Packages! Packages!

When I started doing stock investing, I began sending off information requests to 70-120 companies at a time via mail.  In those days, I would print off the letters at my computer, and mailing labels as well.  I would generate the addresses from the AAII Stock Investor program that I still use.

But I got my kids into the game:

  • One kid would put the stamp on the envelope.
  • The next would put on the address label.
  • I would sign the letter, and compare the addresses hand the letter and envelope to the next kid.
  • The letter would be folded and stuffed by the next kid.
  • The next kid would seal the envelope, and drop it in a box.

It was fun to do that, but it was even more fun when the flood of “packages” came.  When I got home from work, I would grab the mail from the mailbox, and would call the children to me.

“Packages! Packages!” they would say.  I would sit on the floor, my back against the couch, and the kids would sit in a U around me.  I would open each package, and tell them:

  • Where the company is.
  • What the company does.

In this case, the annual report was a help, because the pictures aided the understanding of the children.  At the end, I would point to the “stuffed shirt board of directors.”  I have never thought much about directors, because they are mostly lapdogs of the management.  I also have thought that directors are a waste of resources, and should be eliminated.  Let the shareholders elect the CEO directly.  Yes, I know this would be awkward, but maybe we should pursue the idea that boards aren’t that useful.

After I answered questions from my children, I would analyze the data that the companies sent me.  I found the comparison across companies to be useful.

But later I found that I could submit the data requests over the internet.  So, no more paper letters.  But for some time, I would still ask via e-mail for companies to mail me physical data, which I would share with my kids.

Today, I read everything online.  There are no more packages in my mailbox, and I wonder if that is not a loss.  When I got physical mail, I would spend more time reading it than now, when I read it online.  There is more leisure in reading the physical text, than reading the online version.  Online, we all tend to move more quickly, and we ignore things that we shouldn’t.  I am reconsidering getting paper data from companies.  It is much easier to curl up with and analyze, with fewer distractions.