Drips Through the Web
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by George Runkle

ATLANTA, GA (March 15, 1999) -- Several years ago, when I started investing in Drips, the biggest hassle was the first investment. You had to buy the first share from a broker and wait about six weeks for the certificate to arrive. Then, you filled out the forms for the Drip account from the company you were interested in and waited another six weeks or so for your account to start. So, from the day you decided to invest in a company it took three months to get into its Drip plan.

In a Drip Port column I wrote on January 11, 1999, I talked about starting a Drip account through the Web. In that column, I used StockPower (www.stockpower.com) to enroll in a Home Depot (NYSE: HD) Drip. Apparently, I entered the wrong checking account or routing number, and the purchases were cancelled. The transfer agent sent me a paper form to fill out with the appropriate information, but as of this date, nothing's happened. Hopefully, I will soon be a Home Depot shareholder. Uh-oh, it's been three months! Well, the process is only as good as the person filling out the forms.

Ever the sucker for yet another Drip, I decided to try another source, Netstock (www.netstock.com). Netstock has a very good site, where they feature about 6 billion Drip plans. Ok, I'm exaggerating, they really have a database of 1600 plans. They have over 175 plans you can invest in directly online. Now, a number of these are pretty obscure companies. However, I found Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY), Fannie Mae (NYSE: FNM), Campbell Soup (NYSE: CPB), Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT), and others that were interesting. I decided to buy into Wal-Mart.

I really can't keep going into new Drip plans forever, but Wal-Mart is such a good company I couldn't resist. I went ahead and enrolled. The process was pretty simple. I just had to enter my personal information, bank account information, and presto-chango! I was enrolled in the Wal-Mart Drip. What's nice about the Wal-Mart Drip is that there is no minimum. If you agree to ten months of automatic withdrawals of $25, that's enough. You also can chose if you want the money to come out of your account the first or fifteenth of the month.

I just checked around to see what else they had on the site. Lucent Technologies (NYSE: LU) is listed, but you can't get into that Drip online unfortunately. However, I was able to easily request the enrollment materials. Netstock has Merck (NYSE: MRK), which my wife really wants to invest in. There's a $350 initial investment required, but it's waived if you agree to seven months of $50 automatic investments. You can start the account online, too. This is too easy! I could get addicted to Drip investing this way.

Finally, Netstock has columns by my favorite Drip writer, Charles Carlson. Sorry Jeff, Chuck was writing about this stuff long before you and I even knew what a Drip was. Not only is he a good writer, but I met him in person once and he is a really nice guy. Oh, did I ever mention he used to be MF Drips back in the early days of Fooldom?

The process of Drip investing is getting easier all the time. You no longer have to call your broker and listen to him tell you that they have "Dividend Reinvesting." Heck, you should hear some of the fallacies that brokers spin out about Drip investing. We'll cover that and other trite little tricks we Drip investors can avoid in a later column.
[To discuss these columns, please visit the Drip Companies message board on the Web.]

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