If the investment club strikes you as an ideal answer to your needs and requirements, there here are some points to consider.
Do not attempt to form a club until you have investigated its status under Federal, state, and local laws. The Association of Stock Exchange Firms is attempting to win passage for a model statute that will simplify and clarify the status of investment clubs and in some states is has already been enacted.
In most states, however, a variety of laws govern the formation and operation of a club and its status as a partnership, corporation, joint venture, or whatever. The difficulties are rarely insurmountable, but complications can be avoided if your club will check with an attorney before becoming involved financially.
Along the same lines, your club can avoid awkward misunderstandings if the ground rules are clearly established from the start. Provisions should be made for the death or departure of a member. Each investor should be able to withdraw his share of the club’s assets at any time.
The position of newcomers or replacements for members who have dropped out or moved away should be defined. Does the new member participate on an equal basis in the accumulated assets of the club upon payment of his first $10? Or should he be expected to match the total investment of his predecessor?
Run your meetings briskly. Expect to give the business at hand your full and earnest attention for two hours; investment is too serious to be brushed over in less. On the other hand, be organized. Don’t let meetings drag on or founder in confusion. Members will start resigning out of boredom.
Insist that your investigation committees do their homework. And that they stay on the point. These are elements of good reporting in any field, and are not hard to learn. Clarity and precision will not only make reports more interesting, but help you to make your decisions confidently.
Absenteeism plagues almost every organization, and you will have to find your own way to lick it. As noted, the proxy at least assures a vote by the whole membership, but it has its disadvantages. The Williston club has instituted an automatic $5 fine for missing a meeting, regardless of the excuse. Some clubs interpret a certain number of absences as evidence of disinterest and as grounds for dismissal.
As for the club’s performance as an investment group, it will, at first, leave something to be desired. There is something heady about the manipulation of money and the challenge of out-guessing the market. You will find, as you start out, that it is easy to be overly enthusiastic about one stock or another, or, because your fund is relatively small, to concentrate on low-priced issues. The enthusiasm may be warranted, and your low-priced issue may be solid, but try not to let judgment be colored by passion, and never choose price over quality.
Make your committee reports as realistic as possible. In the first flush of enthusiasm, it is possible to be swayed by the mass of beautifully printed material available about this company or that. Set up your standards in advance: know what you are looking for in terms of price and dividend trend, in terms of products, in terms of capital structure and management.
Note: Changes in corporate management are not automatically good. Very often a new slate of officers, or some retirements, will bring in fresh blood, but there is no way of knowing immediately whether the new men are as capable as the ones they replaced.
There is nothing wrong with over-the-counter stocks as such. But many clubs have found that the fluidity of the market on the big exchanges, and the certainty of daily reporting of stock prices, makes investment in Big Board issues considerably more satisfactory.
It is easy to decide that you’ve got a natural bent for investment if your first purchase begins behaving nicely. Don’t be fooled. A great many stocks have been behaving nicely for some years now. In many ways it’s difficult to pick one that doesn’t. Enjoy your success, but keep studying and keep learning.
Fight the tendency to make too many switches in your portfolio, particularly in the early stages. Remember that the commissions on getting in and out are going to eat into your gains. Furthermore, impatience is likely to boost you out of a stock before it has a chance to show its worth. Remember, too, that from the tax angle, you’ll be paying on gains as straight income unless you’ve held the stocks for six months or more.
Finally, stay friendly. Money can get people quite excited. Money can come between friends. You’ll have a better chance of success if your members are friendly on grounds other than investment, if everyone understands clearly that there are hazards as well as profits, and if everyone does his best to become knowledgeable in the field as soon as is reasonably possible.
It is the mistakes of ignorance that cause trouble. Many clubs have had some hot times because a member couldn’t understand why the group sold short of the top or why, with the good old Northern & Southern Railway running right through town, everyone insisted on buying Gulf Oil.
Stay in close touch with your broker. He can help spell out some of the fundamental ABC’s until you can paddle on your own. He also should have, or be able to get, information bearing on the problems and experience of other investment clubs, which can aid you in steering around pitfalls..
Otherwise, every piece of information and advice in this article applies as rigorously to investment clubs as to investing individuals.