Wealth is all in the breeding

Ever wondered how the rich manage to make their money work for them? You may need to have a certain breed horseyness or good taste-buds to make yourself a mint

Forget the Protestant work ethic, nothing quite compares to the joy of receiving unearned income.

To recline in an easy chair and see – in your mind’s eye – your bank account clocking up an ever-increasing figure, like a taximeter in a traffic jam, is a pleasure bordering on the celestial. Those few to whom this bliss is allotted assuage any guilt that might attach to effortless income by saying that although they may not be working, their money is.

So how do these people put their money to work? By what mysterious process are those pounds encouraged to energetically reproduce themselves like mushrooms or rabbits while you spend your day in pleasant idleness?

There is no single answer. The National Lottery is a possibility, but with odds of 14 million-to-one against winning the jackpot, the day job continues malevolently to beckon. Rented out at the right price, property is a nice work-free earner, but the initial outlay is on the steep side. Stocks and shares are OK but a bit dull and inclined to yield up their riches over what economists bleakly describe as the long-term.

By definition, time is not on the side of us get-rich-quick investors. What we want is a huge return for a small outlay. If the nature of the investment is a bit out of the ordinary, so much the better.

Not for us the solemnity of a PEP nor the tedium of convertible loan stock. If our money is going to work for us, it should have some fun while it’s doing it.

I don’t know how they find our names or by what hermetic art they track us down, but the boys and girls in the direct mail business unerringly know a dreamer when they see one. If you’re looking for someone to put money in jojoba beans, silver commemorative medals featuring the Queen Mother, reproduction Samurai swords or limited edition prints of rutting stags, look no further.

Not that we always invest. We let skill, judgement and inherent good taste be our guides. I recently rejected the opportunity to buy into hand-cast pewter bookends, featuring Pekinese dogs mounted on weighted hardwood plinths, on the grounds that the return would be inadequate in the medium-term. Nothing that has happened since in that market has cause me to regret my decision.

But I am not so sure about my rejection – earlier this year – of the chance to invest in racehorses with potential stud value. Classic Bloodstock 11 plc wrote to me back in February to highlight the attractions of investing in well bred fillies and top stallions.

“Horse racing at this top level could give investors substantial long-term profits,” said the prospectus. There were pictures of each of the 24 horses that would be running under my colours should I choose to invest. I am, however, no judge of horse flesh and was therefore none the wiser. I did like the look of Maureen Moorcroft, an attractive blonde whose picture was also included, her blouse being nuzzled by a horse (though I don’t know if it was one of mine).

“Her administrating ability has been much sought after,” explained the caption. “A keen horsewoman in her own right, she will be in charge of the day-to-day running of the company on the public relations side,” it said. Knowing as I do that public relations is a multi-faceted business, to which many diverse skills are brought, I was not at all surprised to learn that the ability to sit astride a panting nag helps on a day-to-day basis.

I cannot quite recall why I decided not to invest. I am sure cowardice had something to with it.

An existing shareholder was quoted as saying that visiting the stables and giving his racehorses a pat was a great thrill for himself and his family. Having confessed an ignorance of bloodstock, one thing I do know is that racehorses are inbred animals that are inclined to be nervous and temperamental, and to kick and bite when provoked. Whether one or more, or indeed all 24, of the horses I was invited to buy a share in would consider it a provocation to be patted in an amateurish sort of way by an armchair investor is something I would not be prepared to put to the test. Since I would thereby miss out on the one thrill guaranteed by the share offer, I declined.

I have since had niggling doubts about that decision. After all, the directors did expect the investment to be “both exciting and profitable”. But, having passed up the chance to put money into one of life’s great frivolities, I’m not going to miss out a second time.

It so happens that Four-square Sprit Supplies, of Kilburn, London have invited me to invest in “top quality casks of immature and semi-mature malt whiskies in bond in Scot land”. Early this year, says Foursquare, a bottle of Springbank single malt distilled in 1965 and bottled in 1994 sold at Christie’s in Glasgow for 190. If this had been purchased in the cask in 1965, it would have probably cost about 25p.

The offer is “suitable for personal consumption, gifts – what better present than a valuable hogshead (55 gallons) or butt (110 gallons) of malt whisky for an 18th or 21st birthday? – corporate incentives and/or resale after three to 12 years. Minimum purchase two hogsheads or one butt, prices from 1,850”.

This is surely the perfect investment. Your money is not so much working as getting plastered. Of course, investments can go down as well as up, but with 110 gallons of Highland nectar in the shed, who cares?

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