Investment Sprees

Women-only investment clubs encourage members to talk stock.

March, 2001

Women and their shopping addiction may be the butt of some jokes, but for members of Hawaii’s female-only investment clubs—Ladies Investing Perhaps Speculating (LIPS), Women Investing in Stocks Properly (WISP), Stocky Broads, Trade Wins and numerous others—shopping for stocks is a serious matter. “More women are working in Hawaii now, and they’re more aware that they need to save more and invest, instead of just a 401k plan, especially in the last couple of years with the bull market,” says Charlene van der Pyl-Chee, a member of LIPS and senior vice president and financial advisor for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter. “Women are like squirrels. They gather and store, tuck away and invest a little. Many men consider themselves tigers. They pounce on things.”

The number of female investors across the nation grew from 37 percent to 47 percent from 1990 to 1997, with most of the growth between 1990 and 1995, according to the National Association of Investors Corp. Female-only investment clubs from 1990 to 1998 also boasted an average compounded lifetime return of 23.8 percent annually, higher than the average return (19.2 percent) of all-men clubs.

Fumiko Wellington, a violinist with the Honolulu Symphony Society, is a founder of Trade Wins, a club comprised of female artists. “Artists are notorious for not handling their money properly,” she says, adding that the club motivates its members creatively and socially. Trade Wins began in 1996 with 23 women, but its large roster proved difficult to handle. “There were too many absentees and some members thought the club was a quick way to earn money without work,” Wellington recalls. Today, there are half a dozen members who meet in one another’s homes. They contribute at least $25 per month.“You need to have a very active group. That will make you a united club,” says Wanda Gereben, co-founder of the now disbanded WISP and executive director of Pacific Rim Music Resources. Gereben stumbled on investing almost by accident. Four years ago, she inherited the task of managing her elderly mother’s stocks. But she had no clue about financial markets. “I didn’t even know how to read the statements that came in the mail,” Gereben recalls. After teaching herself about stocks and bonds, she gathered a dozen professional, female friends two years ago and formed WISP. The club split up last year after two members left Hawaii. Gereben continues to watch the market and advise other local investment clubs.

The club, whose portfolio includes Oracle, Harley Davidson and General Electric, has average returns of around 30 percent.

Not only did she start a fund for her 8-year-old daughter, but the third-grader also has a personal financial advisor. “If anything happens to me, everything will be fine,” Wellington says.

At 20 years old, LIPS is one of Hawaii’s oldest female investment groups. There’s a waiting list to be one of its 20 members, who include an attorney, entrepreneur, property manager and professionals in the insurance, health care and environmental industries. Each woman contributes $100 per month after an initial payment of $500. Average return rates have been anywhere between 15 to 31 percent.

“Women have a tendency to buy what they only know,” says LIPS member van der Pyl-Chee. “Retail stocks and fashionable items are popular with women, but fashion is very fickle. You look at the companies that have come and gone that were hot for a while, and they will always go onto something else. In stocks you don’t want that.” When LIPS was formed in 1986, designer wear by Liz Claiborne was popular. The club at the time also purchased Con Agra Foods shares, makers of Healthy Choice frozen meals. “That stock doubled and then tripled,” van der Pyl-Chee recalls.



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