After the 2016 election I was looking for a path to sanity. The Sierra Club has been an organization I’ve respected for years. So, I decided to get involved locally. Very quickly I learned about their collaboration with 350.org and its divestment initiative. I joined the divestment committee eager to pour my positive energy into a climate change strategy that circumvents the EPA. That was when I approached my advisor Joe Lombardi concerning our investment portfolio at Ameriprise; and my interest in personal divestment/re-investment was spawned.
Looking back at how my father sprinkled “stock” seeds in my path from the time I was a little girl, I’m confident he would have embraced divestment big-time. His story includes swimming across the Hudson River from Yonkers to Alpine, New Jersey and back. And his rabble-rousing days as a union organizer in the 1930s. My political recollections include his enthusiasm for Adlai Stevenson in 1956, only surpassed by his horror during the McCarthy hearings.
A favorite memory of mine is sitting at the kitchen table during the mid 1950’s, helping him chart his stock portfolio— what we would now call his “watch list.” (It was the middle of a big recession and his discretionary income was minimal.)
Being part of something he loved dearly, the stock market, watching this cool, exacting process unfold on graph paper, and seeing how unique each chart looked…it was a weekly ritual I savored. I still remember a few stocks my father drooled over – IBM – Schering Drugs – rumor had it the experimental drug Aunt Sylvia was on at Bethesda for her rheumatoid arthritis was theirs. A few years later, when graphing was introduced during a math class, I was incredulous that my classmates had never helped their dads chart stocks, making my experience all the sweeter.
That all changed when my dad died of a massive heart attack in 1960, and any mention of the stock market felt like a spear piercing my heart. Thus began my two decade hiatus from the “market.”
The stock market was of little interest to me in the 70s and 80s. I had plenty on my plate, a husband, a household, grad school, two kids and a riveting job. Every once in a while I’d hear about a new stock like Apple and I’d smile – my father would have been all ears.
Twenty years ago friends invited me to join a stock club. It was the perfect vehicle for me to re-enter these familiar waters: good friends, a shared purpose, respite from the daily pressures of work and, lots of laughs. While the Wall Street Journal says stock clubs are “toast” ours is going strong, and our portfolio is “to die for.”
A few years earlier my husband and I started a college fund for our children with a Financial Advisor at Ameriprise. Mutual Funds never had the panache of stocks for me, so I was pretty passive, but, from the start, I was impressed with how a portfolio could be balanced to withstand the market’s ups and downs. Over time, I came to value what Joe Lombardi had to say about financial planning – I trusted his knowledge and the analytics at his disposal.
It was after our sons’ graduation from college that we began to gear our portfolio towards retirement, and our contributions to it increased quite a bit. Joe suggested we add a few stocks to the portfolio to further diversify – (I would sometimes run a stock by him that our club was considering.) Thus, as Joe probably expected, my interest in our portfolio grew.
My mother outlived my father by 50 years! Her modest AT&T stock morphed into “Baby Bells” and I took a more active role overseeing her portfolio. After her death, a few thousand dollars remained. I created my own $5,000 portfolio on the Charles Schwab platform. In this space I was free to make my own decisions – without the consensus of my stock friends, my husband or Joe. Since 2010 I’ve added a few thousand dollars each year to the account – it has been a blast!
Which takes me back to my opening sentence – my involvement in the divestment movement was spawned by 350.org. Our local chapter supported my suggestion that we add a blog to the NJ-Rockland website to build interest, especially among individual investors. Once I started poking around, I saw very little in the blogosphere for the investor like me – green-leaning, but also strongly committed to our long standing relationship to Joe Lombardi at Ameriprise.
Collaboration is a central value of mine – so I hope to collaborate with guest bloggers and take advantage of the enormous wealth of knowledge out there about climate change, the decline in the fossil fuel industry, the innovation exploding in clean energy and the common sense strategies of divestment and re-investment.
Looking forward to sharing more and getting to know you!