My most common asked question from my community on Instagram is “How can I start investing?” While this may seem like a loaded question, it is actually pretty simple! You don’t need to have a finance degree or work with an advisor to be able to invest. While I actually do have a finance degree, it isn’t the only place I have learned about investments and how to do it. In fact, the majority of my knowledge with investing comes from experience (actually doing it) and my job, where I invested other people’s money for a living. So here is what I learned, and hopefully it can help break the ice and de-mystify investing for you!
Disclaimer: I am not a financial advisor, and this is in no way meant to be, and should not be, interpreted as financial advice. All opinions are my own, based on my own experience. Invest at your own risk.
My First Investment
During college, I learned a lot about personal finance, and I took a financial planning elective my senior year. In this class, we were tasked with evaluating two families and their retirement savings plan; one family who didn’t start saving for retirement until they were 40 years old, and one who started saving when they were 30 years old. We calculated out that for the family who started saving earlier, they could actually save LESS each year and end up with over $1 million dollars more than the family who started saving later. This was my first experience learning about the power of compound interest and how much investing can actually help you.
After that exercise, I was determined to start investing as soon as I graduated college and started my job. Initially, for me that just mean investing in my retirement fund (my job offered a 401k). I took full advantage of this and contributed the maximum amount as well as received a company match.
However, after about a year, I started to realize that I could not only afford to start investing outside of my retirement account, but that I was doing myself a disservice by not taking advantage of the time I had now.
My First Experience with Investing Apps
I started coming to this realization around the same time that personal finance and banking apps were beginning to catch some steam. This was something I always turned a blind eye to, because the thought of putting my money into an APP scared me shi*tless. Also like that is a cop-out.
Through a project at work, I actually was able to learn a lot more about financial planning apps, their popularity among millennials, and the securities they had in place to safeguard my money. As a result, I downloaded the Stash App, which is an investing app that allows users to open up a brokerage account and purchase ETFs ( I will do an entire post explaining different types of investments and link it here when it is live).
It took me a couple of weeks before I actually put any money into my Stash account. I actually put $5 in there at first, and over 2 weeks I saw it;s value go down (by like cents) and I freaked out. I was working so hard to save money, I didn’t want to put it in this stupid app and watch it disappear.
But… I also knew that investing is one of the best ways to grow my money without doing anything extra. This was a really hard mental battle for me, and it took me a while (I’m talking months) before I was actually able to start putting more than $5 at a time into my account.
Where I am Today
It has been about 2 years since I opened my account with Stash. It has probably been about 1 year since I have consistently and regularly invested money each week. Now, I invest the same amount of money into an S&P 500 Index Fund (ETF) and a handful of other ETFs that interest me, including an environmental fund and some clean energy funds. For me, Stash has really simplified investing because I can do it from my phone, I can read about and learn about all different types of investments, they give me lots of options, and they explain everything. They even have a learning section so if I have questions, or want more information about something, it is there right at my fingertips.
Since I’ve started investing, I have seen my money fluctuate up and down numerous times. But, that hasn’t changed my cadence and it hasn’t impacted whether I continue to invest or not. I’ve made the decision to be a long-term investor, because long-term strategies have proven to work over time (just ask Warren Buffet!). Even though it is hard for me to see my money go down, it feels even better when the markets are strong and I know my money is working for me behind the scenes.
I Am Not Special
Investing is scary, but it really isn’t hard. Even though I have a finance background, I was still scared to invest. It still took me time to get over seeing the fluctuations. It was still a mental battle for me to actually put my money into the stock market. But I did it! And you can too. Stash is a really great place to start, and I honestly love using the app. It made everything so simple and easy for me to understand, and my portfolio is available to me at my fingertips whenever I want to check in.
I hope my story has inspired you to start exploring the idea of investing. As young adults, we have one advantage over our parents (who may have more experience): that advantage is TIME. Time is on our sides, because the longer we invest our money, the more opportunity it has for us to grow. So stop waiting! Your future self will thank you for it.