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Will it blend?

This article originally published in The Northern Daily Leader on 26 April 2014

For many men, choosing a birthday or Christmas gift for their wife or partner is a tricky task. Do you go for the bold and high risk approach of making a unilateral decision regarding lingerie or perfume, or do you stick to the tried and tested – a bunch of flowers, some hand cream and nice smelling soap perhaps? For me the choice is always a simple one – kitchen appliances. Liz has a deep love for kitchen appliances and it shows – blender, bread oven, food processor, juicer, mixer, slow cooker, pie-maker and sandwich press. She has them all. There isn’t a kitchen appliance yet invented which hasn’t found itself a place in our kitchen. It’s got to the stage where I have to spend time hunting down rare and exotic appliances which haven’t yet become mainstream – internet-enabled toasters, talking kettles and nuclear-powered pressure cookers are all in the running for this Christmas.

Interestingly however, (Liz, it’s best you stop reading now), all these appliances haven’t necessarily resulted in a corresponding improvement in breakfast, lunch and dinner. The dishes prepared in the kitchen, while already of a very high standard (saved myself there I think), have not improved to the extent that would be expected, given the plethora of fancy appliances. What this seems to show is that the ability to cook well is not dependant on having access to a wide range of expensive appliances. If you know your way around a kitchen adding more and more appliances is not necessarily going to make an enormous difference to the quality of your cooking. It may be easier perhaps, but the skill comes from within, not from a heavy-duty mixer which costs as much as a small car.

The investment world too has a liking for fancy complicated devices that offer the promise of high returns at no risk. They usually come in the form of a computer program or newsletter service which promises to show you how to consistently buy low and sell high, all for the low price of thousands of dollars per year. There’s usually an abundance of technical buzzwords and acronyms, all designed to create the appearance of expertise and special knowledge. The reality however, is that if you had created a fool-proof method for making money from the stock market, would you be willing to sell it for a few thousand dollars a year? Wouldn’t you rather keep the secrets to yourself, making money while lounging around your own private island in the Caribbean? The truth is that there are no short-cuts, secret recipes or fancy electrical devices to help you succeed in investing. The principles of sound investing were laid down as long ago as 1934 by Benjamin Graham, long before talking pie-makers or flying kettles.