Interactive Investor

Adrian Mole: the secret diary of an emotional investor, aged 52 and ¾

How would the neurotic Mole cope with the ups and downs of the stock market?

23rd September 2019 10:40

by Moira O'Neill from interactive investor

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How would the neurotic Mole cope with the ups and downs of the stock market? 

Adrian Mole, everyone's favourite fictional teenage diarist, turned 52 this year. 

The hit West End musical means a new generation of fans are discovering the 13¾-year-old's musings, but those of us who remember Sue Townsend's hugely popular books the first time around are left feeling decidedly ancient. 

How could Adrian, a cult figure throughout our school years, possibly be approaching the age where he could cash in a pension? 

The publication of Mole's first diary in the early 1980s happened around the same time the very first Now That's What I Call Music album was released. If you want to feel old, the latest in that series is Now 103 (if you want to feel really old, try listening to the tracks). 

As my generation starts to consider their own retirement, I have been wondering what kind of investor a diarist of Mole's era might have been.

I have no doubt he would have let his emotions guide his investment decisions, riding the "curve of idiocy", thinking he has a skill for picking winners - only to throw the towel in at the bottom of the market. Hopefully, readers will have had more success with long-term investment planning. 

So, with apologies to Sue Townsend, here's my 20-year imagining of how someone like Mole might have navigated the stock markets of the eighties, nineties and noughties. 

January 1 1983

These are my New Year's resolutions:

1 I will contribute one-tenth of my income to charity

2 I will stop smoking

3 I will develop a healthy skin care regime

4 I will get rich by learning how to invest in the stock market

5 I will consult Nigel, whose uncle works in the City, about how to do this

6 I will read a book about investing every month.

September 6 1983

Finally finished Benjamin Graham's The Intelligent Investor, which Nigel's uncle recommended. The librarian rudely asked what a boy of my age was doing with a book like this, but she will be laughing on the other side of her face when I'm a millionaire. Hopefully by the age of 25!

January 3 1984

The FTSE 100 Index has launched. I just wish I had some money to invest in Sainsbury's (LSE:SBRY) — they seem to attract a better class of person than Tesco (LSE:TSCO). Last week, I saw the vicar buying toilet paper; he chose a four-roll pack of purple three-ply. He must have money to burn!

I really must stop my 20-a-day cigarette habit. I could save £30 to £40 a month.

March 18 1985

Grandma has left me £500 in her will, apparently because I kept my room tidy and was kind to strangers. When I turn 18 next month, I hope to celebrate by investing in Sainsbury's. However, I'm worried that their shares are overpriced at £1.40 each. Shares in Marks & Spencer (LSE:MKS) are only £1.37, but their microwaveable lasagne is much more expensive. Hmmm.

October 12 1985

I've been thinking about what Mrs Thatcher said at yesterday's Tory Party Conference about wishing for a society "where owning shares is as common as having a car". If I agree with her, does that mean I'm not a socialist?

It's a pity there aren't more investors living around here that I could ask about it. Mr Smith from number 24 carries a briefcase, but he's a deputy headteacher. Just my luck.

November 27 1986

I'm definitely applying to invest in British Gas (Centrica (LSE:CNA)) shares. After cutting down to 10 ciggies a day, I already have more than the minimum £150 needed to invest. Not sure about the adverts though - feel sorry for my cousin Sid, who is finding them irritating.

December 15 1986

Sold my British Gas shares for a healthy profit after the first week of trading. Bought a bottle of Cinzano Bianco to celebrate. Discussed my strategy with Nigel, who is now working for his uncle. I think I may be turning into a contrarian investor. Nigel has advised me to buy the F&C Investment Trust, “the original collective investment”. It sounds a bit boring, but I'll humour him as the rest of my portfolio has been doing well.

February 1 1987

Just finished A Random Walk Down Wall Street — it only took me a month! There was a lot of information about tulips. I think Burton Malkiel should write a revised edition that's a bit more modern. I'm not convinced by his argument that we can't pick investment winners. Following my recent success, I have bought shares in M&S, Barclays Bank, and even Imperial Tobacco now that I've finally quit smoking.

June 11 1987

The newspaper boy delivered a Daily Express rather than my Guardian. I took it back to the newsagent and saw Mr Smith buying a copy of Investors Chronicle. He put it into his briefcase. I can't wait to talk to him about investing. My portfolio's doing really well!

October 31 1987

I usually enjoy Halloween but it has passed me by this year. Black Monday has desecrated my portfolio. I was so upset last week that I lit a cigarette downstairs on the bus and got a £50 fine.

Haven't been sleeping well at all since. Time to sell out, I think. I just don't have it in me to invest in the stock market, not even as a value investor.

January 1 1988

These are my New Year's resolutions:

1 I will stop smoking

2 I will put my money in Premium Bonds

3 I will stop talking to Nigel about the stock market — he says I should stick with it, but I'm not convinced.

December 19 1996

Read in the newspaper that the FTSE 100 has passed the 4,000 mark! Just my luck. Still think the stock market is too risky for me. I've still got my Premium Bonds and winning the recently enlarged £1 million jackpot would be a dream.

September 19 1997

The FTSE 100 has passed 5,000! I'm going to sell my Premium Bonds - haven't won a single prize for eight months straight - and speak to Nigel.

July 15 15 1998

So excited to be back in the investing game! This time, I'm going to stick with it for the long term. No "fast buck" approach for me! The FTSE 100 has passed 6,000 - at this rate, I'll be able to holiday in the Maldives next year.

December 24 1999

I think the FTSE 100 is going to pass 7,000 soon. Have invested my Christmas bonus in LastMinute.com shares.

September 19 2002

I've tried my best to stick with my portfolio through the dotcom crash, but the FTSE 100 has finally dipped below 4,000. I don't think anybody in the world can be as unhappy as me. If I didn't have poetry, I would be a raving loony by now.

January 1 2003

Spoke to an independent financial adviser about how on earth I might be able to start investing again and save for my retirement. He said that my workplace pension was not bad, but that I should also use ISA funds for the tax benefits. He said I can invest a maximum of £7,000 per year. Fat chance of that - after Christmas, I'm struggling to scrape together £700.

June 20 2003

Bumped into Nigel, and gave him the lowdown on my new ISA portfolio. He said that it has too many boring tracker funds, unlike his portfolio that was "carefully reviewed by a contrarian expert who once worked for Anthony Bolton". I have gone off Nigel, and I have also gone off my portfolio a bit.

So I'm going to research investment trusts. The F&C Investment Trust (LSE:FCIT) that I bought back in the 1980s is doing rather well. If only I had hung on to it!

Moira O'Neill is the head of personal finance at Interactive Investor. The views expressed are personal. Twitter: @moiraoneill The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 and ¾ — the Musical is playing at the Ambassadors Theatre in London until 28 September.

This article was written for the Financial Times and published there on 11 September 2019.

These articles are provided for information purposes only.  Occasionally, an opinion about whether to buy or sell a specific investment may be provided by third parties.  The content is not intended to be a personal recommendation to buy or sell any financial instrument or product, or to adopt any investment strategy as it is not provided based on an assessment of your investing knowledge and experience, your financial situation or your investment objectives. The value of your investments, and the income derived from them, may go down as well as up. You may not get back all the money that you invest. The investments referred to in this article may not be suitable for all investors, and if in doubt, an investor should seek advice from a qualified investment adviser.

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