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Aubrey and the Stock Market

Charles Hearn

Aubrey Hearn was a prolific letter writer, and over the years managed to save much of his correspondence. Among the most interesting letters, I was surprised at a statement in a letter from a Professor at the Syracuse University School of Journalism. (The signature on the letter is not legible, so I'll just refer to him as the Professor.) The letter is dated Sept. 27, 1950.

The Professor had apparently given a seminar at Ridgecrest on writing articles for publication. Aubrey asked him to review two articles that he had written on family finances, recommending such things as budgeting, saving, and investing. Aubrey had submitted the articles to Reader's Digest but they were rejected. He hoped the Professor could tell him why.

The Professor read the articles and his letter offered several points of constructive criticism. He then concluded with the following paragraph:

"The best of luck on your writing. I congratulate [you] on having the drive and ability to do such good work. Far too many of the members of my audiences at Ridgecrest and other such meetings talk ambition but rarely have anything to show beyond what is expected of them in their every day work. You are an exception. I simply would like to see you going beyond the every--day ideas contained in these exhibits, for I think a minister has some obligation to do that. Would you like an example of wherein I think you failed in what might be your ministry here? In one of these two articles you recommended investment in common stocks. I seriously question whether a minister or priest should himself so invest or urge anyone else to invest his money in this type of financial venture. I have some doubts about bonds, but far more about common stocks. There is, in my mind and in the minds of lots of other people, considerable doubt about the morality of this phase of modern business..."

In these days of investing in stocks and mutual funds, it's hard to believe that 50 years ago some religious leaders believed that investing in the stock market was immoral. Since there is risk involved in stocks, it was felt to be a form of gambling. The Professor was evidently one who felt this way. Aubrey Hearn was vigorously opposed to all forms of gambling--but it's obvious that he never bought the idea that investing in the stock market was gambling. Although family finances were very tight in the 1940's and 1950's, he invested in stocks whenever he could afford it and by the time of his death had a substantial portfolio. Although Aubrey's articles may not have passed the Professor's journalistic and moral judgements, circumstances have shown that his common sense was on the mark.