The level of turnout for last week's 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's 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's
performance and innovation unit paper suggesting retirement ages should
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's 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
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
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
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