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With shares, Beetle syndrome is a bug worth catching

I had to choose what university degree I wanted to do at the age of 16. To help me decide, my parents forked out a few hundred hard-earned pounds on top of the school fees for some skills and personality testing that led to what I considered the blindingly obvious conclusion that I should do what I was doing (and enjoying) at school, my specialist subjects of English literature, English language, maths, physics or chemistry.

It annoyed me that they had milked my parents for something anyone could have told them and because of that, and because I was a belligerent 16-year old, I ignored them. My brother was doing medicine, I wanted to be a fighter pilot, so I decided to do law.

It was one of the worst three decisions of my life and, having completely bogged it up, I now have a keen interest in guiding my children during the ''career choice'' stage. But being teenagers, you can't tell them straight. You have to be subtle, so this is how it's done.

Do your kids ever hit you and shout, ''Punch buggy red!'' while you're driving? Mine do. It turns out that it came from a marketing campaign by Volkswagen. It was the very commercial usage of something I have always known as the ''Beetle syndrome''.

The Beetle syndrome is the concept that once you start looking to buy a particular car, any car, you start seeing that car everywhere. The Beetle syndrome is what happens when you become conscious of a previously unnoticed car, person, concept, country, anything, and you can use it to manipulate your kids. It goes like this.

Drive your kids to basketball and just as they get out of the car, call them back and say, ''Hey, you should go to Russia one day,'' and before they have time to say anything, drive off. They won't understand but by hitting them with something unfamiliar and out of context, it will stick. Assuming they have an interest factor and memory capacity beyond that of the average frog (a big ask), they will forever have the concept of visiting Russia in their brain. A concept you embedded.


Years later they'll be standing at a cocktail party and at the back of the room they will hear someone talking in a Russian accent and courtesy of that day at the basketball, their antennae will prick up, they will wander over and say, ''My dad once said I should visit Russia,'' and before they know it, they will.

It is a concept that I also use in the sharemarket. The sharemarket is about shares, not the market, and some traders will tell you it's about finding and trading five good stocks that you get to know very well.

How do you find them? Embed them. Jot them on a Post-it note. Keep them on your screen. Stocks that you think might be interesting.

I have recently embedded a few stocks exposed to cloud computing. It's a growth industry. Now whenever I hear anything about cloud computing, my antennae go up and I learn more and the risks of finding the best company and making money in these stocks, and not losing money, improves.

You can do the same thing. You don't have to buy them, just embed them for a while and see if they pop up again - they will if they are succeeding. One day you will end up buying them and when you do, you will be a lot better off for the process of embedding.

Footnote The best advice my kids have had came from their school: ''Do what you enjoy and what you're good at.'' If only I'd known. And apologies to those 16-year-olds playing basketball this weekend. If your mum just shouted, ''Hey, you'd be really good at heart transplants,'' it's my fault.

Marcus Padley is a stockbroker with Patersons Securities and the author of newsletter Marcus Today. For a free trial see His views do not necessarily reflect the views of Patersons.