Back in 1996, my grandmother gave me 20 shares of Ameritech stock for my birthday. Ameritech was one of the seven Baby Bells that was formed following the breakup of AT&T. I was 12 years old and didn’t know what a stock was, or what Ameritech did. But I was absolutely fascinated when my grandmother showed me how to check the price in the newspaper. Back then, stocks were quoted in fractions. Up a quarter-point, I just made $5. Was I rich? Not even close, but it sure felt that way.
Within a few months, I had subscribed to the Wall Street Journal and was begging my grandmother to start an investment club with me. My grandmother was not an expert in the stock market, but she agreed to meet regularly for us both to learn more about the stock market.
In high school, I read every book I could find on the stock market, including Peter Lynch’s “Beating the Street,” and my favorite at the time, “The Motley Fool Investment Guide.” I signed up to receive Annual Reports from fifty different companies and would read them cover to cover. At 16, I wrote Jack Welch, the famed CEO of General Electric, recommending he acquire various companies (he did write back, nicely explaining that I had no idea what I was talking about).
By the time I started college, there was no question about what I wanted to study, and what I wanted to do when I graduated. Four years later, with a degree in Finance, I started my career in Chicago as a stock analyst with Morningstar. 15 years later, I’m still spending every day thinking and reading about the stock market.
My grandmother passed away while I was a sophomore in college. If she were still here, I would make sure she knew what her gift meant to me all those 25 years ago. If you are struggling to buy gifts for your children or grandchildren “who seem to have everything,” don’t underestimate what a share of Apple (AAPL – $125) could do. At the very least, it’s something you’ll be able to talk about for years.