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Garry Hale, Director, HK Wealth Managers

Garry Hale, Director, HK Wealth Managers

Not long now….my AF3 Pensions Planning exam is on Monday, April 11. This is a challenge as I have found myself very busy with work in the lead-up to the tax year end. I wonder if the CII considered this when setting exam dates early in April? My other concern is that I am also on holiday in Barcelona for one week between now and my exam.

That said, I have found time to study the J04 and J05 CII coursebooks, which contain a lot of material. I have found the use of the small examination guides very helpful for reading while travelling by train as they can be carried about.

The other idea I decided to try out is the CII audio recordings of the J04 and J05 material and I have found them very useful. I have downloaded them to my Blackberry Torch and with my earphones I can listen to them anywhere. I have used them when travelling by train and I have even been listening to them in bed.

The other reason for the smaller guides and audio recordings is that I will be able to use them while travelling on holiday instead of taking the full coursebooks. With an exam just after I get back, I will be studying on holiday.

The other big challenge in particular with the AF3 Advanced Pensions subject is the dramatic rate of change in some of the pension legislation.

As I am sitting an exam on April 11, the course material being tested is based on the existing material of July 2010. However, as we know, there are massive changes going through, including the transitional anti-forestalling rules, the new pension lifetime allowance, annual allowance, carry-forward rules and unsecured pension changes.

These are all new changes that I must understand for my work but are not likely to be covered in the exam questions.

On my gap-fill assessment, pensions is one of the areas where I still have a number of gaps and it would be great to pass this exam both to be a step closer to chartered status but also to close some gaps.

It may be worth pointing out that currently the CII gap fill tool lists 132 points required. Due to changes by the FSA, the points required have been dropped to 109 as protection has now been dropped from the gap fill requirements.

This, I am sure, will be a relief to many advisers and certainly brings my existing 97 points much closer to the new requirement.

The CII will shortly be dropping the protection area from the gap-fill tool and resetting the requirement to 109 points. You can log in and check your gap fill situation at

Before my next article I will probably have a lot of tax year end client planning work to finalise, fit in a short holiday and sit my AF3 Pensions exam. Good luck to everyone sitting exams over the coming weeks.

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