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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

EIGHT OVER 80: Fred Astman

Fred Astman | 89 | Chairman and Portfolio Manager, First Wilshire Securities

Times sure have changed since Fred Astman first got into the stock-picking business.

Investors who once had little more than a monthly printed guide to turn to for information on small-cap stocks can now get real-time data from computers, smart phones, tablets and more.

Astman doesn’t use his cell phone for Internet access. And he doesn’t bother with e-mail. But even as he pushes 90, he is keeping up in the ever-changing industry.

“I’m a little bit old fashioned, (but) I take advantage of the computers in tracking down information,” he said.

While many people in their late 80s are enjoying the leisure of retirement, Astman remains more interested in the stock pages than the crossword puzzle. As chairman and portfolio manager of First Wilshire Securities Management Inc., a Pasadena investment firm specializing in small-cap stocks, he still oversees about 500 individual accounts.

A one-time accountant, Astman joined the brokerage industry in the early 1960s and founded First Wilshire in 1977.

By the 1980s, the firm was turning heads for double- and even triple-digit percentage returns on savvy investments such as Herbalife Ltd., the downtown L.A. nutritional supplement company.

These days, Astman is bullish on pawnshops, which are benefiting in a sluggish economy. He also likes the booming economy of Brazil and water companies: “It’s one of the few safe areas – people gotta drink water.”

He admits, though, that these days he spends a little less time at the office, often leaving around 2:30 p.m.

Still, the work doesn’t stop when he gets home, where he catches up on financial news, reads investment reports and keeps the television tuned to Bloomberg TV.

Astman credits his longevity to eating light and maintaining a happy family life. He also said he is lucky to have a strong memory.

As for retirement? Forget about it.

“I’d rather work than sit down and watch TV all day,” he said. Plus, “my wife wants me out of the house. She doesn’t want me there 24 hours a day.”

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