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ABOUT 2 DOZEN FIRMS ALLOW YOU TO BUY STOCK SHARES DIRECTLY

Dear Dr. Tightwad - I read your column about how to invest in stocks without using a broker. How do I get in touch with the companies you named?

Also, I would appreciate a list of companies that offer dividend reinvestment plans (DRIPs) to their shareholders.

Answer - Whew! Dr. T was overwhelmed by the response to her column on low-cost investing for kids (apparently, many adults are interested too) and will be happy to provide as much additional information as space allows.

First, the starter portfolio of so-called no-load stocks that let you bypass a broker and buy shares directly from the company included four firms: Atmos Energy in Dallas (800-382-8667); Dial Corp. in Phoenix (800-453-2235); Exxon in Irving, Texas, (800-252-1800); and Regions Financial in Montgomery, Ala. (800-638-6431).

Altogether, roughly two dozen companies offer direct investment plans, and that number is increasing.

A sampling of others: American Recreation Centers (916-852-8005); Barnett Banks (800-854-5798); COMSAT (301-214-3200); Mobil (800-648-9291); and US West (800-537-0222).

Besides buying stocks directly, you have other alternatives to paying broker commissions:

- The Low Cost Investment Plan of the National Association of Investors Corp. (810-583-6242; annual membership, $35) will sell you one or more shares of stock in more than 140 participating companies for the share price plus $5 per company.

- First Share (800-683-0743; $18 per year, $10 per stock request) facilitates the sale of shares between members.

- Moneypaper, a monthly publication (800-388-9993; $81 per year), can buy initial shares of stock for subscribers for a fee of between $15 and $20 plus the share price. More than 800 companies are available.

Even if you can't buy shares of stock directly, you can still reinvest your dividends automatically in hundreds of companies - far too many to list here.

A good source of information is the Directory of Companies Offering Dividend Reinvestment Plans, edited by Sumie Kinoshita and available for $29.95 (plus $2.50 shipping) from Evergreen Enterprises, P.O. Box 763, Laurel, Md. 20725-0763. The directory also includes a listing of no-load stocks and 775 U.S. companies that pay a dividend of 1 percent or more.