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Giving a Little Help to Her Friends

Author Shares Stock Market Knowledge with People of All Ages
As a 67 year-old widow living in Little Rock, Arkansas, Susie Vaccaro Hardeman is not your typical author. And, you probably wouldn’t expect her to be published by a hip, Berkeley, California-based publishing house. On the other hand, one might expect an interesting publishing story when it involves the venerable Ten Speed Press, the 35 year-old renegade press that brought the world such ground-breaking tomes as Anybody’s Bike Book, What Color Is Your Parachute? and the Moosewood Cookbook. No, Ten Speed has never been afraid of things that are, shall we say, “a little bit interesting…?”

It all began when Hardeman, who’d recently lost her husband to cancer, found herself facing the challenges of life on her own. She had broken her hip and was using a walker to get around when she answered her door and found Joshua Matthews, a 13-year-old neighbor, selling fund-raising items for his school.

Matthews noticed her walker and her two miniature poodles, Albert and Mouche, and asked if she needed help walking the dogs. Soon the boy was walking the dogs daily, and afterward he and Hardeman would discuss current events, politics, and the stock market. During one of these discussions Matthews mentioned his desire to own stock in Coca-Cola, because of all the Coke he and his friends drink.

Hardeman now knew how she would repay the boy: she surprised him at Christmas with a share of the stock. It turns out she’d had a long career in finance, working at three major brokerage firms, so part of her intention was to help him learn about the markets. But when she looked for a book that would serve as a stock market primer, she couldn’t find one appropriate to his age group – so she decided to write one.

Stock Market Knowledge for All Ages is written and illustrated with a simplicity that demystifies the financial world by condensing complicated jargon into easily understood terms. With simple drawings and a question-and-answer format, the book clarifies a system that has long baffled many adults and is an excellent resource for anyone interested in learning stock market basics.

For her first printing of the book, Hardeman went to Warren Stephens, president of an investment company founded by his father, billionaire financier Jackson Stephens. Stephens was impressed by Hardeman’s tenacity and thoroughness. For example, she interviewed more than 700 students to find out what they wanted to know about the stock market, and boiled them down to the 200 basic questions she answers in the book. And guess who served as student editor?

The colorful, easy-to-use guide provides answers to more than 200 of the most commonly asked financial questions such as: What is liquidity? What determines the price of stock? What is a day trader? and more. Meticulously researched and artfully designed, it offers all the fundamentals needed to make a smooth foray into the world of stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. Its guidance will prove immensely useful for young adults, professionals, and educators alike.

Insisting on a full-color treatment with eye-catching graphics, Hardeman said she wouldn’t have “one black word on a white page” in the book. She seems satisfied with the result, calling it “a barrel of fun.”

Featuring a brief history of Wall Street (including how it got its name), a list of good research websites, instructions on how to read a newspaper stock listing, and fascinating trivia, the book aims to be both interesting and enlightening. Not only is content written to be accessible to everyone, its physical design is meant to fit in a suit pocket or a student’s backpack.

The book may appear a bit playful, but Hardeman’s mission is a serious one. “(The Market) is the whole basis of our economic system,” she says. “We’d better start educating ourselves…because right now nobody knows anything about the stock market unless they’re in the business. People sit around and don’t know what’s going on and when the bottom drops out of their IRAs they wonder what happened.”

The book is making a difference around her home of Little Rock, as area elementary, junior high and high schools have ordered thousands of copies. Hardeman hopes to use the profits from the book to send young Matthews to medical school, that is, if his career plans don’t suddenly change. He’d hoped to become an anesthesiologist, but after all the publicity from the book and his friendship with Hardeman, he’s been offered an internship with Merrill Lynch to begin this summer the day after he turns 16 on July 1st.

“I’m very interested in the field of medicine…but if I like what I see at Merrill Lynch I might possibly change,” he said.

None of this surprised his parents, who watched him play “stock portfolio” as a child. Even though they themselves have no significant involvement in stocks, Joshua was interested in stocks and very organized about it from an early age. “He had his name, ‘Joshua Matthews,’ on this little portfolio, and he just put the stocks in there,” recalls his mother. “It was the oddest thing.”

Now that he has a start on “the real thing,” Matthews is likely to invest in more Coca-Cola stock when he can. “I got interested in stocks because I knew that I would need to find some way to focus or invest some money into a place where it could make me some money,” he says with wisdom beyond his years. “You know Coca-Cola’s not going anywhere.”

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Stock Market Knowledge for All Ages:
Answering Questions about Stocks, Bonds, and Mutual Funds
by Susie Vaccaro Hardeman
$9.95 paper; 80 pages; full color; ISBN 1-58008-627-6


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