For Linda Mui of Wyndmoor, the American Association of Individual Investors is a great place to learn about stocks and meet other like-minded beginners in investing and allocating retirement assets.
She joined in 2000 and has been attending regularly ever since. Little did she know that this year she'd be helping keep her local AAII Philadelphia chapter stay alive.
Since its inception in 1978, AAII has grown to 40 chapters nationally, attracting people who want to learn about investing through education, publications, software, and grassroots meetings.
"There's no sales pitches, and we learn a lot. We're run purely by volunteers, and we get the best speakers," Mui said.
Reaching out digitally hasn't been the AAII Philly chapter's strong suit - it's playing catch-up, trying to attract younger members.
Last summer, Mui - a retiree with work experience in marketing - set up an AAII Philadelphia Meetup group.
"I hope more people get to know us via social media," she said.
The Philadelphia chapter's membership peaked a few years ago. Today, its bimonthly events draw 75 to 80 people, compared with nearly 200 people per event when the chapter was founded in the mid-1990s.
Current president Paul Reitman and past president Gerald Levin want to change that, and they recognize they need fresh blood to resurrect AAII Philadelphia.
This year, their board built a website (aaiiphiladelphiachapter.org) and a Meetup group (www.meetup.com/AAII-Philadelphia-Investment-Chapter). It also has a Facebook page under construction.
They're open to co-hosting events with other investment groups and on business school campuses - or even hosting free events.
"We have a lot of ideas" to raise attendance and interest in personal finance, Reitman added. "We just need people to help implement them."
On Saturday, AAII Philadelphia will welcome Rachel Sheedy, editor of Kiplinger's Retirement Report and speaker on "Everything You Should Know About Retirement Plans, After You Retire." The event will start at 10 a.m. at Bryn Mawr College, 816 New Gulph Rd., Park Science Center Lecture Hall 25, first floor.
Then, on Nov. 29, William Dunkelberg, emeritus professor of economics at Temple University, economic strategist for Boenning & Scattergood, and former Inquirer columnist, is scheduled to speak about the results of the presidential election and small business.
AAII Philadelphia may not be alone in its struggle to draw more live members, what with the rise of robo-advisers and millennials' preference for "online-only" transactions and social groups.
BetterInvesting.org meets the second Saturday of each month, for example, and attracts a middle-age crowd.
"Plus, the method of investing has changed tremendously. Before, it was all done through brokers, and they're not important anymore. People trade themselves online, and so much information is available on the web, those sites are big competitors," Reitman explained.
Much older members inevitably stop coming. "Often, they move away or to retirement homes," said Reitman, 86, a retired recruiter.
Attendance at a typical speaker's event has decreased to 75 members, compared with 120 or so a decade ago, depending on the speaker.
The best-attended event featured John Bogle, founder of Vanguard, who spoke to a crowd of 300.
Still, for recent presentations by Fidelity and Vanguard, AAII events drew about 100 people.
"Sometimes, it really depends on the speaker," Reitman said.
Membership fees are $29, paid to AAII's national organization in Chicago. For that, members receive subscriptions to the AAII Journal and a monthly publication, as well as mutual fund and ETF investment ideas.
AAII Philadelphia has had as many as 3,000 subscribers. Membership demographics show that most subscribers live along Route 202 or not far from it, stretching from Trenton to Wilmington.
"People usually get interested in attending after their children leave the house for college, or, for younger members, they start having children and saving for them," said Reitman.
"We'd like to go after the people who are 45 years and older, and also more women. We really welcome younger people," he added.
Mui, for her part, would recommend AAII to those looking to learn.
She also wants to attract more women.
"Women really need valuable, unbiased investment advice," she said.