Demystifying the stock market

December 18, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Looking to invest in the stock market but just don't know how to get started? Jennifer Openshaw, author of "Millionaire Zone," helps demistify the stock market. Openshaw is also the president and co-founder of WeSeed, a Web site geared toward helping investors.

Q&A with Jennifer Openshaw:

Turn what you know into stock ideas the Peter Lynch way

Just about everyone is concerned about stock market and the economy. You're launching a site to help them. Is this a good time to be launching?

Absolutely. People are understandably worried: they thought they could trust Wall Street and the "experts" to watch over the store. But now they're realizing that they weren't invited to Wall Street's party and that it's really up to them to guide their financial lives. With WeSeed, we're creating our own party -- a stock market where real, everyday people can come together as one -- whether its doctors, nurses, construction workers... everyone. It's a place for the 100 million American's who've never directly owned stock to finally learn on their own terms, in a fun, fresh way by starting with one simple thing: what they already know. And we shouldn't forget the famous of words of many including famed investor Warren Buffett to buy low and sell high: this is discount shopping at its best with stocks as much as 50% off. The entire stock market is at 1997 levels. That alone should encourage Americans to at least start learning about the power of investing right now.

You're looking to make America the next Peter Lynch and helping them use what they know to start investing. How does that work?

Peter Lynch said you could get great stock ideas right in your neighborhood shopping center. Imagine if you had walked into Starbucks or Target... or tried the first Apple computer long before Wall Street ever found out about it. If you had experienced what you thought was a great product like the coffee or customer service and then bought the stock, you might have made a lot of money, not to mention empowering yourself. Most people don't think that way because they haven't learned, and that's what WeSeed is all about. At WeSeed, we help people turn what they know from their everyday lives -- whether it's their passion for food, fashion or technology or even their profession -- into stock ideas. We help people look past the products and brands they use every day to say hey, what about owning the company behind it? It's a powerful and empowering idea.

Most people think they have to be an expert or have a lot of money to invest. You're saying no?

That's right, and those are the most common reasons people don't get started. Wall Street wants you to believe they're the experts. We take a different view -- that people are smart -- and together, through the power of numbers, "we" can be smarter than experts. Think about it: every day, you walk into a store, you experience customer service of your bank, you choose to buy a product because your best friend says it's great... that's powerful knowledge that you can put to work at WeSeed. And that's knowledge that Wall Street typically doesn't have. We also know that investing doesn't cost much: how about the cost of a pair of shoes to buy a company like Nine West or Target? And that's money that will grow over time; you can't say that if you spend it on shoes.

How does WeSeed empower people and make the stock market relevant to us?

? Passions -- We segment the stock market into "mini-markets" around passions and professions -- such as the Food and Fashion stock markets.

? Stock Ideas -- We offer a proprietary WeSearch? tool, which serves up stock ideas based on what a user knows and loves.

? Cool Content -- We feature fresh, unique content that speaks first to what real people know and love, and then we introduce the companies behind those topics.

? Connect & Share -- We have a community platform that allows people to connect with others, build confidence, and empower themselves to take action.

Is there proof that networking leads to better investment results? Yes : ? More than 60 percent of non-professional investing groups regularly beat the performance of the Standard & Poor's 500 index (Bloomberg investment writer John Wasik). ? Consumer Reports, in a study of stock market returns from 1996 to 2006, reports that investment clubs have equaled or outperformed the market indices 80% of the time. ? University students began an investment fund supporting socially responsible companies they cared about (Villanova University). The students outperformed Wall Street by over 4 percent. You created a unique stock tool that helps users create a personalized portfolio. How does that work? We created a unique tool -- WeSearch -- to deliver stock ideas instantly. Find it on the home page. You just put in what you know and love, and out come the stock ideas, which you can then buy with virtual WeSeed dollars and then monitor in your PortfoliYOU. It truly is the most personalized portfolio you'll ever see. The stock market is a big, nebulous world that isn't very relevant to most people, so we also segmented it into mini-stock markets. Check out your favorite like the Food Stock Market, Auto Stock Market, Parenting Stock Market? you get the idea. Most advisors would say people shouldn't put all their money into individual stocks. Do you agree? Yes. That would be irresponsible and dangerous. What we are saying is that everyone could improve their lives if they just owned one share of stock. For the cost of just a few lattes, you could own a share of Starbucks or whatever your favorite company is. And just that one stock will change how you view your 401(k), how you look at the news, even help you have an engaging conversation with a CEO! Yeah, owning stock or at least understanding the stock market will probably make you a better job candidate! So, again, starting with what you know ? the Peter Lynch approach ? provides a good starting point for the new investor. How is your site different from others? Most people -- especially those who've never invested beyond their 401(k)s --don't visit other financial sites because, let's face it: they're intimidating and full of financial jargon. At WeSeed, we make it fun with celebrity portFAUXlios you can monitor, interactive games, and content from experts like fashion guru and Project Runway winner Jeffrey Sebelia. These are experts in their space who are sharing what they know to help the WeSeed community. We also help you connect with others through our Facebook application and through your WeSeed Profile. And then of course, we have WeSearch -- there's nothing like it

Buy the book on Amazon: Millionaire Zone


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