Private Investor: Please, Gordon, give us a bit of encouragement

Second was Gordon Brown's insistence on raiding dormant bank accounts to pay for projects that ought to be funded from general taxation, as if it was a sort of second Lotto fund. How he can get away with such a barefaced grab, I do not know. Third, though, is how little Brown seems to want to do to turn the British into the sort of share-owning, share-trading and financially sophisticated types that so many Americans are.

Over there, they talk about stock prices as readily and openly as football or baseball scores. Over here, it's regarded as being eccentric to be interested in investment, a bit nerdy perhaps, a little money-grubbing, or maybe a little racy, but in the wrong sort of way - "gambling on the stock market," as it's called.

This is a pity, because it means that people rely far too much on the sort of financial "experts" in banks, building societies and life companies they can usually do without. These advisers and experts - from the most humble assistant branch-manager at a small building society to the fund managers of the mightiest investment houses - have been responsible for screwing up the entire image of the personal finance industry and the idea of personal investment generally.

As everyone knows, this has created such an awful air of distrust that hardly anyone wants to save for their old age in case someone else steals or loses the money. You'd be better off spending it on wild nights on the town.

Not for me, though. But Brown just does not do enough for us. Sure, there are special tax breaks for AIM shares, say, or initiatives such as Real Estate Investment Trusts, but what Brown does not seem to want to do is to encourage people to make a bit of money on the stock exchange for their old age.

Yes, that means buying dud stocks and making mistakes, but it also means they might just invest more sensibly, building their own portfolio and looking to their own resources to look after them in retirement.

After all, they decide what sort of house to buy without much help from government, and you don't find politicians telling you to buy a Ford rather than a Fiat, say - so why shouldn't they let us manage our own money? Just a thought.

If you've been looking after your own money, as I have, you'll have enjoyed 2006 so far. Last week, we saw the FTSE 100 crest the 6,000 mark for the first time in years, and maybe it'll head north of 7,000 soon enough, so beating its all-time high. In truth, the big caps are just chasing after the small caps, which have had an even better run.

Now, perhaps, it is time to look again at putting more of my hard-earned into a growth story. An ideal opportunity indeed presents itself with the resignation of Rod Aldridge as boss of Capita, the support services company that has a finger in every pie from the London Congestion Charge to the BBC's personnel department and, through Aldridge's generous loan to them, the Labour Party.

Aldridge never seemed to me to be much of a socialist, but in any case all I can hope is that his replacement keeps well away from political activity. That way, Capita can continue to be a long-term bet whoever's running the country.

One last thought. I'd neglected to watch my shares in QinetiQ, the old defence research establishment, now privatised. Looking at the share price I got a nasty jolt. They've been having a rather disappointing run, down to well below the 200p mark now, for no particular reason it would seem. Let's hope that when Brown offers shares in the Tote to us they'll be priced to do a little bit better than that.

s.ogrady@independent.co.uk

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