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David Shapiro

By David Shapiro

Saturday, March 6, 1999

Wife’s discovery of
the stock market

I once came upon a $1 blackjack machine in Las Vegas that just wouldn't stop paying off. No matter how flippantly I managed my bets, I won hand after hand. I split unlikely cards and won. I doubled down on impossible hands and won. Just for the heck of it, I hit a hard 19 to see what would happen. I drew a deuce and won.

The pile of silver dollars next to my machine was getting humongous until my wife Maggie took care of that. Every so often she'd grab a fistful and go flush them down some slot machine. My blackjack machine was still paying off when the bus came to take us to the airport, but the silver dollars I won were all gone.

The old memory has come back with Maggie's discovery of the stock market.

As she gains enthusiasm for playing the market like it was the latest giant theme casino on the Vegas Strip, profits from the sensible mutual funds I've assembled to finance our golden years are being diverted into the latest hot stock tips fresh from the two-month-old pages of Smart Money magazine.

The humbling thing is that she's making money -- a lot more than my mutual funds.

Her interest in stocks started when she and some of her friends formed an investment club. It has a Hawaiian name that I pronounce Hui O Bye Bye out of respect for the way it teeters on the precipice of dismantlement.

Through more than a year of gyrating market movements that have included record-setting highs and bearish lows, one thing has remained constant: Hui O Bye Bye has yet to put a single dollar into play.

Sometimes Maggie asks me to print out the minutes from the club's monthly meetings. The notes detail sharp financial strategy like: "Susan hosted us at her lovely home and we were all impressed by her expert preparation and exquisite presentation of the fish."

They finally decided to buy some stock, sort of. They voted to buy a certain company if its share price dropped around 25 percent. The trouble was that the company had already agreed to merge with another company and soon wouldn't exist. To get somebody to sell them stock at a 25-percent discount to the agreed merger price, they'd have to become a different kind of club that offered some pretty exotic services.

Somewhere along the way, Maggie found Smart Money and was tempted by some of its buy recommendations. At the same time, she discovered how easy it is to buy and track stock on the Internet.

"Magazine information is old," I pleaded. "Every investor in the world has already seen it and acted on it. Besides, the performance of some of the stocks they recommend is less than stellar."

SHE bought anyway. And she's up by more than 50 percent in just a few months. She put some serious research into her subsequent purchases and seems to have found some truly undervalued gems that are also moving up.

Some people are day traders. Maggie is more of a minute trader. With our nest empty, the stocks are her babies. She wakes up early and nurses them through the dawn, her eyes glued to the dancing numbers of her Yahoo! interactive portfolio manager. She e-mails me often on how the babies are doing, her spirits rising and falling with each sixteenth-of-a-point movement that changes her net worth by $6.25.

I suppose there are worse hobbies than making gobs of money. Maybe she'll lend me a few dollars for a new pillow when she sends me to sleep on the sofa tonight.

David Shapiro is managing editor of the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached by e-mail at

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