LINDA GLEIN AND Carol Theine have gone skiing together and even traveled to Greece. But their friendship developed through a very different shared interest: investing.
Theine retired young and initially handed her retirement money to a broker. But as a do-it-yourself kind of person, she says, “I just decided I was not pleased with having someone else investing my money.”
She joined a neighborhood investment club years ago, partly to learn about investing and partly for the social aspect. “We lead busy lives, so having this commitment to meeting with other people at a set time helped me get to know the other neighbors. It was a nice mix of people,” she says now.
These days, she deploys her knowledge, passion for teaching and head for managing as president of the Puget Sound Chapter of BetterInvesting, a nonprofit dedicated to helping people invest more wisely and a national umbrella organization for investment clubs. The chapter covers about 120 clubs in Western Washington.
Glein says she’s there for the social interaction, too. She also has an interest in empowering women in particular — including herself. On the other hand, she was looking for an interest she could share with her husband, Gary.
People find clubs through work, other social organizations or word of mouth. The BetterInvesting website lists clubs, and many also list meetings on Meetup. Prospective members attend a few times before existing members vote to add them.
This isn’t day trading; it’s more about basic principles of methodical long-term investing in good companies. That makes clubs a long-term commitment — which also helps solidify social bonds.
Monthly meetings are structured and organized, although many involve a pre- or post-meeting happy hour. Many meetings went online during the pandemic, and some were always online. But some groups have started meeting in person again or holding hybrid meetings.
I sat in on a hybrid meeting that began with in-person members in Gig Harbor sharing lasagna; I ate my own lasagna at home and chatted via video with Glein and the other members before the club got down to business.
Each meeting includes an education segment as well as reports on individual stocks the club owns and others on its watchlist. Club members vote on buying or selling stocks. Every member takes an active role in doing and sharing research.
“One of the nice things about the club is that you’re dividing up the work,” Glein says; typically, each member is following one or two stocks, which cuts down on the overall time needed to evaluate them.
Each club has its own brokerage account, and each member puts in a certain amount per month, usually somewhere between $25 and $100.
The contributions aren’t meant to make up a person’s whole investment portfolio, and this might be the only place a member buys individual stocks. But the principles help members evaluate all their investments — how much a given asset is worth, how to evaluate expert opinions and when to sell. “We hope they take the knowledge home and invest individually,” Glein says.
Clubs also help bolster the psychological discipline that can be helpful in market downturns — or when things are not as good as they seem. During the market downturn of 2008, “We hardly sold anything,” Glein says. On the other hand, “People do fall in love with their stocks, and they’re not good at seeing when there’s issues.”