Investment clubs are as different as their members. Some are all male. Some are all female. Some are all business. For others, it's more...

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Investment clubs are as different as their members. Some are all male. Some are all female. Some are all business. For others, it’s more socializing.

But one thing they all have in common is that, to be successful, they require work — studying company financials and developing a framework for making decisions on buying and selling stocks.

Sylvia Van Houten, a retired elementary-school teacher, organized her club in 1998 as a women-only club because she was concerned that men might intimidate the female members and discourage them from participating. Its eight members range in age from their early 40s to their 80s.

The club, which meets in a Huntington Beach, Calif., real-estate office, struggled for several years with making investment decisions, particularly about when to sell, said Van Houten. That cost the club a lot of money on Lucent, which the club bought at $35, then watched plunge to less than $1 as the club debated what to do. They still own it.

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The Bulldog Investment Club, made up of 30-something men and women who had met during their two-year MBA program at the University of Redlands, just got started in January and is still finding its way.

Since organizing, members have bought only one stock, Cognizant Technology Solutions, a New Jersey company that provides information-technology services to Fortune 1000 firms. They looked a little at the company’s financials and at recommendations from stock analysts and the Motley Fool Web site, then decided to buy it because it seemed to have good prospects. They purchased shares at $38.29, and the stock shot up to $48.62 within a few weeks before settling back to the $41-$42 range.

“It was more luck than anything,” concedes Nir Rahamim, who hosted the group around the kitchen table of his Tustin, Calif., townhouse.

Now the question was: Should they sell? When the group got around to discussing the stocks of the night — Buffalo Wild Wings, a Minneapolis-based restaurant chain, and Carnival Corp., the cruise line — they realized they had a lot more questions than answers.

Kenneth Janke Sr., chairman of Better Investing, said it takes a while for an investment club to find its rhythm. Most that fold after a few years give out because members don’t want to do the stock analysis to underpin their decisions. But those that stick with it, he says, often do well, both individually and as a club.

Jorge Fuentes, a veteran of 15 years with the Yorba Linda Investment Club, believes his group has stuck it out because it’s a great support group that has taken the fear out of investing.

“If you join a club, you get the camaraderie of people and an exchange of ideas,” said Fuentes, a retired aerospace engineer who holds most of the meetings in his garage. “Sharing with others helps.”