Friday, November 12, 2004

Stocks

Got a nice surprise in the mail the other day. It's not often that I open my mail and find a big check to cash. Now where the heck did THIS money come from? We were puzzled for a while until we figured out it came from the sale of all my shares of AT&T Wireless stock.

This latest buyout transaction left me befuddled. I've seen stock swaps, splits, reverse splits, partial shares and so on...but I have never had a company I invested in get bought out for CASH. A flat $15 a share cash transaction. We didn't get any options in this deal. They just sent us our money. Thanks Cingular.

We took a major hit on this little investment, however. We bought in on the IPO of AT&T Wireless (we took out a second mortgage to finance our little venture). There were such high hopes for this spin off. When Bell Labs was spun off to form Lucent, the investors in that IPO made a killing. Why not us? It was the late 90s! Internet stocks were making people wildly rich! We were all set to cash in on the American dream...getting rich via the stock market.

Alas, AT&T Wireless stock value went right into the crapper almost immediately. The rest of the internet stock boom also went belly up at about the same time. The bottom fell out of the market and our little piece of the pie vanished like a puff of smoke. Ouch. What made it worse? We talked our family and friends into investing in the Wireless IPO, as well. Double ouch. We just sent checks to our fellow investors yesterday for a little less than half what they had chipped in initially. Hopefully they will see their checks as a welcome windfall, like I did, and not a big fat loss to put on the taxes next year.

The difference in the check I got versus the funds that were deposited directly into our investment account upon the sale of the company? I didn't "buy" these shares. The check I got was from shares I was given after Wireless spun off from AT&T. See, I already had a ton of shares in AT&T because I belonged to the employee stock purchase plan for almost my entire career with the company. Every time there was a spin off, you were given a certain number of shares in the new company and the value of your plain AT&T stock went down,accordingly. That's the theory, anyway. I saw it more as a gift. Free stocks just because I owned stock in the parent company. Wheeeeee! So what if the price of my AT&T stock went down a bit. It never stayed down for long. Until the last 4 years or so. It's so sad to see a company that was once an investors dream turn into something akin to junk bonds.

So, back to the mystery check. Mystery solved. These were the shares I got through my employee stock purchase plan. Lovely. That $15 a share is more than my regular AT&T stock is worth, currently. I know there is still a loss to be calculated for the taxes next year...but in the mean time, I am enjoying my unexpected windfall of cash. Check out my new flat panel monitor! Yeah, I've been talking about getting this for a while. But it should actually BE here tomorrow. Yay! Did I mention I was going to rip out the crappy moss colored carpet in my living room and dining room and put in hard wood floors? No? Well, that's the plan. (Hear that honey? I am gonna do it! Seriously! I am calling Home Depot or somebody within the next two weeks! Really! I am going for it! I don't care if we move in the next year.)

Bye bye AT&T Wireless. And thank you Cingular for not giving me any of your stock in trade. I am happy with my cash. Fewer headaches with plain cash.

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