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If you had brought up stock market investing with Cynthia Bonhom-Williams a few years ago, it would have been a pretty short conversation.
“I always shied away from it because I never thought it was for me,” says Bonhom-Williams, 50, a management analyst for the federal government in Glenn Dale, Maryland. “It was scary.”
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Fast-forward to 2021 and she finds herself in a surprising position: cofounder of an investment club, named InTheBlack. She and eight fellow investors get together for regular Zoom sessions, talk about the markets and chip in $100 a month each toward buying company shares. Their first picks so far: Microchip maker AMD and decking manufacturer Trex.
“The pandemic opened our eyes about what we need to make for the future, because nothing is promised,” she says. “It was a rude awakening that we need to get our stuff in order, so we can leave a legacy for our families.”
Bonhom-Williams isn’t alone in looking to investment clubs as a fun and social way to learn about the markets and (the hope is) make a little money at the same time. The number of investing clubs has more than doubled in the past two years, according to the nonprofit organization BetterInvesting.
There are a few factors driving that. One is a healthy stock market, which, aside from a brief COVID-19-inspired spasm in 2020, has been in a bull market the past 12 years and is currently bumping all-time highs. Another is the advent of easy-to-use apps like Robinhood that appeal to younger generations and have introduced a new consumer segment to the investing world. A further contributor is this unique time we are all in — the COVID-19 pandemic, which has reshuffled priorities in many ways.
“The pandemic has played a big role in this,” says Ken Zendel, CEO of Troy, Michigan–based BetterInvesting, which helps investment clubs with stock-picking research and accounting software. “One reason was that, especially early on, everyone was at home and trying to decide what to do with their time. So people wanted to learn more, they were looking for ways to have social interaction, and now they could meet easily online via Zoom.”