My name is Bob Alcaro. I live in the New York metropolitan area (aka “upstate”) and married with two grown children (one a commodities trader and one at Goldman Sachs). I am not – and never have been – a certified professional investment advisor, but I have been investing in stocks since I was 15. I have been able to successfully manage my own retirement and other investment accounts for the past forty five plus years and I manage accounts for others. My background is in accounting and – more recently – information technology, specifically for the healthcare industry. The stock market has always been a pastime for me. I enjoy it. I do my own research. I read everything I can get my hands on relating to companies and what they do and I think that it is time for me to share some of this knowledge. I thought about a career in the business, but things didn’t work out that way. Perhaps for the best.
I decided to start this blog as people have suggested to me over the years that I should write a newsletter. They appreciate my simple, but successful, approach to investing. Two terms that are not that mutually exclusive. As a matter of fact, I did attempt to write a newsletter in the late 1960’s called: Leisure Time Investment Studies along with my brother. We registered our company with the SEC as an investment advisor under the exotic name of “Economic Sciences of America, Inc.”, and off we went. We put out a bi-weekly newsletter that specialized in companies that were in the recreation and leisure time industries; sector analysis before it was popular. Names included: Royal Inns of America (since defunct), Metromedia (also – by-and-large – no longer in business), Sambo’s (a restaurant chain that is also no longer around), Major Pool Equipment (gone) but all were hot stocks in their day. Some of our subscribers (one year subscription $75) were Wall Street investment firms, the San Bernardino County of California, Marlin Firearms Co. and about fifty private investors and other companies that had an interest in our thoughts. Little did they know it was two guys in an office in White Plains with an IBM-selectric typewriter. Before that we ran a “mutual fund” (don’t tell the Feds) that was more like an investment pool with my brother and I calling the shots. We invested our own money and got several thousand dollars from friends and family to add to the “fund”. That was a lot of money in those days. I remember our “portfolio” included names like RCA, EG&G (parts of which are now Perkin-Elmer), General Instrument and Harvey Aluminum. All virtually gone, but again, money makers for us back then. In college my roommate invested in the pool and when I was in the Army serving overseas, friends I met in basic training and serving in Vietnam sent me money to add to the fund. More dangerous than the conflict, I would say. When all was said and done, we disbanded the pool after about five years of activity and returned to all that participated their initial investment plus more than 150% in capital gains.
A bit of history of how I got started in all this. One day my dad suggested that we take some of our savings and put it into a stock. Sounded good when you’re 14 and “why not”? The stock will go up and be better than the 3% we were getting in our passbook account at Yonkers Savings. My brother picked up Avon Products and I chose Westinghouse Electric. My sister decided to pass. Needless-to-say, Avon was in its infancy and the choice turned out quite well. Plus, believe it or not, he got an annual Christmas gift from them consisting of a box of Avon’s goodies. Meanwhile I watched my 8 shares of Westinghouse that I bought at 37 5/8’s (they used fractions back then) go to 32. Then 28. And all I got was an Annual Report of annual excuses. This was not acceptable! I had to figure out what was going on here and that stocks just “went up” was a myth. It was this decline that got me interested in the stock market. If Westinghouse had been a winner, I probably would have taken my money and ran and gone on to other interests. But this was fascinating to me. I started reading Forbes when I was 15 (and probably am one of the longest, non-interrupted subscribers to the magazine as of this date). I couldn’t wait for the next bi-weekly issue to arrive. When I was in college I would take all the old Standard & Poor’s daily reports they would throw out in the library and bring them back to my room to study. When I was stationed in South Korea , I would get the Wall Street Journal sent to me by boat. (I couldn’t afford the airmail version). I sometimes would get five at a time, but would read every one. Back in the states, my brother was running the mutual fund and we communicated our “buy” and “sells” via the postal mail. Can you imagine this going on today? Things were indeed simpler, but no less rewarding.
Let’s see if we can re-create this point in time and avoid the chaos that is going on around us in the world of investing.