Sunday 21 April 2013

Kairos and a Penny Found

Opportunity knocks! But sometimes only quietly.

Beliefs shape us and as an active investor you must believe that your investment choices are better than just buying a market index ETF or (horror!) a fund managed by a man in a suit who claims to foretell the future.

My own (unprovable) belief is that there are opportunities every day for an investor willing to put some original thought into the effort. The key, I believe, is just to be looking. Maybe that's why I regularly find money on the street.

My last find - a couple of days ago - was a pound coin my wife had walked past. Most people won't bother to pick up a penny, even if they see it - but does that mean that they don't bother looking for the pounds?

By the way, my biggest find was a £20 note, crumpled up. I found a crumpled £5 note last month. But I also pick up the pennies - it makes me feel lucky, no matter how grubby or worthless the penny may be. Not lucky because I am a penny richer but that so many other people walked past it.

And it's not just coins on the street. I regularly seem to pick up bargains at the supermarket - just by looking for them. In fact, deliberately looking for them: discounts of 90% are not unknown, if you:
  • a) do not have a rigid shopping list (heresy for the disciplined shopper)
  • b) are not too fussy about 'sell by' dates and (sometimes) willing to try something unusual

The ancient Greek concept of Kairos appeals to me. It can be described as "a passing instant when an opening appears which must be driven through with force if success is to be achieved." Obviously, you need to be able to:
  • a) recognise that an opportunity is being presented to you, and
  • b) be able to assess its value
  • c) take action, when justified

All this to describe how your basic 'mindset' will have a fundamental influence on your investment style. If - as I believe - opportunities are regularly put in front of you, what can you do to capitalise on these?

Perhaps a bit obviously: you need to learn to think for yourself - this means becoming a DIY Investor and choosing your own investment philosophy (rather than just believing in someone else's - even the one I describe on this blog). And then you need to keep you mind open to ideas, which can come from many directions. You may be surprised how much inspiration comes to you.

And you might start finding money on the street.

Thanks to Monevator's always-interesting Weekend Reading comment round-up and to Simple Living in Suffolk for introducing me to Kairos.

Update 28/5/13 - Since writing this I have continued to find money - in one case a £5 note. The moral is just to look: you may find mainly pennies but occasionally something a lot more! And this applies to investing, too.

I am not a financial adviser and the information provided does not constitute financial advice. You should always do your own research on top of what you learn here to ensure that it's right for your specific circumstances.


  1. The important number to check in supermarkets is the price/kg, very often (deliberately?) in rather small print.
    Oh, and the power of marketing and snobbery! How much do we pay for a 'name'? e.g. My wife is a Philadelphia cheese snob, our youngest, a Nutella snob. No cheap stuff for them!
    Tried an experiment - the Carrefour 'Discount' brand white cheese spread (like 'economy' in the UK) for a third of the price and put in a Piladelphia container. Same for Lidl chocolate spread.
    They didn't notice a thing!

    1. That old trick!

      The more you look, the better it gets: sometimes reductions on two-for-one items means that they actually pay you to take the food away!

  2. Hello DIY Investor,
    I have been following your blog for a while, thanks for all the information, it has been very beneficial in building my "freedom" income portfolio.

    I know this is not related to this particular article, but my portfolio is growing in value and is with a single broker (H & L, SIPP and ISA's). I know you use and TD Direct. I am rather nervous having all my holdings with a single broker.

    I would be very grateful for your views on this subject, should I divide my assets with 3-4 brokers for safety ?

    Best Regards,

    1. I'm really glad you are keeping alert!

      As I understand it SIPPs and ISAs are only guaranteed up to the £50k 'financial' compensation limit - so it is good to diversify if your capital is likely to exceed this. In any case, it is good to see how other providers perform - as long as you are not paying excessive fees!

    2. Sorry but I don't think this is the full story is it!?*? If you invest in equities or unit trusts etc then you actually hold title to those shares/units through nominee accounts etc held in your name. The wrap/platform do not have control over your assets and cannot use them to meet their own liabilities etc. if they were ever to go bust. This is fundamental. So 100k of say BP shares will always remain just that. I really don't think you can use the 50k limit to justify using multiple platforms except perhaps for cash, but even then I believe Hargreaves Lansdown use multiple accounts with different banks again in trust to Eliminate/minimise risks.

      I am no expert but please can we get to the truth of this for the sake of all your readers!

  3. Well, Sisyphus et al, we went for a walk three days ago and I found six pence (a 5 and a penny), very dirty, and I picked them up as I always do, and for the identical reasons you give for doing it yourself. Then I read all about Kairos and got my wife to read it too. Then we went out for another walk, yesterday. She immediately found a pound. Inspired by this, I looked in the same spot and found another penny. (Both clean and shiny). From this you could make various deductions about eyesight and visual attention, but I think she is just better at applying things she reads than I am....

    Now, today I found something else out. You may know that Miele make extremely good vacuum cleaners. Everything about them is expensive (not that the price/quality correlation is high - it would be very un-income investorish to think it was). Anyhow, we had to vacuum up bits of carpet fluff left by the carpet fitters. When the vacuum cleaner started to protest that its bag was full, I thought "These bags are £2.50. I don't want to throw this one away, so I will take a screwdriver and ease the largely clean and inoffensive contents quickly into the dustbin." But the bits of carpet fluff which were still inside the bag (as opposed to the hose-shaped fluff cylinder outside it) would not come out. Why, you may well ask. Two reasons. First, there is a little plastic door over the place the pipe goes into the bag. Its function appears to be to close when you take the bag out so you don't spill anything on your way to the dustbin. Obvious. (It breaks off if you twist it). The second reason is not so obvious. The inside of the bag is manufactured in such a way that a number of tapes criss-cross the bag. They are made of a variety of materials, and appear to be there in order to stop you from extracting the bag's contents and thus re-using it . It was not particularly easy to snip off these tapes in a full bag, but you could easily get the rest of the stuff out when you had. Probably spent ten or fifteen minutes doing it. I will soon treat the other bags in the same way - before using them - much easier, much quicker. If, of course, I ever need to use another expensive bag! There are many other ways of earning a couple of quid in ten minutes, but there's something about not throwing things away which I like. Let's hope I was right about the reasons for the tapes in the first place and the bag is not about to burst and finish off the machine! I think there is a little Kairos connection in there - you had to look in the bag to see the tapes!


    I am not a vacuum cleaner engineer - if you blow yours up, it's your lookout...