Investment Clubs: A Fun Way to Build Your Portfolio

04/22/2013 6:25 am EST

Focus: STRATEGIES

Kathleen (Kamie) Zaracki

CEO, BetterInvesting

More than 5 million investors have been helped by this grassroots organization, says Kamie Zaracki of BetterInvesting.

Nancy Zambell: My guest today is Kamie Zaracki, the CEO of BetterInvesting. Thanks so much for joining me.

Kamie Zaracki: I'm glad to be here. Thank you.

Nancy Zambell: BetterInvesting has spawned investing clubs around the world. It's been in business a really long time, and is headquartered in Michigan. I've had a lot of experience personally with starting investing clubs. Kamie, why don't you tell us about how BetterInvesting works?

Kamie Zaracki: BetterInvesting has been around for 62 years. We were founded in Detroit, Michigan by just a group of average people who wanted to learn more about investing.

They got together in clubs and found success because they were learning together how to invest, and they did very, very well. After these clubs had been operating for about ten years, they decided that they really needed to share this knowledge with others. That was really the foundation for our organization.

At the time, we were known as the National Association of Investment Clubs, but today we're BetterInvesting. Over the course of those 62 years, we have helped over 5 million people learn how to become successful long-term investors.

And that's really our focus-success as a long-term investor. We believe that it's important to invest in quality growth companies, and to be in there for the long haul. Our experience has been that market timing just doesn't work.

Today we have over 5,000 clubs around the country, and we have helped other organizations outside the United States start investment clubs as well.

Nancy Zambell: Part of your organization used to be dedicated to helping start children investing. Are you still involved with that?

Kamie Zaracki: Yes, we are. It's not quite as strong a focus as it has been in the past, but we partnered with another organization called DECA, the Distributive Education Clubs of America.

It's through that organization that we make our investing materials available to the teachers who support DECA programs in high schools around the country (through the Building Wealth Program). It's through the partnership that we're helping younger people learn about successful long-term investing.

Nancy Zambell: That's the best way to get started, isn't it? When you're young, because of the compounding?

Kamie Zaracki: Absolutely! And it's great to learn in a group environment, because it enables you to make a more informed decision because of the different eyes, if you will, that are looking at the decision in terms of how to evaluate a company.

Throughout all this time, we have followed a very consistent approach in our investing methodology. What we are doing now that's different is that we have a lot of automated tools to help people with their analysis.

Nancy Zambell: And thank goodness for that! When I started my first club around 1991, everything was manual, and that was a real treat trying to teach people who didn't even know what percentages were how to calculate them. But now I look on your Web site and everything seems to be available-almost at the touch of a finger.

Kamie Zaracki: Absolutely! Not only that, but we also have access to company data that makes it very easy to analyze a company, because that data is automatically fed into the online tools that we have. As you know-back in the day-everybody used to go to the library and look up company data at the public library.

Nancy Zambell: Have you seen a big influx in club memberships as well as new clubs since the market has really taken off since the recession?

Kamie Zaracki: Yes, we have. We've certainly seen a lot greater interest in people wanting to learn more about investing and coming to our Web site.

We've also seen an increase in people wanting to learn more about their investments in their 401(k) plans. So we also offer information on mutual fund investing to help people make more informed choices with regard to those retirement accounts.

Nancy Zambell: And do you still have your regional support systems, like the steering committees that help get clubs started?

Kamie Zaracki: Absolutely! We've got over 70 chapters around the country to help BetterInvesting members, and to help people who are interested in starting an investment club get off to a good start.

Our volunteers are a very dedicated and energetic group of individuals. And all of them-as you know from your own personal experience-are just normal everyday people who have been investing for a while, and who have found success and understand the methodology, and can really help and provide that guidance to others.

Nancy Zambell: I've been to several of the regional conferences as well as your national conferences. You have a national one coming up in Pittsburgh in September. Is that right?

Kamie Zaracki: Yes, we do. The date of the September conference is the 19th through 22nd. We're at the Sheraton Station Square in Pittsburgh.

We have a lot of great educational programming. We have two keynote speakers: Ron Muhlenkamp, local from Philadelphia, who runs a fund there. Also, Elisse Walter, who's the former commissioner with the SEC. We're very excited about these keynote speakers.
 
Editor's Note: You can register for the BetterInvesting conference here.

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