Financial Planning, The Simpsons and World Cups

This post will get a little bit more interesting, but this is a financial blog so here is a quick reminder.

This is the time in the year where financial planning offers up a smorgasbord of options for using tax allowances before the financial year end (April 5th) – the most obvious of which is the stocks and shares ISA allowance of £11,520. But there are also cash ISAs, junior ISAs, pension contribution and gift allowances to consider – these last two do also allow some contributions to be carried forward from previous years.

Rather than bore you with the details of each here, feel free to contact me – although I doubt you’d be bored with the projected outcome of using these allowances effectively. And projecting outcomes is a large part of what we do and I am happy to explain exactly how we go about doing that.

But here is an example of some planning of mine that did not go so well – a trip to the 1994 World Cup in America.

England failed to make the finals, but I’d agreed with a former colleague, Alberto, to go to the States to follow his home nation Colombia if they qualified – which they did by thrashing a fancied Argentina 5-0. ‘Pele’ was so impressed he installed them as favourites to win the tournament.

The first two games were in Pasadena at the Rose Bowl, so we agreed to meet up in nearby LA. I would be flying from London, Alberto from Tokyo and he had also invited an old school friend who was travelling from Bogota.

It was June 17th and Alberto arrived first to a very sunny LA, hired a car and was there waiting for me as I arrived at the airport.  He then dropped me at our very nice hotel close to Rodeo Drive and returned to the airport to pick up his friend was arriving later.

So far, so good. I was happy – what could go wrong? 

Well this to start with:

LA was in lock down.  Alberto couldn’t reach the airport – meanwhile his friend had arrived from Colombia and phoned our hotel.

Unfortunately, his English was not great and nor was my Spanish, but I thought I’d explained the situation quite well to him.

When they finally arrived at the hotel several hours later, it turned out Al’s friend did not have a clue what I was talking about. He thought some mad Brit wanted to talk to him about ‘The  Simpsons’, when all he wanted to know was why Alberto was not at the airport to pick him up.

Colombia then lost their two opening games and were effectively out of the tournament. 

There were some appalling rumours at the time about how various Colombian drug cartels were trying to influence player selection in the Colombian team. Which, we now know, was likely to be true. And this was highlighted by the tragic death of defender Escobar, who was gunned down on returning to Colombia.

Escobar’s crime – scoring an own goal against the USA.

But, we still had tickets for the last game at the Stanford Stadium near San Francisco.

So, we travelled to San Francisco to a hotel recommended to us by the concierge at our hotel in LA – a very nice man who kindly booked our room for us.  What we didn’t realise is that he chosen this hotel for us in the belief that we were much more than just good friends.

Our hotel in San Francisco was certainly ornate and there was also the lovely scent of jasmine everywhere. And when we were shown our room, it was obvious that the interior designer had certainly let their creative juices flow.

It had a ‘Tarzan’ theme – there was a large animal skin on the door and a jungle style four-poster bed over which stood a huge image of a fit young man in just a fur thong – and he was wrapped in a giant snake. And unless you didn’t quite get the idea, there was raffia grass everywhere.

Now, when it comes to interior design I’m a little bit more beige than tiger print and when we were shown an alternative room with a large purple bow on the door,  with a  matching interior and featuring love letters by Oscar Wilde the penny finally began to drop. 

We should have been fine staying in what was a beautiful hotel. That it ostensibly catered for the gay community should have been irrelevant. But, in our daft embarrassment and after being put on the spot it seemed easier to leave and check into the Sir Francis Drake hotel – complete with its plain doors, beige walls, chintz curtains and bad service.

There was the added bonus that some other fans of Colombia were staying at the Sir Francis Drake, and the memory of playing spoof with ten Colombian guys for shots of ‘aguardiente’ was one of the few highlights of the trip.

Colombia did win their last game against Roy Hodgson’s Switzerland, but we were left wondering what might have been and somewhat poorer.

Had I learned my lesson about spending money chasing sport?

Not quite.  In 2002 as a resident of Yokohama in Japan I applied for and got, by chance, four tickets to the World Cup final. An American client of mine told me to sell them and buy the biggest plasma TV I could find with the money to watch the game – sound advice from a very good hedge fund manager.

But what if England made it to the final?  I’d never forgive myself. But, of course, they didn’t.

I even shelled out over £400 to watch England lose to Brazil in the quarter finals in the ‘choker in Shizuoka’.

I did get to go to the final, with my wife and two local friends, one of whom was Alberto, some eight years after our US debacle. But it was all a bit underwhelming – it sounds terrible to say, but I would have been happy to leave early, I didn’t, but that’s how I felt.

Safe to say that I now believe that I am cured.


  • past performance is no guide or guarantee of future returns;
  • the value of stock market investments can rise and fall over time,  so it is quite possible to get back less than what you put in, depending upon timing;
  •  if you get allocated  tickets to a World Cup final, seriously consider selling them (if legal) and buying a big TV.