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Meeting Of The Market Minds

If there’s one thing most people have in common, it’s the drive to get ahead in a competitive and challenging economy, and one of the riskiest ways to do so is playing the stock market...especially if you’re doing it on your own.

Well, such a prospect needn’t be as intimidating or difficult as one might think; thanks to the Long Island Stock Traders Meetup Group (LISTMG), which holds monthly public meetings free of charge at the Plainview-Old Bethpage Public Library, even an average Joe or Jane can become a stock market whiz...with a little guidance and support, that is.

James De Franco, co-founder of LISTMG and the current organizer, started the group 10 years ago this upcoming February as a splinter of the Investors Business Daily Stock Traders Meetup Group.

A pharmacy owner, Franklin Square resident, and long-time player in the financial market, De Franco retired in 2007 and started devoting more time to sharing the knowledge he had gained over the years with newcomers to trading; he advocates individuals traders to learn and make their own decisions when it comes to buying and selling, without the need for a professional stockbroker.

“I wanted to go out there and tell people, hey, you can do this on your own,” he said. “The idea was to teach them how to find fundamental stocks...years ago this wasn’t possible, but with technology today, people can use a computer and different programs to see where the stocks are going by using graphs and anticipate the future of a stock.”

De Franco’s early meetings of LISTMG were held in a Starbucks in Westbury and only attracted about 10 people; however, over the years the group grew and grew, and currently boasts 1400 email addresses in their mailing list.

Huntington resident Alan Gordon, LISTMG Assistant Organizer, got started in the financial field at an age where most of his friends were more concerned with partying than playing the stock market.

“I bought mutual funds when I was 18,” he said. “My grandfather had invested in mutual funds back when there really weren’t any, and he made thousands of dollars. He was a smart guy, so I saved up money and, as soon as I could, I opened up an IRA. My friends all wanted to go out and spend their money, but I wanted to put money away for my retirement.”

“They told me to worry about it later, but I told them that later is coming sooner than you think,” Gordon added.

The monthly LISTMG meetings attract a diverse crowd from all over the tri-state area, according to Gordon; all of them thirsty for the knowledge on offer there.

“We regularly get between 70 and 100 people who come down for our monthly general meeting, where we talk about the stock market,” he said. “We offer seminars and have different speakers every’s a place to get together and learn. We teach people how to read charts, how to look at the market and analyze it, based on our philosophy, which is a mix of technical and fundamentals.”

“Technical analysis is big now,” Gordon continued. “Fundamentals and profits tell you that a company is making money, but a good company is not necessarily a good want to buy a stock for a good company where the stock price is going up. That’s why you look at charts, and most people don’t know how to do that.”

Gordon echoed De Franco’s sentiment that regular people are more than capable to play the stock market on their own, provided they learn the basics and have the right tools at their disposal.

“A lot of stock brokers who work for firms are only pushing what stock they’re told to sell...they’re not reading charts and picking their own, they’re telling you what their analysts tell them,” he said. “Your job as an individual is to look at a chart, be your own analyst, and decide if it’s a good stock.”

John Brock of Garden City also is a long-time attendee of the meetings LISTMG offers, and says that the group is a valuable resource for anyone looking to get into independent stock trading.

“You can get a lot of information here that you’re not likely to get on your own,” he said. “You get a great cross-section of people to talk to, and this group has helped me as a trader by the contacts that I’ve made within the group. It’s very useful for meeting people who know more than you, and are willing to share. That’s very valuable.”