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Writings of Albert Morris
Article 32 - Noughts for our comfort in a world of tumbling stocks and shares


THOSE of you around my vintage will remember the spectacle of bright-eyed Ginger Rogers, adorned in dollars, singing, with the stirring effect of bugles on a battlefield, the song, Weíre In The Money, that heralded the opening of the Hollywood musical, Gold Diggers of 1933.

The combination of hard currency and pneumatic female, and the optimism of the song, helped to raise the mor-ale of the United States recovering from the Great Depression of the late 1920s and early 1930s and doubtless brought a smile and symbolised the return of American bounce and confidence to ordinary folks, from shoeshine boy to bootlegging gangster.

Oh, bring her blonde and bosomy image back to our screens again so that a grain of confidence, a segment of stoic-ism and a fragment of hope can reinsert the steel in our spines and the grit in our teeth when the Stock Exchange reels, shares domino-topple and our lovely money, which we thought we had left safe and comfy in our banks, building societies and blue chip shares, and which we had nursed so carefully and brought up to be a credit to us in our hoped-for, moderately-afflu-ent, later years, has been going down the plug-hole, leaving noughts for our comfort.

In this bear marketís recent trading, the wealth of those investing on the stock market, either directly or indirectly, has, according to a press report, been cut by an astonishing £900 billion - a catastrophe not just for savers but the whole economy.

All my old favourites that I have nurtured throughout the years as hedges against hyper, super or common-or-garden inflation have been withering into worthlessness like American Confederate notes.

While I never expected, or got, much from City of Kiev Tramways (1917), Consolidated Corsets always figured well in any economic squeeze but now has had its trading suspended. Tibetan Tea leaves a lot to be desired, and Hope Deferred has made the heart grow sick.

Worried? Not really, but the other day I needed two stiff gins to give me courage to open a bottle of tranquillisers. Like so many investors, I view share crashes with the unswerving confidence of a rabbit transfixed by the headlights of an oncoming car.

I believe better financial times are lurching hesitantly towards us, but about half the population, it seems, lack my optimism. Their gloom results in financial phobia, which, according to a report by Cambridge University, includes a fear of banks, mortgages, pensions and organised personal finances, and is defined as a genuine illness. The symptoms include a racing heart, sweaty hands, wild mood swings and reluctance to open bank statements and, in extreme cases, an avoidance of anything to do with their finances.

I know the feeling. I get generalised anxiety disorder, including panic attacks and flashbacks towards less complicated days when I use a street cash machine and suddenly forget the number, try guessing it, and find that the contraption insolently refuses to return the card after I have made several non-convincing insertions, resulting in suspicious looks from queuers as I slink away, like a whipped, cashless cur. I also get feelings of inadequacy at these machines when the sun shines directly onto them and, for me, blurs the instructions so that I have to enlist other people to peer at nose-tip distance to the screen and guide me.

The worst anxiety producers in my carefully-spent life are helpful people from banks and building societies who phone me, suggesting that my well-gotten gains are not working for me but slacking in a disgraceful way.

They fix appointments with me and financial advisers. Very nice people they are - until they suggest wake-up calls for my cash snoozing in cobwebbed accounts and advise bustling it into highly-exciting bonds and other investments that, they claim, will produce lolly more or less in line with my dreams of avarice.

Then, with pursed lips and coined phrases hinting that Iíll think about what they suggest - one day - I thank them for their consideration and curl up at home with a nice, cryptic bank statement and try to forget my financial life until the Inland Revenue reminds me.

To inject ginger into my money, I may consider investing in a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It will probably be safer than my shares.


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