Monday, September 24, 2007

Attention Stem 'Cellists:' Buy Your Bonds Now

Supporters of human embryonic stem cell research have a chance to put their money where their rhetoric is early next month and help fund California's ambitious effort at pushing the field forward.

On Oct. 4, the state of California has scheduled its first ever bond sale for the California stem cell agency – a $250 million proposition that individual investors would have been hard-pressed to take part in, at least until this year.

State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, however, has set up a procedure to let smaller, individual investors buy California state bonds in the amounts that mom-and-pop investors are comfortable with. Typically in the past, institutional investors would buy huge chunks of state bonds, and the treasurer would not bother with what he regarded as nickel-and-dime sales, known officially as "retail" accounts.

Buying the bonds does take a little homework, however. You must set up a brokerage account, if you do not already have one. You should also check with your broker soon to be sure he or she sure is on board and can send in the orders well ahead of Oct. 4. There are restrictions: You generally can't buy more than $1 million worth of the bonds without seeking permission from the state. You can read all the details and deadlines here.

State bonds pay a dividend that will be determined later, but they can be described as undoubtedly a safer investment than putting money into a stem cell or biotech company. After all, California's millions of taxpayers stand behind the bonds.

And you might even get a certificate suitable for framing that you could post on your front door.

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