Monday, December 7, 2009

How $500 can be a thorn in your side

You must think how can $500 be a thorn in your side? You must think I'm ungrateful. Perhaps I am. Perhaps I should buck up and stop complaining because *theoretically* I have $500 if I can find the stupid piece of paper...

This relates to money and investing, so it might be worth whining about.

Back when S and I got married in 2000, I was obsessed with Bath & Body Works. My mother thought it would be appropriate to give us $500 worth of stock in Intimate Brands, the parent company of Bath & Body Works. At the time it was 16 shares of stock. I'm staring at the original buy receipt, so I know that.

Initially Intimate Brands had a dividend reinvestment program, so your dividend checks every 3 months were reinvested into the stock. Who needs an extra $3 in cash anyway? Why not reinvest it?

We putter along for a year or two, and then The Limited decides to buy out Intimate Brands. Corporate takeovers, oh joy! The bigger company didn't have a dividend reinvestment program, so they would be sending us dividend checks. $3 every three months, be still my heart! So for about the past 8 years, we've been getting these stupid checks in the mail. I swear, it costs more in time than you get when you cash them. Yes, I am being ungrateful about these $3 dividend checks.

Then the investment company that The Limited used to deal with the stock has changed 3 times. Each time it changes, procedures change. There's yet another way to access the stock and view your account. Frankly, I lose track. Yes, it's stock, but in the bigger scheme of things it's only $500 that creates an infinite number of mailings and contributes to at least a few trees being cut down.

About two years I tried to sell the stock. The problem was that you had to do it online. They did send me my user id, but I never got my PIN & their system WOULD NOT authenticate me as the owner. Something in my information that my mom set up (or perhaps in all of the transitions) was incorrect, and it would not let me in. So I gave up.

Now I'd like to sell the stock. It's been a thorn in my side for almost a decade, and I would like the $3 checks to cease & the pain of dealing with a small amount of stock that I cannot access. Plus, right now the thought of an extra $500 isn't such a bad thing.

I tried calling this morning. I thought I could verify all the info on the phone and get them to sell the stock without dealing with the online mumbo jumbo. And guess what? We have a SPECIAL kind of stock, the kind that actually issued stock certificates. I think I vaguely remember the original 16 shares coming to us in the form of the "official" stock certificate. But I don't remember the 34 share conversion coming to us. With this type of stock, the only way we can cash it in is submitting the actual certificate via the Postal Service and formally request a sale. Oh yeah, it's like 1941. If I can FIND the stock certificate, I have to sign it and Pony Express it to the east coast and hope two months later I'll get a check in the mail.

I keep everything, so if I indeed EVER received the 34 shares stock certificate, then I can follow their stupid instructions. If I can't find the stock certificate, then they will kindly reissue the stock certificate for $100. Isn't this freaking stupid? $100 to reissue $500 in stock (yes, the stock is worth about $500 still). And the thing is, I would NEED to get it reissued if I ever want to sell it. Plus they would charge me a selling fee to cash out $100 of it to pay the fee.

This is so ridiculous.

Memo to anyone who ever wants to give someone a stock gift: Use Sharebuilder. It's an awesome ONLINE service that I can actually navigate and log into. I've bought stock personally there for years and years, and I've never, ever had a problem. They have dividend reinvestment for free, so you don't deal with those pesky dividend checks. They don't issue stock certificates like it's 1941 still. The fees are very minimal: $7 to do buy or sell real-time and $4 to buy with automatic reinvestment. I cannot say enough good things about it.

Mission Tonight: Find a stupid stock certificate for 34 shares of The Limited and try to keep the swearing in my head to a minimum.


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Kelly said...

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