Wise Investors

20 women employees gain friendship, and a 43 percent return, through stock partnership

By Sean Smith
Staff Writer

When her family's financial advisor would visit her home in past years, Small Business Development Center Secretary Sandra Piver recalls having two tasks: serve the coffee and cake, then just listen to him talk with her husband.

Things are different now.

"Today, I'm the one who's asking most of the questions," she said. "Our advisor jokes that when he gets ready to visit us, he tells his wife, 'I'm going to the Pivers. Don't expect me be back any time soon.'"

Associate Dean for Graduate Student Life Ann Morgan (left), Assistant Controller Ruth Chobit (center) and Small Business Development Center Secretary Sandra Piver are among the women employees who meet monthly to review their stock market investments. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)
Piver is one of 20 Boston College female employees who have become wise in the ways of investments and financial markets, through a partnership known as Women Investing in Stocks Etc. Meeting monthly over the past three years, WISE has built up a diversified stock portfolio which has shown a 43 percent return since its inception.

WISE members say, however, that the partnership's true value is its educational and social aspects. The experience has helped them better understand factors and trends which ultimately affect their lives and communities, they say, while creating bonds more of a personal than financial nature.

"It's definitely been empowering," said Associate Dean for Graduate Student Life Ann Morgan, the group's organizer. "We didn't establish WISE to make everyone wealthy. The money-making is not as important as the friendship and camaraderie. We've helped each other and rallied around one another, such as during family or personal difficulties, and together have learned a lot."

A conversation among WISE members can resemble a TV panel discussion show, focusing on topics ranging from the future of Social Security to the impact of baby boomers' recreational interests on the stock market. This interest reflects a broader, emerging social trend, Morgan says.

"Few of us had much exposure to the stock market and investing," she explained. "Yet many women wind up being responsible for the family accounts for one reason or another, so it's become increasingly important to be knowledgeable about investing."

Although Morgan was familiar with some of the investment and stock market terminology - her father owned a Wall Street brokerage firm and her two brothers are stockbrokers - she had not thought seriously about putting it to use. Then she read about the Beardstown Ladies Investment Club, a group of middle-aged and elderly women with no prior expertise in investing who earned over $90,000 in the stock market.

Inspired by their example, in the spring of 1995 Morgan set about trying to organize a similar club. The 21 members she originally recruited began contributing $25 apiece each month in October that year.

With a portfolio including Intel, Motorola, Johnson & Johnson, and Home Depot, among others, WISE had built up a portfolio of over $21,000 as of earlier this summer, Morgan said.

Members say their success stems from a philosophy built upon long-term objectives which include reinvesting all earnings, focusing on companies showing consistent growth, and diversifying investments. Another staple of WISE, they note, is their consideration of a company's social profile, such as its treatment of workers and relationship with the host community.

To guide their decisions, WISE partners spend considerable time researching company reports and utilizing resources such as the Bloomberg and Standard & Poors financial news services. They also invite guest speakers, attend seminars and read authors such as University Trustee Peter Lynch.

"We've been able to find a lot of important information right here on campus," said Piver, who currently serves as the group's senior partner. "People in O'Neill Library have been very helpful in guiding us to the right sources and our members often draw upon their own expertise or professional backgrounds."

"With employees from places like the Benefits Office, Chaplaincy and Budget Office," said Assistant Controller Ruth Chobit, "we all have something to bring to the partnership."

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