Sunday, February 20, 2011


  • This is not a defence of shareholders, savers,or anyone who gambles in any shape or form. It is time to try and set the record straight, get some balance, into the subject. There are a lot of misconceptions being peddled and myths being encouraged, because its suits various groups to deflect the attention of the masses as to what is really happening in the U.K today. 

    Time and again, denigrating pronouncements and insulting jibes are thrown at various sectors of the population when it suits particular pressure groups, Unions and Government. The media grab at it,and if not already provided, create sound bites that are bandied about till the myth that it helps create, is established as fact. When you take a closer look, the cracks and flaws in the comments and the myths become evident. 

    Savers have had a roller-coaster of a ride in recent times in the various banking institutions with which they tried to build their nest eggs. No-one considered it a gamble, trusting those who worked in the global financial markets, to care for personal assets, of any size. It was and it is a financial gamble. The banks have a compulsory financial guarantee for savers, whereas, other money building models do not. Risk for bank savers is therefore, reduced. 

    Many individuals and families take a flutter on market stocks and shares, with various amounts of money they have saved. The buying and selling of stocks and shares is mainly managed by an industry of brokers and fund managers. Investors take the risk, they can win or lose. 

    There's the flutter with various alternative forms of gambling: The Lottery, bingo, cards, games machines, raffles and horses. All these flutters have spawned a vast supporting gambling industry. It is an avenue from which Government can divert money to the Treasury coffers. This financial risk is entirely yours; you can win or lose.

    Bank and building society savings accounts appear to be less of a gamble than other forms of investing, however, it is clear from recent and ongoing events that there is a risk attached to them, though much less than with other forms of gambling.

    A very large number of shareholdings are held by people who have invested modest amounts for a medium or long term, (years).  The investment may accrue in value and there may be dividend payments for the loan and use of the money during the time it is invested.  It is all taxable.  When the investments work well, they contribute to a person's or family's income, at various stages of life. The largest shareholdings are corporate ones. There are issues around corporate power, which in recent times have affected the small and individual shareholder. This is a matter for another discussion. 

    The quick flutter will involve the exchanging of modest or large sums of money for the high risk strategy of early gratification. The winnings, like the shares income, can be taxed. Huge numbers of people enjoy the quick gamble, some are addicted to it. The vast majority lose lots of money. Financial gains, if any, will not reflect the aggregated amounts gamblers lose. That is how this style of gambling is meant to work. 

    What is the difference between the groups of gamblers? It is convenient to peddle the myth that all shareholders are wealthy greedy pigs. The small shareholders, of which there are many, have chosen to gamble, (many with relatively modest amounts of money that they have saved) in a different manner to the other groups of gamblers. Like the bank account savers, the aim is to save and benefit from the gamble, (investment) over time. They are not looking for the excitement of the racetrack. The bank savers and shareholders have similar aims but the shareholders do not have the cushion of the banking financial guarantee. 

    Buying a bet on a horse or dog, buying lottery tickets regularly spending money on bingo, is an extremely short term risky investment strategy. The quick gamble, gives short term excitement, generates an adrenalin rush and over time, will leave most punters well out of pocket. What the overall spend is in the quick gambling arena, is hard to assess. We do know that the quick gamble instinct is tapped into with great success. This can be seen in annual healthy profit figures produced by the gambling industry.

    As things stand, following the global financial crisis, the short-term gamblers, the savers and individual and family shareholders are all in similar positions.


Vincent said...

Well, ZACL, you are spot on there. We have no choice but to gamble, in the sense that we cannot be sure of anything. We are stuck where we are and even if we think the western economic system overheats the entire world, metaphorically and literally too, we depend on it for jobs and/or savings. There have been times when for certain people life was easy and prosperity was guaranteed. Perhaps, like the Bertram family in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, the prosperous life was made possible by the labour of slaves in the West Indies. Sooner or later all the chickens come home to roost, and the uncertainty of life reaches all of us.

If I was still in the jobs market, I’d be unlikely to find work because the recession hits contract workers first. And if I depend on savings, it’s difficult to find a way to preserve them against inflation. But why should I expect life to be easy?

Apologies for a wide-ranging rant.

ZACL said...

Thank you for your 'wide-ranging rant' Vincent. It is thoughtful, vibrant and personal. Your thoughts are highly relevant to this post. Reality is found in all sorts of enlightened and dark corners.