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Markets

At Age 96, I'm Still Investing in Stocks

Allard Sutton of Winchester, Va., is among America's oldest active investors.

I have only a vague memory of the stock-market crash in 1929. I was just 20 then, and uninterested in stocks. Two years after the crash, I got my degree in English from Dartmouth. That was an awful time to look for work. For about five or six months, I was a runner on Wall Street -- I'd take things around the financial district. During the '30s you took any job you could. If it lasted six months, fine. Then you'd go looking for another one. Eventually I went with Alcoa, and stayed there until I retired.

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I became an investor during the 1940s, while I was at Alcoa and making decent money. I was probably just investing in ten shares of something, and it must have ended well because I didn't get discouraged. After the war, I got into the market while it was going up and I just went up with it. I remember thinking, This is great! Prices went down too, of course, but for years the overall direction was up. All this time, I bought nothing on margin. If I didn't have the money, I didn't buy.

I read the Wall Street Journal every day and talk over my ideas with Joan Dodson, my capable and friendly broker at Wachovia Securities. She's sharp. There's no particular style to how I pick stocks; I just see what the trend is. When oil prices were going up, I bought a couple of drillers -- Rowan Cos. and Patterson-UTI Energy -- which Joan recommended. I'm not a trader. I've owned Intel since 1979 and Microsoft since 1995. My stocks are all good companies -- no fly-by-nights for me. When I do sell, I put the money right back to work, in another stock or maybe U.S. Treasury bonds.

Altogether I probably own about 30 stocks. I keep all my records up to date in notebooks -- when I bought and sold, dividends, and all that. I never owned a computer.

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People sometimes ask me if I'm scared there will be another crash, as in 1929. To tell you the truth, I'm not comfortable with the stock market today. There's nothing I can put my finger on, but I'm not buying anything now. I'm going to wait and see what happens.

My goal is to leave something nice for my two children, Melissa and Woody. It's a fair amount of change. I'm not going to spend it all on a big party when I turn 100. I just hope to make 97.

-- As told to Fred W. Frailey