Investing collectively can be doubly rewarding: it builds team spirit and, if you're shrewd, it can boost your wallet. Elaine Williams talks to some enterprising teachers.
A group of Lincoln teachers regularly meets in the city's pubs to talk about share investments. According to Kevin Goodwin, head of drama at the City School, Lincoln, and chairman of the teachers' investment club, it's an opportunity for members of staff to get together and discuss something other than the national curriculum. He says: "We have to work as a team at school, and this club helps; it makes turning in for work a happier experience. "
Six members of the City School's staff have been meeting with three of their partners, also teachers, for the past four years to make investment decisions.
They each contribute Pounds 15 a month and invest about Pounds 500 at any one time in different companies. "We are all putting in money we can afford to lose; nobody is going to get rich on this," says Mr Goodwin. However, he calculates that the profit on their holdings is about 6 per cent a year, which makes it a better investment than a building society account.
But it's also fun. If the group makes particularly good dividends, members treat themselves to a cheap meal out. "Last time we went to a pub that did two meals for a fiver," says Mr Goodwin, "It's got to be a laugh."
The Lincoln teachers are cautious investors, opting for long-term growth rather than short-term gains, but they tend to chose on a whim and a fancy.
"Our treasurer likes cocoa at bedtime so we invested in a cocoa company, " says Mr Goodwin. Their decision was also prompted by a tip published in a national newspaper on the strength of a bumper cocoa harvest. They bought the shares at 180p each, and although the price fell to 135p, it rallied to 190p.
The group has also decided to buy Pounds 1,000 worth of Halifax shares when the building society becomes a plc in the summer. Their most recent investment was Pounds 600 in Jarvis, the construction company that has the Railtrack maintenance contract.
Group members comb the financial pages of the main daily newspapers, but that's as far as their research goes.
Marion Dawson, a biology teacher at the City School, says: "One of our ambitions is to have more regular meetings and make more careful decisions about what we buy, because at the moment we go for what we fancy. Somebody might want to plump for Newcastle United and somebody else will say 'Load of rubbish!' " In any case, it was impossible to make decisions quickly because everybody's approval had to be sought and impromptu meetings were regulated by the school bell.
Marion Dawson says most teachers were attracted to the club out of curiosity. "Most people had had no experience of share ownership and were surprised to find that it is all rather simple."
The Lincoln club is a member of Proshare Investment Clubs, which issues advice on how to set up a club. "I think Proshare has done more for us than the appraisal process," says Kevin Goodwin. "Their documentation is easier to read, and recriminations are easier to administer."