My good friend Jeff Fischer asked me if I could write something about my experience with Drip investing and how my story can help parents teach their children about the powers of Dripping. Hating to talk about myself, it took me about two seconds to think about doing it before I accepted. So here goes.
I started investing in the stock market at the age of 10, when I was hired to work as a dishwasher in my father's restaurant. My father took me aside and said to me, "Now that you are a working man and you're making some money, it's time for you to learn a little about the stock market and how it works." He sat me down with my Great-Uncle Andrew and both of them started explaining to me what eventually became my destiny. Great-Uncle Andrew is one of the best investors that I have ever known. He was famous in our town for buying Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO) stock in 1934 and using the proceeds from it over the years to buy houses for his children and a chain of motels in Florida.
Well, getting back to the story, they sat me down and told me that the way to get rich and to take care of one's family is to work hard and every month take 25% of your salary and invest it in the stock market. I saved up my $1.25-an-hour salary and put together $100 and bought my first shares of Exxon, now Exxon Mobil (NYSE: XOM).
Why Exxon, you ask? 1974 was the year of the Arab oil embargo and next to my father's restaurant was a huge Exxon station. When things got slow in the kitchen, I would frequently look out the window. All I could see were long lines of cars and customers dying to get gas. This was a great educational experience for me and taught me to use Main Street as a starting point when researching a company. I told my father that if a company has more customers than it could handle, then it must be a good thing, right?
After purchasing the stock, I then became a serious capitalist. The stock market was God on earth to me. All that mattered in the universe was Exxon and I was going to put every penny I made into it. I had a dream to be on the board of directors someday. Other kids wanted to be a fireman or a baseball player. I wanted to run Exxon. So, for the next eight years I read The Wall Street Journal religiously and started giving my father's customers stock tips. Surprisingly, they made money. But as for me, I would only invest in Exxon. Every time a relative wanted to buy me a gift, I gave strict instructions to my mother to tell them cash only. That cash went directly to my Exxon Drip.
As time went on I was promoted from a dishwasher, to busboy, and then at the ripe old age of 12, I was made floor manager. As my responsibility increased, so did the pay. I was now making $3.50 an hour, which at 14 years old was a ton of money.
I spent all my free time going to the public library and reading Value Line as well as other sources, looking for anything I could find on the company. Oil stocks boomed during that time and I was making money. I was also lucky because I had an uncle in Greece who was rich and used to send me $500 for my birthday and $1,000 for Christmas. By the time I had finished college in 1988, my Exxon stock was worth enough for me to use it as collateral to take out a loan to put myself in the laundromat business. This gave me even more income, which went into my Drip. Since I was living at home with Mom and Dad, I had a lot of spare cash. Good thing, too, because Exxon was going through the Exxon Valdez disaster. Instead of panicking and selling the stock, I spent the next year and a half adding to it.
In 1991, I stopped my Dripping into Exxon because I began working as a money manager and started to concentrate on a wider field of companies. At this time I opened Drip accounts with Coca-Cola and Heinz (NYSE: HNZ), and also bought stock in Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK.A), American International Group (NYSE: AIG), Medtronic (NYSE: MDT), and Schering Plough (NYSE: SGP), basing all my purchases on the methods of Philip Fisher, whose book, Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits, I read in 1984.
To summarize, the results of my dripping in Exxon are as follows: I originally purchased Exxon in 1974 for about $4.92 a share, adjusted for splits. That first $100 I invested would be worth $1,811 today -- a gain of 1,560%, or 11.41% annualized. I sold my Exxon in 1999 in order to buy Nokia (NYSE: NOK), which I still own.
I hope this has been instructional on how important it is to teach your children about the stock market at even a young age. Dripping is the best way I know to get a child started in investing. They learn the time value of money and can become more responsible about their finances. Drip Port has written a column showing you how to start Drips for kids. Finally, the Fool's Drip book, Investing Without a Silver Spoon, can help teach anyone more about Dripping.
Peter Psaras, a.k.a. Mycroft, has been a Fool for a long time but never knew it. He works as a community discussion board stroller and sometimes editorial pontificator. He is also the Fool's biggest Philip Fisher disciple. TMF Mycroft's online profile shows the stocks he currently owns. The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.