Gift Registry Offers Investable Alternative to Toasters and Gravy Boats

Newlyweds and others can sign up to receive shares of stock or mutual funds at
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Who needs another toaster when you can get shares of


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for your wedding instead?

Since February, has offered newlyweds-to-be and others celebrating special occasions the opportunity to register for gifts of stocks and mutual funds. Why bother lugging home delicate finger bowls for 12, when you can jumpstart your financial future?

Take Bill McCafferty and his bride-to-be Jennifer Smith. As the Denver couple set about planning their wedding, which will take place in October, they still signed up for the standard linens, silver and china at

Crate & Barrel

to appease older relatives. But they also wanted to ask for something to build on the future they were entering together: negotiable securities.

"Getting stocks has a more profound effect on your future than some china," says McCafferty, a software engineer.

They're asking friends and family to pitch in and help them buy


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and shares of the

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Vanguard 500 Index mutual fund. McCafferty, 25, says he and Smith, 26, will add some small-cap stocks to their wish list as soon as they do some more research. They chose Coca-Cola because "Jen drinks a ton of Coke," McCafferty says. is the brainchild of Gino Heilizer, a Washington-area business school grad who proposed to his wife in 1998, while pursuing a master's in business at

Georgetown University

. Having lived together for several years before their wedding, the Heilizers realized they already had many of the household items most people request at the time of their wedding.

"We figured we'd cut through the niceties and the use this life-changing event to help us with our financial future," says Heilizer. Unfortunately, his site wasn't up and running in time for the wedding, and the couple still got stuck with a few toasters.

Here's how works: Users open a registry, which is essentially a brokerage account (the site has a brokerage license), and pick the stocks or mutual funds they want. They then choose the date on which they want the shares bought. A couple having, say, a June wedding may want the securities purchased in early July after the honeymoon once the slowpokes have had time to fork over a gift. While the money waits to be put to work, it's invested in a master money-market account at

Federated Investors


After purchase, the securities are moved into a brokerage account run by, from which they can be sold, transferred or supplemented with new investment. The company hopes that, even if customers move the assets to another account, they'll still keep a "shell" account with for gift-giving occasions later on. How long will it be before many of these brides- and grooms-to-be are registering for shares of


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Walt Disney

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for Junior?

The site charges $19.95 per stock bought and nothing for buying shares of mutual funds. The average registry stays open about nine months since most are for weddings. Births, graduations and bar mitzvahs also prompt well-wishers to drop some dough in the form of equities and stocks.

There's no minimum dollar investment. The $19.95 charge on stock purchases comes out of the account's assets. If they're so inclined, gift-givers can give stock certificates they already own by filling out an online form, known as a letter of instruction.

The company also provides a tactfully worded insert that customers can slip into their invitations and announcements to inform their guests and loved ones that they'd like shares instead of sheets.

"You wouldn't


for stock because it's gauche," Heilizer says. "But saying you're registering somewhere is completely acceptable."

So far, about 300 people have signed up, says Heilizer. It will be a while before will see steady revenue, much less profit, he admits.

The stocks registrants ask for most are Cisco,

America Online


and Disney. The site also offers 50 no-load mutual funds from



T. Rowe Price




Daniel Bernstein and Brad Reppen of Seattle, who are planning an August wedding, are using to finance a down payment on a house that they hope to buy soon. Like other modern couples, Reppen, a help-desk staffer at a computer company, and Bernstein, a computer consultant and photographer, have been living together for four years and they've simply run out of room for any more household items.

They've cancelled other registries at


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and a local department store. Instead, they're asking for three stocks:


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, Cisco and shares of an Israeli robotics company,

Eshed Robotec

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. They also want to become shareholders in the

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Janus Growth & Income fund.

"We've always wanted to invest in stocks, but we didn't know what to do or how to get involved,'' says Reppen. Besides, "we're not experienced wedding planners and we didn't like the pushiness of the traditional registries."

That may very well be, but asking for securities strikes some etiquette experts as a bit crass. Maureen O'Sullivan, a psychology professor at the

University of San Francisco

, bemoans the decline of manners in modern life, though she says registries draw on the dowry tradition. "Traditionally, a woman brought a dowry or a hope chest, and this is sort of a bastardization of that ritual," she says.