The SPOT to Learn

Published 7:08 pm Thursday, September 28, 2023

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By Phyllis Speidell

With the daily financial news talk of rising inflation, possible recessions and a volatile stock market, how can you know if this is a good time to invest? How can you determine a sound investment? How do you learn more about the whole investment process? 

If you are an investing rookie who would like to know more about investing or an experienced investor who would enjoy meeting with other private investors, you will appreciate how, in 2000,  Gary Abrams, a Suffolk resident, launched a group where the 14 members could do all that while enjoying the camaraderie of others also intrigued by the stock market. 

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Abrams, a Navy veteran, grew up in the Cradock section of Portsmouth and retired from the Naval Aviation Depot in Norfolk as the Director of the Planning Division. He and his wife, Ann Lynn, now live in the Bennett’s Creek area. 

Today the group he launched, known as SPOT (Stock Pickers of Tidewater), includes 18 members who meet monthly to share their ideas, learn how to invest in good quality companies and apply what they learn to their own personal investments as well.  The club is a supportive environment in which aspiring investors learn the skills of stock investing.  Each month the members contribute $25, or more if they choose, to a shared fund from which they buy and sell as a group, building a profitable stock portfolio for the club. 

The club members have a variety of careers and backgrounds – a Coast Guard Captain, technical specialists, retired businessmen, retired military, shipyard workers and retired educators.  Their varying fields of expertise enhance the club’s collective knowledge and the club discussions can be peppered with good-natured jesting while they enjoy the cookies that members bring on a rotating schedule. 

The SPOT club is part of the Washington, DC chapter of NAIC/Better Investing, a national nonprofit (501c3), volunteer-based organization dedicated to teaching sound investing methods to individuals and investment clubs. 

Recently Abrams received one of two national Better Investing awards recognizing his leadership in the club, being the “heartbeat” of the group that still includes eight charter members. The NAIC Better Investing Robert Wynn Award recognizes exceptional club leadership and dedication to educational  programs that have introduced everyday Americans, including youths, to principles of “building wealth and managing personal finances.”  

Abrams was, in the minds of the SPOT members, a clear choice for the award.  He  had started the club with a few friends and acquaintances with whom he often talked about investments. He served as president for 19 years and recently moved into the co-Treasurer position.  Portsmouth resident, Steve Hetzler is the current club president. 

“When Gary and I first started talking about the possibility of starting an investment club some 23 years ago, I knew that he would be instrumental in the creation and the on-going direction of our club,” Hetzler said. 

Back in 2000 the 14 club  members met in a room over the garage of the Abrams home in North Suffolk. 

“We had just enough chairs,” Abrams remembered. “The pool table became our board table.” 

As the club started, Abrams, along with Hetzler, discovered that slogging their way through the numbers  and calculations involved in stock selection could be a daunting and time-consuming process. To their surprise – and relief – Better Investing had software that could ease the research and evaluation process. The pair introduced the time and effort saving software to the club and guided the members in using it to check out their potential stock finds and prepare their stock reports for the meetings.

As you can imagine, with 18 members voting, the club stock purchase and sell suggestions are often open to lively discussion. The club requires a 2/3 majority vote on any stock buy or sell for the club. 

 “One of the things that makes our club so successful is the freewheeling decision making – we don’t always agree about buying or selling club owned stock,” Hetzler said. “But we do respect everyone’s position.” 

As much as investing as a group, the club focuses on education with guest speakers (live or via Zoom)  and mentors assigned to new members to acquaint them with the Better Investing stock analysis guidelines. General membership discussions might include definition/explanation of investing terms, pertinent articles on the economy and stock market, how to analyze companies’ track records, and how to know when to buy, hold or sell stocks. 

Over the last 23 years, the club membership has remained stable with numerous long-time members still active.  A decade after the club formed, one of the members developed ALS. At first members were able to help him up the steps to the second-floor meeting room but soon decided to move their meetings to a first-floor meeting room at Cherry Carpet in Portsmouth where Hetzler was then employed. When he retired, however, the group moved their meeting site to an open room at Centenary United Methodist Church on Cedar Lane in Portsmouth where they continue to meet each month. 

As club members retire or move from the area SPOT has a few openings for new members and would like to share their knowledge of investing – and friendship – with people who would like to learn. If you think you would like to try a meeting and see if SPOT is the right spot for you,

Email Gary Abrams at or