(editor's note: In an earlier version of this article, we incorrectly referred to MGM MIRAGE as MGM Grand. We regret the error.)
It's always a promising sign when the meeting starts right on time.
At 7 p.m. on a Tuesday night, eight members of the Model Investment Club of New Mexico have gathered promptly at a classroom provided by a local church to determine whether there's truly safety in numbers when investing. I'm visiting the club this evening as a guest.
Members present include both men and women in their 50s, with one lone young'un who appears to be in his mid-30s. Introductions are made, and we learn that the majority of the members have substantial investing experience; the one standout is a woman who pipes up cheerily, "I'm a new member and I'm kind of stupid." Everyone nods sympathetically; they've all been there.
After a few more minutes of socializing (during which several guests introduce themselves and the group assesses the health status of a missing member who just had a kidney transplant -- good excuse for being absent, they all agree), the club gets into the old Robert's Rules groove with the reading of the last meeting's minutes and the discussion of the treasurer's report.
Then the real fun begins. One member asks, "What has happened to Starbucks'
"No, no," another member asserts. "The real problem is with slow store growth in China."
And still another chimes in: "I heard that the real problem was slow frappuccino production!" The Model Investing Club owns 150 shares of Starbucks (24% of its portfolio), so they are understandably concerned.
The next item of business is the "education" segment, in which one member researches a particular investment topic and presents his/her findings to the club. Tonight's topic is health savings accounts (also discussed back in February by the Fool's Karl Thiel). An HSA, our very enthusiastic presenter tells us, is a self-funded, non-taxable account from which one can withdraw money to pay for qualified medical expenses (as determined by IRS Publication 502). The amount you can contribute to this account depends on your existing health plan's deductible (not to exceed $2,700 for an individual or $5,450 for a family). And here's the really cool part, she tells us: This money can be invested, and any unused amounts can be carried over to each subsequent year. Quite a few of the Model Investing Club members own their own businesses, and they agree that this information is indeed very cool.
Then the club gets to the really exciting part of the monthly meeting -- the presentation of stocks to consider for purchase. Because of recent sales of companies such as Pacific Sunwear
A three-person team has met outside the regular monthly meeting to research which stocks to consider buying. The three women on the team have decided to focus on a particular industry (hotel gaming) and have narrowed the choices down to three: MGM MIRAGE
Each team member presents a thorough analysis of her company's financials, using Toolkit software purchased from the National Association of Investors Corporation (NAIC). The data for each company is imported from Valueline and Standard and Poor's. The women discuss such highlights as who owns the stock (insiders vs. institutions), each company's projected sales and EPS growth estimates, and what the term "relative value" really means. ("If a can of coffee costs $1," one of the team reminds the others, "which would you rather pay for it -- $0.80 or $1.10?" But what if the relative value is very low? "Then there might be something wrong with the coffee!")
The team uses Toolkit to project a side-by-side comparison of the three companies' data. Toolkit says Boyd is the best when it comes to the numbers, but many of the humans in the room are not convinced. "I've been to Vegas many times," one man says, "and I think Boyd's casinos are pretty run-down. Definitely not high-quality." (Boyd owns 12 casinos in Las Vegas, including the Barbary Coast, the Jokers Wild, and the Stardust Resort.)
A motion is made to purchase 50 shares of Boyd (at $34.95 a share on the day of the Model meeting). Seconded. Any further discussion? "I don't want to own shares in a company that has run-down casinos," the newest member remarks. Motion put to a vote: Three say yes; five say no; motion fails. There'll be no stock purchase today.
But that's OK, because these Model Investing Club members aren't in this for a quick buck. They follow the NAIC guidelines, which encourage a long-term investment strategy, and they make no buy or sell decisions without careful consideration and comprehensive analysis. (What a surprise -- that's The Motley Fool's philosophy, too.) Everyone present has learned from the discussion and will be better-prepared to justify future buy/sell decisions for their own portfolios as well. It's been a most enlightening -- and entertaining -- meeting.
And it ends right on time at 9 p.m.
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Starbucks and Pacific Sunwear are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections.