Sam Dunn: 'Wall Street' it isn't but put your faith in shares

"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; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
Fans take a selfie with Ed Miliband in Kempston, near Bedford, on Tuesday
election 2015
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Guru Careers: Project Manager / Business Analyst

    £40-50k + Benefits.: Guru Careers: A Project Manager / Business Analyst is nee...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Swiss Banking and Finance

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Can you speak German,...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - 6 month FTC - Central London

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity f...

    Ashdown Group: Junior Project Manager (website, web application) - Agile

    £215 per day: Ashdown Group: Junior Project Manager (website, web application ...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power