MRP shares: To pre-register or not?

SEAN PLUNKET
Last updated 05:00 16/03/2013

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Sean Plunket

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OPINION: Sir Robert Muldoon once said most New Zealanders wouldn't know a deficit if they fell over one in the street, or words to that effect. If he was talking about folk like me he was bang on – I am as financially literate as a frog.

This doesn't mean I'm not interested in money or how to get it (I find working is a good method), but I'm not into shares and speculation, yield curves and debentures; those things just don't interest me. So I, like perhaps many of you, am feeling particularly out of my depth as I cope with the conundrum of whether to register for Mighty River shares or not.

The ads tell me it is an opportunity. As a dad I presume I'm part of the mums and dads target market and I am fortunate enough to have enough disposable income to afford some.

But I worry that registering might be like signing a petition for the partial privatisation of state assets and that if more people register than signed the petition against it Finance Minister Bill English will wave my registration and lots of other people's around crowing and yelling "yahboo sucks" at the Green's Russel Norman and Labour's David Shearer, and I don't want to be involved in that.

Then again it is an opportunity to be an "investor" to "play" the stockmarket and, let's be brutally frank, make money without working.

I can remember in the early eighties when lots of people were doing that and they seemed to be having a great time.

John Campbell from TV3 once told me about being a broker and going to a conference at the Chateau where he poured Moet Champagne out the window of his room to win the honour of having the largest mini-bar bill.

But I seem to remember that all went a bit pear-shaped and lots of people lost a lot of money that maybe they never really had in the first place. I'd hate to be involved in that.

Maybe the question is do I want to own a share of a power generation company? Well, as a citizen voter and taxpayer I guess I already do. My mum's dad used to work for the State Hydro when the Cobb River Dam in Golden Bay was being built. He was the paymaster and my grandmother ran the school.

Despite that, I don't feel particularly emotional about power stations and electricity grids and I don't find my current ownership of them has any effect on my happiness.

Is it my patriotic duty to buy shares? National told us this is going to pay off debt and get the country out of the poo but I don't quite understand that.

If I buy shares and they make me money that doesn't help pay off the nation's debts, just mine, so that isn't patriotic at all.

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I guess if I buy them it means the profits don't go to some offshore investor like a Japanese dentist or a Norwegian housewife, but that sounds a bit xenophobic and I would feel uncomfortable being involved in that.

I wish the Government had just issued shares in all the assets it wants to partially privatise to all the taxpayers and citizens in the country. Then each individual could make up their own mind about whether to hold on to them or sell them or give them away or whatever.

I would be happy to be involved in something like that.

As it stands, lots of people don't have enough spare money to spend on shares while other people like me can afford them, and can also buy them for their kids and relatives.

Big institutions can buy heaps which doesn't seem fair because that means people with more money get even more and people with less will probably miss out. I feel bad being involved in that.

And while I don't know much about money, one thing really confuses me. If we are selling the shares to get money to pay our debts but the shares keep on earning money for the people that buy them, why don't we just keep the shares and use the profits to pay off the debts and keep the assets too?

Now I'm sure if Sir Robert was around he'd have a pie diagram and a stick to point at it with and he'd have the whole thing sorted in no time at all, but I'm not sure he'd tell me to register.

- The Dominion Post

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