Women Gone To Market

Women Gone To Market

Working on a stock market presentation for a course she was taking while pursuing her master’s degree in business is what motivated Reneé Cleaves to establish Just Us Ladies Investing in the summer of 1998. “The stock market was filled with men,” observed the public school educator from Paterson, New Jersey. She thought the club “would be a great opportunity for women to get together and try to break this code and try to understand how the stock market works.”

So Cleaves; Teresa L. Carter, supervisor of staff development for the Paterson Public School District; and Tabatha Pridgen, a health educator for the Paterson Division of Health, founded the club, which now has six members. Carter, the club’s presiding partner (president) says the women’s thirst to learn about the stock market and their Christian values help them stay together: “Our mission statement says clearly that you have to be deep-seated in the Lord. Everything we do, we give glory to God.” The group opens and closes every meeting with prayer. Membership is by referral only, and monthly dues are set at $25.

Cleaves, the assistant presiding partner (vice president), was the only founding member with any knowledge of the stock market. So in the beginning, the group met with financial consultants and invited experts to speak at their meetings. They read books about investment clubs and joined the National Association of Investors Corp. (NAIC), which was their main guide for getting started. “It was very essential that we learned the terminology and tried to understand establishing the business first,” says Cleaves.

By September 1999, Just Us Ladies had amassed more than $1,000 and decided it was time to invest. They used the NAIC Stock Selection Guide to research potential stocks and gathered information on their respective industries. Club members then took a vote on what to buy. General Electric (NYSE: GE) was one of their first picks and, though it’s had some losses, they’ve stuck by it. Other early purchases included AT&T (NYSE: T) and Pfizer (NYSE: PFE). The club’s portfolio, valued at $4,756 as of March 19, currently has 13 holdings and is heavily weighted in large-cap stocks.

Just Us Ladies persevered as its fortunes dwindled in the wake of the tech bust and 9-11. Shares of AT&T declined, but the spin-off of the telecom giant’s wireless division in July 2001 gave the club’s portfolio a boost. In September 2001, Heather Hopes, the club’s financial partner (treasurer) who is now a tax accountant for Tyco International, got a job as a tax analyst with Cendant. She gained valuable insight about the company, and now Cendant (NYSE: CD) — a real estate and travel services corporation — is one of the club’s largest holdings.

With all the ups and downs, the women knew their portfolio needed tweaking and they sought advice from Sandra N. Salter, a financial adviser with American Express Financial Advisors in Newark, New Jersey. After an asset allocation analysis, Salter came up with a model portfolio for the club. By questioning each member