Business News

Is investing in stocks a better bet than property?

Weekend newspaper supplements often quiz somebody reasonably well known about their finances. The answers are often the same: ‘money is not my main motivation, my priorities are my family, friends and employees’ and other assorted fibs. One question that always receives the same answer is about property versus shares. People always say that they much prefer investing in bricks and mortar. They don’t like equities because they are, it is often asserted, too volatile or too difficult to understand.

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Beware of the scams designed to fleece you out of thousands

A good friend of mine was caught out by a scam before Christmas. He received a call on his home phone from an individual who claimed to be from Mastercard. The individual told him that a fraudster had got his hands on his debit card and used it to steal money from his account.

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Bluntness in the office not necessarily a bad thing

Not that long ago a friend sent me a yellowing magazine story about famous Fleet Street editors, with a Post-it note attached saying: “Those were the days.”

I saw what she meant as soon as I read about the late Charles Wintour, a former London Evening Standard editor with a flair for the withering memo. A note he sent to a young unnamed reporter who was begging to be sent to Israel in the 1960s began in a way that is now unthinkable.

“You are the fifth (and least qualified) person who has today asked to go to the Middle East,” he wrote. The paper had already dispatched an experienced foreign correspondent to Israel, he added, and unless shooting seemed imminent, it would be “insane” for a London paper to send anyone else. “I will bear in mind your request for an exciting assignment, but they do not grow on trees to be plucked by hungry young mouths.”

Reading those blunt words, I felt like an archaeologist, stumbling over an ancient artefact revealing the odd ways humans once dealt with one another. It is hard to imagine a manager delivering such tart advice in writing to an underling today, in a newspaper or anywhere else.

Social media
For one thing, social media has empowered employees to fight back in a way that was once impossible. Consider the public humiliation heaped on the boss of a British tech firm the other week after he interviewed a young woman for a job. She took to Twitter to say he had torn her apart in a “brutal” exchange that had left her in tears and made her feel as if she was in a room with an “abusive ex”.

The man quickly apologised, insisting he had never intended to hurt anyone. His company launched an investigation, saying it was satisfied no bullying had occurred but was “saddened” by the incident and would “reflect” on its HR policies.

I have no idea what went on in that interview, nor do I think there is ever an excuse for wanton bullying or witless abuse. Yet it is easy to imagine a modern-day Wintour suffering a similar fate and that is a shame, because his ageing memo contains a number of valuable lessons about working life.

First, a company does not exist purely to please its employees. It will always have wider aims and it is pointless to ignore them. I have always been in favour of the “don’t ask, don’t get” approach. But there is a corollary: do not be surprised if it does not produce instant success.

Second, Wintour was making it clear that ambition does not necessarily equal ability. No matter how frustrated thrusting young workers may feel, there are likely to be times when they will be overlooked for jobs requiring a depth of experience and maturity they lack. It is best to learn early how to deal with this.

Public life
Our tendency to confuse blunt words with unacceptable behaviour has had another sad consequence beyond the office. It robs public life of some of its most delightful moments.

One of my favourite politicians was the late Australian minister Gordon Bilney, who was turfed out at the polls in 1996. Freshly liberated, he wrote to a griping local official in his constituency to say: “One of the great pleasures of private life is that I need no longer be polite to nincompoops, bigots, curmudgeons and twerps who infest local government bodies and committees such as yours. In the particular case of your committee, the pleasure is acute.”

Bilney was a former adviser to the late Australian prime minister Gough Whitlam, who once faced a persistent heckler on the campaign trail who demanded to know his views on abortion. “Let me make quite clear that I am for abortion and, in your case sir, we should make it retrospective.”

Alas, it is hard to think of many politicians today who would be capable of such remarks, let alone willing to make them.

By the way, if you were worried about the fate of that young Evening Standard reporter who was spurned by Wintour, don’t. It turned out to be Max Hastings, a distinguished foreign correspondent who went on to cover 11 wars, write more than 25 books and edit two Fleet Street papers, first the Daily Telegraph and then, as it happens, the Evening Standard itself. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019

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On the money: Ireland’s minimum wage is now the second highest of all EU countries

POLICY makers across developed economies have struggled to lift wages since the great crash – a big factor in the slow return of inflation. While it suits many employers, it’s seen as one reason overall growth remains dangerously sluggish.

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Higher rents and utility bills push consumer prices up

New figures from the Central Statistics Office show that consumer prices rose by 0.7% in January compared to the same time last year.

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Higher rents and utility bills push consumer prices up

New figures from the Central Statistics Office show that consumer prices rose by 0.7% in January compared to the same time last year.

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Property prices still rising – but easing rate of increase indicates slight cooling down

Property prices are continuing to rise, but the rate of increase is down indicating a slight cooling down.

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€647m paid out to 39,800 affected tracker mortgage customers

Banks have paid out €647m in redress, compensation and costs to customers caught up in the tracker mortgage controversy, new figures from the Central Bank show.

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Spending by householders flat in January as bills for Christmas arrive

Spending by householders was flat last month as the bills for Christmas arrived.

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Varadkar expects UK to leave EU with deal but Ireland ‘continues to prepare for all Brexit outcomes’

With 44 days to go until the UK leaves the European Union, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he believes a deal will be reached between the two.

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