`For years, I had been buying stocks in my mind," says Janet Norris, a 43-year-old mother of two in Salinas, Calif. But until late last year, the only equity she and her husband, Larry, owned was 50 shares of Larry's employer, William Wrigley Jr. Co. After following the market for 10 years, says Norris, "the time came when I had to make a financial commitment myself."
Norris, who is getting a master's degree in accounting at California's San Jose State University, took her first small step in the stock market 18 months ago. She enrolled in an investment plan offered by the National Association of Investors Corp., a nonprofit organization that educates individuals about the stock market. Through the NAIC, Norris was able to buy one share of stock at a time, without paying a commission.
"SLOW AND STEADY." Norris put a total of $250 into five companies. "We had to start somewhere," she says. "In 15 years, we'll be looking at college costs and retirement at the same time." The money came from squeezing the family's $1,400 monthly budget. Her philosophy: "Slow and steady with a dash of one or two high-growth, risky investments." She reinvests all dividends and pays in $25 a month to each stock.
Norris hopes for a 15% annual pretax rate of return. In 1995, the success of computer company Peoplesoft Inc. sent her holdings up by about 30%. Over time, she wants 30% of her net worth to be in equities. Currently, equities are just 3% of her net worth.
What if the market tumbles? "My money will buy more," says Norris. "Other than stocks, I don't see that I have any other options for retirement and college planning."