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January 22, 2009

Lack of time, not money, may close Pitt stock club

The University’s Stock of the Month club has liquidated its assets and officers are debating the group’s future.

Founded in 1960, the group exists to give faculty and staff the opportunity to have fun while learning about stocks and investing in joint portfolios.

Since its inception, club members contributed $10 each month toward each active investment portfolio. Two portfolios were kept active at a time. When a new portfolio was opened, another was closed and no longer received dues money, although trades and dividends still could increase its value.

Over the years, 10 portfolios were opened. Named alphabetically, portfolios A-F were liquidated several years ago.

Late last year the club was forced to liquidate the remaining four, G-J.

It wasn’t that members wouldn’t invest their money, just that not enough of them have been willing to invest their time, said club president Lois Kepes, a reference librarian in the GSPIA/Economics Library.

The club’s officers are aging and meetings often draw only a handful of the 80 or so members, said Dave Edwards, a pharmaceutical sciences faculty member who serves as treasurer for portfolios I and J.

Edwards said club members shared their knowledge, with some following certain market segments or keeping an eye on certain investment publications.

“We’re not experts but we tried to learn,” Edwards said, noting that members took turns on the investment/divestment committee that was responsible for investigating and reporting on stocks to recommend at the monthly meeting.

Kepes said, “Anyone who regularly attends the meetings learns a lot.”

However, keeping the club operating involves some labor-intensive work. Internal Revenue Service paperwork must be filed for the group. In addition, values must be calculated each year for each individual member’s tax filing purposes.

“With the market as it was, it wasn’t the best time to close down, but we didn’t have enough people,” Kepes said. “The biggest factor is we just don’t have people who want to do the work.”

Although its portfolios have been cashed out, the investment club hasn’t disbanded and officers are hoping it will be able to reinvent itself, perhaps as a virtual club in which members invest imaginary money in a virtual portfolio.

“That way, the IRS isn’t involved,” Edwards said. “They don’t tax Monopoly money.”

Having a virtual club would enable the group to set up an online portfolio that could be viewed by all members. There would be no dues, no IRS requirements and no paperwork. “The question is, would people really show up if we were using play money?” Kepes said.

The club’s officers will meet later this month to further discuss the virtual concept.

“We have nothing to lose” by giving the virtual option a try, said Edwards, who has been a club member for about a dozen years. “The alternative seemed to be probably just to close and that would be it.”

Edwards said the investment gains were nice to have, but the club’s larger purpose is to have fun and learn about stocks. Edwards got involved due to a colleague’s membership and over the years has gained friends and knowledge by attending club meetings. “I probably wouldn’t take that hour to think about stocks on my own,” he said.

Pitt Stock of the Month Club meetings are held the second Thursday of each month at 12:30 p.m. in A638 Crabtree Hall. The next regular meeting is set for Feb. 12. Potential members are welcome.

“If we got enough interest, we might go back to real money, although we can’t do it unless people are willing to do the work,” Kepes said.

More information on the club and its history is available at

—Kimberly K. Barlow

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