If you're an individual investor who's considering joining an existing investment club, be prepared, Pilgrim -- your search has just begun.
It's not impossible to find a club that is looking for new members -- it's just not very easy. It would be nice to run a quick Google search and find dozens of clubs lining up to accept new members. But any club that would try such blatant soliciting could get into hot water with the SEC.
"The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission looks askance at 'unregistered securities' that publicly advertise for investors," said investment-club guru Doug Gerlach. "Since clubs are not required to register as securities with the SEC (as long as they operate within certain parameters), they are prohibited from publicly soliciting for new members."
But don't despair. If the club won't come to you, you'll just have to go to the club. If you want to invest with and learn from a group of like-minded risk-takers, these resources may be useful:
The National Association of Investors Corporation
The NAIC (formerly The National Association of Investment Clubs) is a national, nonprofit association of both investment clubs and individual investors, working under the brand identity BetterInvesting (BI). According to its website at www.betterinvesting.org, the NAIC currently has 161,670 members -- 129,081 of whom belong to one of 16,174 clubs -- and 95 regional chapters.
You can try your luck at contacting a regional chapter to learn about opportunities for new members to join clubs. Unfortunately, if you live in Vermont, Nebraska, Wyoming, or North Dakota, there is no chapter in your state at this time (although you might find a chapter close by in a neighboring state).
If you live in certain select states, your other alternative is to check out BI's Find-A-Club program. This is a pilot program, begun in February 2006, with only 12 chapters participating at present. (If you live in San Diego or South Jersey, you're in luck; if your home base is Albuquerque or Idaho, you'll have to wait a while.) The BI staff will ask you to fill out a survey about your investing situation, then try to find you a good match with an existing club. BI also provides a useful checklist to help you determine whether the club you're considering is right for you.
The U.K. version of BetterInvesting, ProShare Investment Clubs, offers both caution and encouragement. According to the organization's website, The Data Protection Act prohibits ProShare from passing on information about existing clubs to prospective members. Another problem is that "the vast majority of clubs insist on preserving their anonymity" and are often "wary about introducing strangers into their groups, particularly as money is involved." But ProShare does offer to matchmake for anyone looking for a club to join -- you just contact them with your investment vital statistics, and they'll do their best to find you a good fit.
Motley Fool Follies
The Motley Fool has a Folly in 50 States area, where you can post a message to other investors in your state, asking whether anyone knows of an investment club with a spot for new investors. (You must be a member to access the boards, but why wouldn't you be one already? It's such a deal!) Unfortunately, only 34 states are currently represented on the Folly board, so if you live in New Mexico or Wyoming, you're once again out of luck. (What is it with Wyoming? Are there no investors there?) You could always start your own board to rectify this glaring omission.
From the Latin bivium, meaning "where two roads meet," Bivio claims to be the yenta of investment-club matchmaking sites. At its Club Cafe, you can post a "club wanted" or "member wanted" message that purportedly will be seen by 40,000 Bivioites. The site could be a promising source for club seekers, and there's no charge to access it.
Bivio's Club Cafe is also a helpful place to read about questions members may have with various investment issues. For example, a recent poster asked about tracking certain investments such as ADRs (American depositary receipts) -- for example, Ctrip
"I don't want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member," Groucho Marx insisted. If you DO want to belong, you'll need to do a little digging. Or just start your own club. I'll have more on that in a future article.
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Fool contributor Ellen Dowling owns shares of both Ctrip and Streettracks Gold. She is a member of an investment club that is disbanding and also a member of a new club that is forming. If you know of any other resources for folks trying to find a club to join, please let her know. The Fool has a disclosure policy.