The stock market may be wobbly these days, but there has probably never been a time when so many ordinary people were more interested in the intricacies of its operation and performance.
With big flotations in the offing - First National, Telecom Eireann and, possibly, Aer Rianta now is probably as good a time as any to hone your knowledge of yields and dividends, p/e ratios and share capital.
Two series of upcoming courses will require a modest initial investment, however. Organised by conference organisers IFTI, these will be held in September and October at introductory and intermediate/advanced levels and cost £180 and £195 respectively. The six introductory classes assume that participants have "little or no knowledge of the workings of the financial markets, and attempts to make the participants more comfortable with business and investment concepts". The advanced course concentrates more on technical and analytical aspects of the markets.
Meanwhile, the British-based Investment Club Network (part of the Guru Investment Group) held a series of Money Talks seminars this past week around the State to encourage the setting up of more investment clubs here. From those seminars, interested participants are invited to attend a comprehensive weekend course, at a cost of about £500 plus expenses.
The clubs typically have between 12-20 members, each investing about £50 a month (usually one of the founding members attends the weekend seminar). We understand that they pay a small annual affiliation fee to the Investment Club Network, which provides the clubs with a basic investment "system" and on-going advice and guidance.
Judging from a recent newsletter, the Investment Club Network founder, Mr Babu Shah, an excomputer consultant who got smitten with investing after attending a seminar given by a US investment guru, Mr Tony Robbins, would appear to exaggerate the ease by which you can beat the market professionals and become millionaires. Nevertheless, there is merit in getting some basic training and in pooling resources and personal expertise with other likeminded individuals.
Not everyone believes expensive weekend courses or network affiliation is necessarily the way to set up an investment club, however. ProShare Investment Clubs is a British not-for-profit organisation funded by the London Stock Exchange and British industry and it has produced a manual that costs £25 sterling. According to Mr Terry Bond, ProShare's development manager, more than 2,500 ProShare Clubs have been set up to date using the manual.
Irish clubs are setting up with or without professional assistance. The Acorn Investment Club, established last year exclusively for women investors, asked us recently to help it recruit new members. Family Money passed on its email only appeal on this page and the founding members are now trawling through nearly 40 replies "from housewives, doctors, solicitors, grannies you name it", says Ms Marian Trimble of Acorn.
For more information about the IFTI stocks and shares courses contact Francis Fullen at (01) 6616997; the Investment Club Network can be reached by contacting Mr Denis Noble in Newtownabby (08) 01232 866970; copies of the ProShare Investment Club manual are available by calling 0044 171 394 5200.