Derek Pain: Why golden oldies still deserve a fair share in investing

No Pain, No Gain

Should us old-timers continue to invest in the stock market as advancing years start to take their toll? There seems to be a strong body of opinion that believes our shareholdings merely create problems for those we leave behind.

I recall one prominent former politician complaining that settling their father's estate was bedevilled by dealing with the shares he held. So should the elderly get rid of the stocks they may have cherished for many years? I don't think so.

A well-drawn-up will should solve any inheritance problems. So should powers of attorney. And it should also be pointed out that following the fortunes – even misfortunes – of a fairly active portfolio represents an absorbing occupation, providing a necessary interest in old age.

I believe there are many instances of pensioners of advanced years conducting portfolios. I am lucky to correspond with a Liverpool reader who is well into his eighties and takes a deep interest in the stock market. However, he is without a computer and often finds it difficult to keep abreast of the incessant news flow that occurs these days. Nevertheless he still spots winners. He alighted on Telford Homes - up in a few years from less than 100p to, as I write, 365p.

With inflation higher for the elderly there is an understandable determination to counter the low interest rate environment by investing in shares. After all a share yielding, say, 4 per cent compares exceedingly favourably with the returns available on the high street. And there is always the chance of capital gains, through natural progression or takeover action.

It is worth remembering that if beneficiaries are prepared to hang on to shares they could become long-term shareholders. Should they have to sell to meet, for example, inheritance tax, the value of a share is fixed to the date death occurs. In a falling market, or if particular shares run into difficulties, problems could be thrown up. Still, little is perfect.

However, there is one cardinal rule to be observed by young and old – any investor in the stock market should only use spare cash. It is silly to ignore the risks.

AIM shares have already scored from their inclusion in the ISA world and the intended removal of stamp duty. There is also a tax advantage for some AIM constituents. They avoid inheritance tax after being held for two years.

I should, perhaps, add that I am an oldie - heading for my eightieth birthday when my state pension will be increased by the princely sum of 25p a week. After 18 or so weeks my increase should be enough to buy a pint at my local.

Now to the no pain, no gain portfolio. Its star performer, the Booker cash and carry chain, has again excelled and the shares climbed to a new all-time high. At the "true" pre-tax level for the first 24 weeks of the year profits emerged at £65.1m against £46.6m although the pre-exceptional figure was £58.1m, up 17 per cent. Sales rose 16.5 per cent.

The group is clearly getting to grips with the £140m Makro acquisition. Its integration is going according to plan and benefits of £26m are expected this year, with further to come. Second-half sales are ahead of last year and the interim dividend rises by 18 per cent to 0.45p a share. With £123.4m in the bank, shareholders are promised a special distribution next year.

Chief executive Charles Wilson, the ex-Marks & Spencer man leading Booker's revival, says: "Our plan to focus, drive and broaden Booker Group is on track".

The shares joined the portfolio at 24.5p in January 2009 and are now around 146p. I have suggested any reader who followed the portfolio into Booker should consider selling about half their interest, locking in a profit and enjoying a free ride. With many benefits of the Makro deal still to materialise and growth expected in India, Booker should continue to prosper.

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