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Planning Pays Off show teaches ABCs of finance

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Looking for the elusive stock that will draw the big bucks on Wall Street?

Ralph Acampora, director of technical analysis for Prudential Securities, shared one of his personal favorites to an audience of 150 Saturday morning.

“Tupperware.”

Fearing his audience’s ears were clogged by delusions of a dot.com windfall, he repeated his advice. “Tupperware? Yes, Tupperware.”

Acampora delivered the morning’s keynote address at Saturday’s 4th annual “Planning Pays Off,” a daylong personal finance show offering individuals, their families and businesses financial planning lessons with the region’s top financial experts.

The event, which attracted 420 attendees to the campus of St. John’s University, was co-sponsored by the Times-Ledger Newspapers, Financial Planning Association of New York, and the Financial Services Institute of St. John’s.

Participants ranged from Doris Francis, whose only investment was through her company’s 401k program, to afternoon keynote speaker New York State Comptroller H. Carl McCall, whose investment portfolio for the state’s $127 billion pension fund was deemed by Fortune magazine to be the largest in the nation.

For the most part, attendees weren’t looking for stock market secrets as much as sound investment advice. As Queens Borough President Claire Shulman put it in her opening remarks, “Today’s program is here for you to use as a compass to read the map of personal finance.”

To kick things off, Shulman declared March 10-17 Financial Planning Week in the borough.

The declaration was aptly timed, taking place a day after the NASDAQ index hit a two-year low and exactly one year following its all time high of 5,048.62.

“The NASDAQ we have today is on steroids,” said Acampora, whose uncanny accuracy in predicting the markets has established him as an industry guru.

Though in recent years such names as Yahoo, Microsoft, and Intel may have produced the magic numbers that make investors sing, the recent plunge in tech stocks has caused many to change their tunes.

But not Acampora. He’s been deploring dot.coms for a fiscal eternity, and he shared his disdain with his audience.

“You can buy stock, but try going for stuff you can drive into the mall and see. Not dot this and dot that,” he said. “I try to recommend Tasty Bakeries, Tommy Hillfiger, no one will listen to me. Those stocks that are going down deserve to go down.”

Before his speech was over, Acampora exhibited a flash of forecasting ability that would make any weatherman jealous.

“I wish I could say yesterday was the low. I think it’s going to go lower,” he said.

Sure enough, the NASDAQ dropped another 130 points Monday following his speech, taking the index below 2,000 for the first time since 1998.

Despite Acampora’s enthusiastic endorsement, attendee Lou Eisenberg, who has spent “many years” building his portfolio, wasn’t about to buy his stake in Tupperware.

“Time is the most important thing,” he said following Acampora’s speech.

“He gave a number of specific recommendations in stock. The problem is, if you buy it, when do you sell, and after you sell it, what do you do with it? It’s very difficult to select individual stocks, unless you do your own analysis.”

As most in attendance were not prepared to analyze wild fluctuations in the market, the day offered them ample opportunity to meet a host of certified financial planners. Four rounds of 40-minute seminars on such topics as “Worry Free Retirement,” “Starting a Business,” and “Mutual Fund Magic” were split up with frequent coffee breaks, allowing time for attendees to mosey around a financial bazaar where two dozen companies offered first-hand financial advice.

Although not every seminar was relevant to every attendee, with 10 to choose from no one felt left out in the cold.

“I’m not going to start a business at my age,” said Rose Tracey, 57, as she eyed the menu of seminars. “When you get to certain age, you want to get more money so you can travel.”

Throughout the day, financial planners offered strategies that were less concerned with uncovering the pot of gold over the rainbow than with tucking away a nest egg for a rainy day.     

“The name of the game isn’t to make the biggest, fattest profit so you can brag at a cocktail party,” said Eric Simons as he presented the seminar “Money Management 101.” “You simply need enough to achieve your life goals.”

As the event was winding down, certified financial planner Raymond Mignone offered an oft-quoted but little-heeded stroke of wisdom from his exhibition table at the bazaar: “But low, sell high.”

“No one does it,” Mignone said. “They buy high, because they get excited, and they sell low, because they get scared.

“It’ll be a revelation,” he added smugly.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

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