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Own goal for the CA

Amid World Cup fever, the flow of Colemanballs from Motty and co has truly gathered pace. But even David Coleman himself could not match the race to coin new phrases to describe those individuals who are said to be excluded from making financial provision by the cost of the product and/or the cost of advice.

Financially vulnerable, financially unaware, low income, little prospects. I could go on but I won&#39t. What all these phrases lack is reality in recognising the logistics of these people making provision.

Most people on low incomes cannot save enough to accumulate the funds required to purchase the income needed in retirement. This is not political dogma, it is mathematical fact. Instead of spending money on a Government-funded scheme for free advice, why not redirect the money into providing state pensions on a means-tested basis?

The other barrier to saving is uninterest. We may plan well ahead for retirement and funding our children through their education or to buy a house (especially if you live in the South-east) but many people in this country do not plan – they live for today, with the women grudgingly accepting working until they drop and the men expecting to drop dead before they retire.

The paper from the Consumers&#39 Association on its Advice for Life campaign reveals what I have always feared, in that the CA remains true to its aim of enabling its members to make informed decisions.

In simple terms, this means that it hopes for a market where IFAs deal with the higher-net-worth sector and everyone else gets their advice for free.

Does this mean that the Government will need to guard its coffers not from benefit cheats but from advice cheats? Can we expect to see freeloaders taking advantage to invest their millions bit by bit, with the advice for free?

The CA&#39s suggestion that this could be funded by fines is contradicted by its other assumption that targeted tougher compliance is in place. After all, if this works, who will get fined?

All in all, I believe its suggestions will fail through a combination of logistical problems and a lack of Government commitment.

But out of all bad ideas, some parts are likely to survive, namely, the idea of two-tier advice. No problem, I hear you say. But be careful as you need to ask yourself what you will need to operate on the top tier – it certainly won&#39t be the FPC.

The idea that only the names will change (IFA to AFA) is not what will come to pass. This market is going to change and the number who will be in a position to continue will fall, especially if they continue to see the path to APFC as only for anoraks.

While on the subject of Government-funded advice, the cartoonist and pension pundit Steve Bee of Scottish Life made an excellent suggestion to me recently. Instead of handing out the winter fuel supplement to all and sundry, why not divert the first year&#39s payment to the provision of annuity advice? After all, the purchase of the correct annuity can improve their lifetime income by as much as 30 per cent (source: FSA-proposed leaflet on open-market options).

Is this not better than the money being used on heating? After all, they can always burn the key features of the annuity quotes they reject.

I return to the words of the legendary Tommy Docherty, who once remarked: “We were lucky to get nil.” Can I suggest that the same fate awaits many of the initiatives for the financially disadvantaged as they crash to a heavy defeat at the hands of Logistics & Uninterested United.

Robert Reid is principal of Syndaxi Financial Planning.

He can be contacted via email c/o the editor at robert.reid@centaur.co.uk

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