalf of my brother as he is unable to research this. He is currently living with the mother of his daughter but is trying to leave the home due to relationship problems. He
works full time and earns roughly £1200 take home a month. After working out his monthly bills and house hunting for an adequately sized property he has realised that he cannot afford to leave. There must be some help he is entitled to? He just wants to make a new home for him and his daughter when she visits that isn't full of not nice tension but instead is forced
to stay there because of finances. Many thanks Maria Hebden

A. Hi Maria, could you give me a bit more information? Does he currently have a Mortgage? and if so is it a Repayment one? I ask this as he may be able to reduce the payments on this. Apart from this I can not see what help there would be as he is working so I presume not claiming Benefits? The cheapest way forward would be a house share or Local Housing association housing. Sorry but apart from increasing his income, which is easier said than done at the moment, I can not see any other ways forward.

Kind regards,

Philip O'Toole Cert PFS, CeMAP, CeRER

Q. I've got just under £7000 saved for my child, currently in various tax free accounts. I want to move it all into 1 place.. do you have any suggestions for where? I'm also worried that I might have to start paying tax on it. Any advice? Have never even seen a self-cert form, let alone filled one in!
A. You should be able to transfer into a single product and keep the tax free status. The right product will depend on your attitude to investment risk. I advise that you speak to an Independent Financial Adviser who will assess your current position, your future requirements regarding this saving and find the right product from the "Whole of the Market".

Kind regards,

Philip O'Toole
IFA Partner
Positive Solutions (Financial Services) Ltd
Q. My 5 year old son has a Child Trust fund with Family
Investments/Barclays. Its linked to stocks and shares and the returns so far are very poor. Though I realise the long term nature of this type of
savings is what really counts. Would I be better off perhaps splitting my monthly contribution with a different type of savings account or indeed abandoning the Barclays account completely?
A. The Child Trust fun is a long term investment (18 years). Historically Stocks and Shares have over the long term produced very good returns and I would normally look at this asset class in the first 10 years or so then switching to low risk funds to protect any gains in the last few years.
However it would seem that your Attitude to Risk is lower than the fund risk your trust is currently invested in. You should therefore ask Barclays is there any other funds more suited to your Attitude to Risk that you could transfer into. If that is not possible then you could look at alternative providers who have wider fund choices. You need to be aware of any charges either action may incur. An Independent Financial Adviser would be able to help with this situation as they will be able to advise on the whole of the market not just one product.
Finally you should also be aware that any money in the Child Trust Fund will go to you Son on his 18th Birthday and you have no say in the matter. So if he wants a motorbike but you want it to go towards University costs then you may have difficult conversation at that point. With this in mind you might want to have any future saving from yourself to be in a product that you control and only the Government money in the Child Trust Fund.

Kind regards,

Philip O'Toole
Q. Hi, I know my wife and I are going to separate. We have two children and live in the same house. We have been married for 13 years. We have discussed separation, or should I say divorce. We both agree that this should be the way forward. But, (this sopunds terrible I know), but my wife will try and get all she possible can out of this messy situation.
Can I get some financial advice now - or does that come from my solicitor?

Any help you can give would be great
A. The answer is that if you can agree an amicable split then all the better and less in, if any, legal costs. A financial Adviser would be able to help you both with what assets and liabilities you have. When you then have a clear picture of where you are now you can then work out how you can best conclude the separation/divorce financially. Please note assets mean everything including Pensions, savings and property. The adviser will be able to total all this up and advise a suitable solution. This possibly will not be an ideal solution to both of you but it will be an honest sober opinion from a third party. In my experience the solution the adviser finds is the same or better that a court will impose after costly legal fees. So my advice is to see an Independent Financial Adviser first then a solicitor(if needed) second, at the very least you will save time on legal fees as you can give the solicitor a comprehensive summary of your financial position rather than they have to work one out. Please remember there are children involved and sometimes a compromise of finances can be less unsettling for them.

I hope you can work this out and wish you well for the future.
Q. Hello. I have been a single dad for 10 years. I have four children (12, 11, and twins aged 8). My wife died shortly after the birth of the twins.

Financially, we are sort of secure - the house has been paid for, and I have some limited savings. I am self-employed, and while I can only work part-time, the income sorts of keeps us afloat.

My issues is a simple one - and one that I have been putting off addressing for a couple of years now.

I spend more than I earn by a couple of hundred pounds a month, every month. The savings I mentioned fund this over-spend, but I know life can't
go on like this. (As children grow - the costs grow too!).

Is there any help available for sitting down with a professional advisor just to see if any savings can be made in the money I spend - and if so, how much will this cost?

Many thanks
Q. Am sure I am paying too much for my mortgage when compared to my mates. Simple question really - how can I transfer to the cheapest mortgage possible. Thanks
A. The best option is to contact either an Independent Financial Adviser (IFA) or an Independent Mortgage Broker (IMB). They will access to the "Whole of the market" for Mortgage products. They will also assess if the mortgage is suitable for your own individual situation as with anything the cheapest may not be the best. Ask all about initail fess and redemption penalties and any other costs. Also ask what happens when the current rate ends and are there any tie ins.

By using an adviser authorised by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) to give Mortgage Advice you will be covered if the product is deemed inappropiate where as if you go direct you may forego this protection.

Remember : You home is at risk if you do not keep up the repayments on any mortage attached to it.
Q. I am a single dad with a solely owned house and one son. How can I make sure he inherits the house if I were to go into care later in life as I am an "older dad". Thank you
A. The answer is to place your house into a trust with a new Will to ensure that you Son inherits the house. A Family Protection Trust can also protect
against future Divorce, Bankruptcy, Probate and in some cases use of the asset to pay for long term care fees. As an "Older Dad" you should also
look at Power of Attorney arrangements. All of this can be arranged through a Professional Will Writer or a Solicitor. I would obtain quotes from both before instructing anyone.I hope this answers your question.