After 25 years, women’s investing club finishes profitable run

Published by Nicole Grundmeier on

Women Investors Club

The S&B Investing Club. Seated from left: Kathleen Murrin, Maureen Keehnle, Chris Sidwell, Beth Stelle Jones and Mary Riche. Standing: Bonnie Green, Becky Anthony and Lillian Dittrick. On screen is Cheryl Morton, tuning in from Santa Fe, N.M., and on the wall is a print by member Amy Worthen, who splits her time between Des Moines and Venice, Italy. Photo: Elise Huang.

By Steve Dinnen

Mary Riche recalls, unfondly, that when she wanted to buy a car in 1972, she couldn’t even do it in her own name. That didn’t fit well with the lifelong feminist’s notion of women’s equality and empowerment, including in money matters.

Two decades later, a group of grandmothers from Beardstown, Ill., inspired her to take action. The women had formed an investment club and had chalked up some pretty impressive gains in the stock market. Riche read their book, “The Beardstown Ladies Common-Sense Investment Guide,” and followed in their footsteps to form an investing club in Des Moines called the S&B Investing Club. (You might think that’s “stocks and bonds,” but it’s actually “stockings and bondage.” They’ve had a sense of humor from the get-go.)

The National Association of Investors Corp. had created the investing club format, which the Beardstown Ladies, S&B and hundreds of other clubs across the nation have used to pool their money and talent to find worthwhile investments.

But money came first. Members were asked to kick in a set amount every month, to build their capital. “I thought I should probably be saving $50 a month, and this seemed like a good way to get me to do that,” S&B member Kathleen Murrin said.

Members were assigned stocks to research and then make recommendations to the club about whether those stocks were worth buying. “We were all learning together,” Riche said.

The S&B club’s first purchase, in 1998, was 50 shares of Johnston-based Pioneer Hi-Bred International. They did well: The seed corn company was bought out just a year later by DuPont.

“We knew Pioneer as an Iowa company, so there was some confidence” in their decision, Riche said. But they questioned that strategy after investing in Maytag Corp. and then watching it struggle and, eventually, get taken over in 2006 at a bargain basement price by Whirlpool Corp.

The club found a new confidence builder in Value Line, an independent investing research firm, whose reports were available for free at the local library.

Over the years, there have been more winners than losers, and members have more than doubled their money. The club has enjoyed some distributions, too. One member used the money to buy a new car. Another put a new roof on her house, and Riche said she repaved her driveway.

The members are older now, and some live only part time in Des Moines. One member has passed away. So after a quarter century, the S&B club is disbanding and will make its final distributions by the end of the year.

There don’t seem to be any regrets, just good memories. The club has made sense as a financial savings tool. Riche said its members have learned more about finances and money — and more about empowerment.

If you’d like to learn how to start a club of your own, find more information from the National Association of Investors Corp. website at