Some Americans use the stock market as a reason to drink beer together, gab about the economy and pick their next investment. Investment clubs—small groups of people who gather to learn and practice investing together—were once very popular.
In fact, in 1998, there were over 400,000 Americans participating in local investment clubs around the country. Today, according to the Wall Street Journal, that number has shrunken by about 80%.
After five years of erratic and, frankly, mediocre stock market performance, investment clubs have lost a lot of their cachet. Even the National Association of Investment Clubs has changed its name to BetterInvesting to reflect the new reality—Americans just aren’t that into investment clubs anymore.
We’re Turned Off by Investing Itself
One of the broadest measures of the stock market, the S&P 500, has been up about 12% over the past five years—which isn’t so great, considering that the stock market’s historical return is an average of around 10% per year. And that’s piled on top of our collective memory of the stock market dropping over 50% between 2007 and 2008.
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It’s not just that people are disinterested in investment clubs … they’re shying away from investing as a whole. We can see this in historically low stock market volumes: The average number of shares traded daily on markets like the New York Stock Exchange hit a five-year low in 2012.
Since Americans aren’t that excited about their investing options, they seem to be voting with their feet—by leaving investment clubs.
Old-school investment clubs may have also given way to a new form of social investing that’s happening online. According to Nielsen, more and more investors are turning to financial sites, ranging from Morningstar.com to The Motley Fool, to research investments and get advice.
LearnVest certified financial planner Ellen Derrick has watched technology outpace these old-fashioned clubs: “I remember working with some investors back in late 1999 when they would all pool money to buy a couple shares of stock. Now, you can cheaply buy ETFs, which are so much better in terms of diversification and trading cost.” So perhaps it makes sense that investment clubs have gone the way of the floppy disk.
Are Investment Clubs Even a Good Idea Anymore?
Once considered as American as baseball and apple pie, investment clubs yield better results than going it alone … according to common wisdom, at least.
In 1998, the National Association of Investors Corporation (NAIC) reported that 60% of the 35,000 investment clubs in the U.S. regularly beat the stock market. However, two academics found that the opposite was true: Terrance Odean and Brad Barber determined that around 60% of investment clubs actually underperform the market. They also found that investment clubs actually perform 20% worse annually than individual investors picking their own stocks.