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Independent View

The level of turnout for last week&#39s local elections was abysmal.

It is a shame that individuals do not exercise their dem- ocratic rights.

No doubt, it is a substantial underlying sil- ent protest from those who

cannot find a suitable candidate to vote for.

I think politics should be a vocation and not a career choice, no matter

who is in power or opposition. The great British public have little

appetite for today&#39s politicians and the attitude of Government by media.

Legislation affects the every- day working life of an IFA and the manner

in which plans are constructed for clients.

People must make financial plans but they increasingly have a less

predictable outcome as the future legislative landscape appears to hold

increasing uncertainties. =

This is aside from the normal risk/reward factors which are taken into account.

From a regulatory perspective, it is bad enough that we continue to be in

limbo with both the PIA and FSA involvement as the Financial Services and

Markets Bill drags on and deadlines are stretched.

There are concerns that the final outcome may present unexpected hurdles,

adding to the red tape we exper- ience daily.

Two areas in particular have struck a chord in recent times. They are the

increasing burden of higher education costs and now the Prime Minister&#39s

performance and innovation unit paper suggesting retirement ages should

increase.

The cost of tuition fees has been well flagged and the North/South divide

has moved up to the Scottish borders.

It will be interesting to see the outcome of deferred tuition fees. I

recently attended a university seminar aimed at parents of prospective

students. I was sad to hear the financial information revolved around

maximising the amount of student loan over the length of the course.

Most of us have seen the results of such actions and the level of debt

accumulated when starting one&#39s working life.

The normal pattern of events is that perhaps two or three years later, the

time arrives when property purchase is being considered.

This is always a pressure point on personal finances and so the debt

spiral escalates, hopefully in a manageable way. But as we know too well,

this is not always the case.

Many individuals were not given sufficient time to plan for this

eventuality and the whole changing process was fois- ted upon them. For

many, the choice is either to forgo higher education or end up in

financial hardship.

Meanwhile, on the increase in state retirement age for females, the unit

is presenting quite radical proposals. There is an issue that changing

demographics and increasing life expectancy will result in an imbalance

among the working and retired population.

I do not believe that I am alone in talking to clients of whom the

majority would, given the opportunity, retire as soon as they could.

Indeed, the recent proposed changes in capital gains tax legislation

positively encourage this move.

Why then should those in their mid-30s be penalised by having their

pension fund tied up longer if they have laid down sensible plans and can

retire at 50 without being a burden on the state?

Similarly, if the unit recognises that the present 75 upper age limit for

annuity purchase is too low, would it not be better to scrap it

altogether?

This would mean people can plan their own financial requirements properly

rather than be forced down a partic- ular route that is not suitable for

everyone.

Progress is progress and one has to adapt to change but in a fast-changing

world it is maximum flexibility that investors seek. Moving goalposts does

not permit this and conflicting messages may lead people to make incorrect

and costly decisions.

One is in a position of having the proverbial half-full glass of wine.

Some could take the pessimistic approach and look at interference and take

a decision to do nothing.

Those adopting the half- full philosophy have addit- ional aspects to

consider when formulating plans.

It is increasingly clear that a menu-style approach to financial planning

is the only route which will cater for all eventualities despite the impact

of what may be far-reaching decisions taken in Whitehall.

Nick Conyers is director of Pearson Jones & Co

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