I was at a party the other night -- yes, Virginia, there are still Christmas parties -- and I asked my friend Steve what he might be getting his friends and loved ones this festive season.
"Well," he said, "I was thinking about getting them stock in some really great companies. You can get some incredible deals right now."
I thought this was pretty brilliant. I asked him how he came to this idea, which would help some beleaguered companies while at the same time make innocents who still believed in the market and other children very happy.
"I was at the St. Regis hotel just last night and I bought a pack of cigarettes," he said. "It occurred to me that I could get, like, four shares of Ford (f) for the same price. The only problem is that I can't figure out how to get actual stock certificates. You'd want that if you were giving out the stock as a present."
He has a point. It is tough to get actual paper now if you buy a stock, unless you use a service like oneshare.com, and they charge a hefty transfer fee. Why not revisit the no-certificate thing? It's possible that some companies should revisit that policy. You could offer actual paper shares in a variety of corporations for less than what it sets you back to buy a magazine or two at the local candy store or airport news stand. It wouldn't be hard to sell them at such locations, as well as at Wal-Mart, Target and other big box establishments.
Don't you get kind of misty just thinking about it? Little Bobby and Jenny wake up on Christmas morning. Santa has been there! The cookie plate left for the jolly, fat fellow is empty, the glass of milk drained. And look! There under the tree are the gifts - a new GI Joe doll for Bobby, a motorized monster truck for Jenny. But what they're really excited about are what's in their stockings -- candy and little plastic toys and yes! Shares of General Motors (gm) and Citibank (c) and even Yahoo (yhoo)! Oh tidings of comfort and future value! And so ridiculously reasonable, too!
Let's make this a merry and happy holiday season for all the needy around the world, including the fine companies whose stocks are stupidly undervalued by the moronic times in which we live.
And you out there presiding over such enterprises: Think about whether there might be a new growth model here. For once you'd be selling something worth more than what you charge for it, and creating a whole new bunch of folks who hold a little stake in your future. That's a gift that keeps on giving.