TICN In The Press: September 29th, 2002

"Never get attached to a single share, except IBM" by Sean O'Rourke
With the markets hitting a six-year low, maybe it's time to rename this column 'My Favourite Chair'(as in the 77-tanic)? Given what the pros are doing with my pension, surely the lesson of recent years is that share-buying is what amateurs do with money they can afford to lose.

Falling interest rates were the main reason for my first adventure over three years ago. A broker advised that IBM and Bank of Ireland would be suitable repositories for my few hundred quid.

BoI were at 676 when I bought, but I soon began to lose faith because of unfavourable comment in these pages arising from their aborted merger with Alliance & Leicester. Still, I made about seven percent in a year, but no sooner were they sold that they began to really climb. If only…

On the basis that nobody ever got fired for buying IBM equipment, I figured that nobody would go broke buying their shares, even at $122. They promptly rose to $130 plus but then spent a long time hovering around the $110 mark.

I sold out of IBM after about 18 months at $114. Fortunately, I couldn't afford to back in over the last few months when - for no good reason other than a hunch - I was convinced that they'd be good value at $80. You could get them last week for less than $60.

Having whetted my appetite, as it were, with these two shares, I decided about two years ago that I was ready for DIY online trading on Wall Street - a move prompted by a weekend seminar organized by the Investment Club Network.

TICN is based in Falcarragh in Co Donegal and, as the name suggests, is a network of about 5,000 members and 200 clubs, mostly in Ireland. These clubs usually have 20 members, 19 of whom would contribute 65€ a month for investment in the US stock markets, with TICN holding the 20th membership.

They provide training on how the stock market operates, how to identify strong companies and investment opportunities; how to trade, read charts and cut losses. They can teach you about financial concepts like covered calls, leaps and in-the-money calls - all with the aim of out performing the stock market month on month.

It happens for some clubs and individuals, but by no means all. A few people have done so well that they've been able to pack in their jobs to trade for a living. TICN provide a lot of useful information on their website (www.ticn.com), though as I haven't yet had the time to make proper use of their resources, my online dealing has been very limited with mixed, but by no means disastrous results.

The most valuable lesson I've learned from observing TICN is that you have to work hard to succeed. You've got to do a lot of research and limit your investments to a relatively few stocks that you monitor all the time. And there are no guarantees.

Another thing they say is never to get attached to a share, because the market doesn't do sentimental. A fair point, but I know I'll always keep an eye on IBM.