What a Girl Wants: Gains Over Glamour

This is part of a series of profiles highlighting women investors in the Fool community. Find out what makes the fairer sex better at picking stocks at fool.com/girl.

Leslie Walsh, who says she'll "admit to being 42 plus an extra 17 for experience," lives in the mountains of Durango, Colo. It took a little convincing to get her to agree to an interview, but she finally consented, saying, "I have been on the Ferris wheel for many a spin, and I do feel that I might have some insights." From her early success with mutual funds to a more recent passion for options, there's a lot to learn from Leslie's journey. Read on for more about her story -- and, if you like, look her on the boards as duwango.

Robyn Gearey: How did you first get started investing?

Leslie Walsh: In the early '80s, we were a young family. My husband and I knew we needed to start saving, and IRAs seemed to be the way to go. As a "non-working spouse," I was allowed to invest all of $250 per year in a spousal account. We started our IRAs with CDs, paying 10 to 11% annually. They matured, and I started looking at mutual funds. We invested in some Janus funds and in about 1993 started with Fidelity Contrafund in my husband's IRA. Reinvesting of dividends really paid off. Now when I sell some of the remaining Contrafund shares, I have to laugh because the sales reflect a 3,000% gain!

In 1994, I joined an investment club for women. We started very slowly, with much emphasis on basic stock education. Our first stock (and mine) was Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory (Nasdaq: RMCF  ) . I made a little money with it, and I still love RMCF bon-bons.

We later added wine tasting to our investment club. Our better picks seemed to be influenced by this! So as not to ignore the preference of a large part of the world, the club, and later I, also bought Heineken. It's done very well. I recommend buying at least one beer stock for any portfolio.

Gearey: What has been your biggest investing success?

Walsh: My family, including our two sons, used to love to listen to the old Motley Fool radio show on NPR. One time, David Gardner was talking about Marvel, which I did not invest in. But Tom Gardner was sold on a small company with a new product: TASER (Nasdaq: TASR  ) . A company putting a non-lethal weapon into the tool box of law enforcement and military was something that appealed to my social consciousness. In 2002, I bought 100 shares. For a while, it was amazing to watch -- the stock split more times than a banana at Dairy Queen! I sold about 100 shares three separate times and still own 200 shares. I gained around 860%.

Gearey: How about your biggest failure?

Walsh: I have had some large stock failures, but nothing like the TASER gain. It has taken a few bruises to realize that it is OK to sell a stock when things have changed, be it management or the demand for its product. I have a couple of holdings that would cost more in commission than I would get in a sale. I see them and remind myself that not all stocks bounce back. 

Gearey: How has your strategy changed over time?

Walsh: I would say that things turned around for me when I joined The Motley Fool, especially Motley Fool Pro. I strongly feel that we all need trusted advice. I'm quite willing to pay someone to dissect each stock report and check the nitty-gritty for me. I would recommend to women especially to join a service such as this, or join the Motley Fool CAPS community. It is too hard to know how to screen for everything. A community offers differing views and a wealth of experiences in different fields.

Gearey: In our upcoming book, Warren Buffett Invests Like a Girl, we make the case that women are better suited temperamentally to be great investors -- they are generally more patient, take less risk, stay calmer in turbulent markets, do more research, and hold for the long term. Do you think you invest like a girl?

Walsh: I don't know if I qualify for any gender bias. I tend to color outside the box. Sometimes I pounce just because it feels good. Other times I am looking for slow cooking. But I have added all sorts of bright new tools with the use of options. (Basic option use can indeed make a huge difference for your dreams.)

Gearey: What advice do you have for other women looking to start investing?

Walsh: It's good to take some profit off the table. It's fine to own an odd number of shares. It's OK to sell a stock. You do not have to buy at the bottom, nor get out at the peak. Slowly adding to a stock is great. Dividend reinvestment, or using the dividends for income, makes a huge difference.

Finally, gain some confidence and then start adding the use of options. Start by using them to buy stocks for a little less, and then sell stocks for a bit more. Later, it is a game changer for adding income. You interviewed Allison Karrels. We both love using options. She told me in an email that perhaps "we are the next level of girl investors." I don't think either of us could advise anyone without telling them about using options. 

Gearey: Finally, what stocks are you buying or watching right now?

Walsh: I love the "unglam" stocks: areas like waste management, water treatments, agriculture, and infrastructure stocks. I'm watching Waste Management but haven't gotten in yet. I own Calgon Carbon (NYSE: CCC  ) , which makes water- and air-quality treatment systems. It was one of my stock club's picks. It's been a sleeper lately.

I also consider Netgear (Nasdaq: NTGR  ) to be in the infrastructure class -- Internet conductivity and connections. It's been a good stock to own; I'd watch for a lower entry point. Both Seaspan and Expeditors International (Nasdaq: EXPD  ) move goods over the seas. Seaspan is on sale now, and I'm adding to my position.

Servicing the insurance industry, Ebix (Nasdaq: EBIX  ) is one wild stock, but it's on a 2-for-1 sale now. It's not for the faint of heart, but it's a potentially valuable stock.

In agriculture, I am watching Lindsay (NYSE: LNN  ) . It makes those huge circular rolling irrigation systems. It went wild as soon as I sold it.

Want to learn more about how to invest like a girl? Warren Buffett Invests Like a Girl is available June 21, but you can get Chapter 1 today for free.

Robyn Gearey owns no shares of any company mentioned here. The Motley Fool owns shares of Seaspan and Ebix. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Netgear, Waste Management, and Ebix, as well as writing a covered straddle position in Seaspan. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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