Sam Dunn: 'Wall Street' it isn't but put your faith in shares
Sunday 05 March 2006
"Greed is good," purrs Michael Douglas as the ruthless financier Gordon Gekko in the film Wall Street. His character goes on to make us wonder what he means by "good", using devious tactics to tear companies apart, upend livelihoods and make a fast buck.
Most of us prefer to make a good living by less rapacious means, of course. But that doesn't mean a little greed is bad either - especially in demanding a decent return from our personal finances.
Be it savings, investments or pensions, no one wants to see their money languish in a mediocre fund or gather little but dust in a low-paying account.
And at this time of year, as the end of the tax year looms and the deadline heaves into view for investing our annual £7,000 individual savings account (ISA) allowance, the sentiment comes through in The Independent on Sunday Money postbag.
Readers' questions usually turn on where to put their tax-free money - in a cash account or equities?
We're not trained as financial advisers, so we can't offer specific guidance, but this taste of the public's attitude to finance is revealing.
In the past couple of years, the mood has been one of caution. Reflecting their lack of faith in the stock markets, many correspondents were thinking of sticking up to £3,000 in a mini cash ISA - the most allowed - and either ignoring the rest of the allowance or putting small sums into UK stock market tracker funds.
But this year, the letters and emails are much brighter - perky even.
The inspiration for this appears to be the buoyant FTSE 100 index, as well as the reappearance of intense advertising campaigns by fund managers, featuring on billboards and in magazines and newspapers.
Many reader emails request tips for the specific stock market funds in which they should be investing, or ask whether the US or continental Europe might not be a better bet.
Clearly, there are now strong signs that enthusiasm for putting money in a stock market fund is back. As we report above, sales of equity ISAs in January more than doubled compared to last year.
Goodness knows, it's been a long wait.
Some five years have passed, to be more precise, since the dot-com bubble burst and deflated the hopes, and returns, of millions of individual investors, many of whom were dabbling in the stock market for the first time.
You too may be wondering whether now is the right time to use your ISA allowance to invest directly in an equity fund.
It may come as a surprise but, to some degree, this is a largely irrelevant question. The stock market is just one of many tools out there for you to use to try to boost your financial fortunes. It's simply a lever for wealth, along with property, cash savings, a pension and investment bonds, to name but a few.
Worrying about being in at the right or wrong time is almost to miss the point.
Think of the stock markets as personal to you. If you're grappling with credit card debts and on a low income, your priorities should lie elsewhere as you will need money more quickly than an equity investment allows.
And if you're elderly and want to be able to draw on spare income, investing huge sums in a Japan fund is throwing caution to the wind.
But if you can afford to spare a monthly sum - as little as £10 in some cases - for investment over the longer term, at least 10 years, then you'll have enough time to ride out the economic highs and lows.
You don't have to be Gekko to benefit from the stock market.
Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
- 1 Planes go hybrid-electric in important step to greener flight
- 4 Hip hop is both racial and political, and for Iggy Azalea to suggest otherwise is insulting
- 5 Man hospitalised with pneumonia after downing eggnog at office Christmas party
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
Alex Salmond has 'broken his word to the Scottish people' says Scottish Lib Dem leader
iJobs Money & Business
Highly Competitive: Selby Jennings: Our client, a leading European Oil trading...
£43500 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Night Shift Operatio...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000 + Car + Pension: SThree: SThree are a ...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K: SThree: We consistently strive to be the...
Day In a Page
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens