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Friday, September 23, 2005

Just jump right in

Long before the days of E-Trade and Ameritrade, you had to go to the offices of an actual stock broker if you wanted to buy a few shares of stock.

Around the mid-80s, when the MBA boom was in full swing, followed by the stock market boom of the 90s, discount brokerage services were the rage.

They boasted low commissions to lure new investors to trade for the first time. ("As low as $35!")

Around that time, I was starting to do well in my career, and found I had a few bucks to spare. I had always wanted to get started investing in the stock market, but didn't know where to begin. The discount brokers seemed a good bet.

I figured the best way to begin my investing "career" was to just jump right in, however small my initial investments. I decided to pick a few companies and buy ten shares each. That would get me started.

I chose my first company in which to invest, Sears, I believe. Then I visited the branch of a local discount trader in my town.

"How can I help you?" asked the broker who greeted me.

"I'd like to invest in Sears and Roebuck!" was my proud exclamation, knowing that I had taken that first step.

"I'd be delighted to help. How many shares would you like to purchase?" he asked, professionally.

"Ten shares!"

The broker dropped his pencil. I could sort of feel his eyes rolling in his head, as if to say, "My last sale was 1000 shares of Ford Motor Company, and this guy wants ten shares of Sears."

"Of course, you realize that there will be an 'odd lot differential' for this purchase," he said dryly.

An odd what?? I asked myself.

"An odd what??" I asked the broker.

"An odd lot differential. Since you would like to purchase less than 100 shares, there is an additional charge."

So I had my first lesson in investing in the stock market. The expectation is that if you're going to buy stock, you're going to buy at least a hundred shares. A hundred shares! Let's see. Sears is selling for 34 3/8 ... 100 shares would be $3437.50 ... and I am thinking of spending a tenth of that.

Well, I thought, I came in here to buy stock, I learned my first lesson, and I am not going to let that affect my decision. I said, "Let's go ahead."

He placed the order, I paid the man the cost, plus the differential, plus the commission, and walked out of there a shareholder of ten shares of stock in the Sears and Roebuck company!!

About a week or so later, I received the stock certificate in the mail. There it was, all fancy with the scrolled borders and my name and all, but most important, the indication of how many shares I now own:


And to ensure no foul play, there was a bold statement on the certificate: "Good for less than one hundred thousand shares."

I was in my glory.

*** Read from the Beginning *** Next Article ***

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006 1:50:00 PM  

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