Jewish Women Invest in Fun and Knowledge
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Jewish Women Invest in Fun and Knowledge

A pair of local stock picking clubs keeps community members connected.

After 35 years with the Atlanta newspapers, Marcia currently serves as Retail VP for the Buckhead Business Association, where she delivers news and trends (laced with a little gossip).

(From left) Pat Balser, Marcia Schwarz, and Barbara Planer enjoy the camaraderie of their stock club.
(From left) Pat Balser, Marcia Schwarz, and Barbara Planer enjoy the camaraderie of their stock club.

Atlanta women are taking stock.

Finance whiz Nancy Amato is a member of two longstanding clubs. The Optimist Club, founded 53 years ago, and featured in the Atlanta Jewish Times at its 25-year-mark, is going strong with Gloria Smiley, its only founding member and treasurer. Barbara Goldstein is a long-term president. Debbie Bottner is the secretary; Sarah Abend is the Excel spreadsheet whiz.

Over the last 28 years, the club has maintained 41 members, some second and third generation. It currently has nine individuals anxious to join. Smiley considers the members her friends and extended family.

Gloria Smiley, Sarah Abend, and Barbara Goldstein kept meeting and transacting during the pandemic.

The AJT article in 1995 inspired Marcha Schwarz to gather friends, Pat Balser and Barbara Planer, to start a new club. The Late Bloomers Investment Club was formed, and it, too, is still up and running strong. Board members are elected each term with Ruth Swartz and Linda Hendelberg currently serving as co-presidents. Amato is a member of both clubs. Soon after the Late Bloomers club was formed, Amato, already a member in the Optimist Club, decided to join it as well. She put her operational and compliance skills from EF Hutton & Co. to work serving as its treasurer numerous terms over the years.

Amato fondly recalled how she landed her membership, “As my mother-in-law, Emily Amato, advanced into her 90s, I shadowed her for two years and became a member of the Optimists. What a fortuitous venture!”

Nancy Amato took her skills from EF Hutton & Co. and joined both stock clubs.

Each of the clubs meets once a month. The Optimist requires a $100 minimum for one share while the Late Bloomers, now known as G and G Investment Club, requires only $50. Multiple shares are allowed in both clubs. Each has a span of two years of investing before breaking up and distributing all securities and cash to members. Many of the members of both clubs rejoin term after term with an occasional opening for new members,

A beautiful dinner party breakup meeting for the Optimist Club has become a tradition. During COVID, the distribution was in Smiley’s garage. The pandemic caused challenges with Zoom calls. The Optimist Club has yet to get all its members back in person, so it holds hybrid meetings. The G and G girls all came back in person.

Members join for various reasons – education, savings, camaraderie.

Smiley recalled, “As a young widow with two small children, education was foremost to me. Stock certificates used to be issued; now, each member has her own brokerage account. Some manage their own portfolios with the knowledge they gain; others employ financial advisors. One thing these women have in common is they are savvy, bright, and realize the importance of research when it’s their turn to present securities to consider for purchase.”

Amato chimed in, “Our stocks are mostly domestic with small percentage of foreign stocks. As one might imagine, Israeli stocks have been popular over the years. We do not engage in short positions, commodities, or option trading. Some best performers were Winnebago netting the Optimists breakup portfolio in 1998 the most profitable with a 40 percent gain. The buying and selling of Novavax improved the club’s top line — covering the cost basis and selling the remaining shares at the perfect time to capture profits…reinvested in another security.

Gloria Smiley is the Optimist Club founder from 53 years ago.

Lululemon and Netflix were timely for the G and G gals. Rarely does either club sell a stock. A stock underperforming 30 percent with a recent downgrade, if voted to sell, usually results in the proceeds reinvested, usually in an existing portfolio position unless one has a current detailed report to purchase anything new using the proceeds from the sell.”

Since each club “breaks up” cashes in every two years, Amato gets a distribution every year. When asked how the portfolios are faring now, she said, “We are basically flat on the overall portfolios, but we have some stocks with good increases, and many that pay us dividends.”

Over the years, they have brought in lunch, held meetings and lunch at someone’s home or dined at a restaurant. Now, several get together and have lunch after the meetings.

Amato concluded, “The thrill of it all is the enthusiasm, interesting presentations, and friendships formed that make all the time and effort worthwhile.”

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