I got into stock investing a couple of years ago. The first stock I bought was Google (just three shares because that was all I could afford) and since then it’s gone up from $200 to $490 (hitting almost $510 at one point), but not all of my stocks have been so successful. Urban Outfitters hasn’t done well (although it spiked up yesterday) and Netflix hasn’t either. I’m trying to figure out whether I should dump or hold my Netflix. I love Netflix and have faith that the rest of the country will eventually realize how wonderful it is, but meanwhile Blockbuster has reached 2 million online users, so who knows which way it will go.
How did I get interested in the stock market? It began with Cashflow, a board game created by the author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad a book I had also read. Cashflow cost $150 (!), but it taught me that you can save a lot of money even on a modest income if you invest, invest, invest. You have to start small and, as you earn more money and save more money, move on to bigger investments. I haven’t been that aggressive in my attempts to get rich because it’s not a big priority in my life, so I’m still investing small.
Next I read Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace. Dave mostly teaches you how to get out of debt through spending less and “paying yourself first,” in other words, put money in your savings account (money market, mutual fund, 401k, etc.) THEN pay your bills. After reading that book I paid off $15,000 in (mostly credit card) debt on the modest income of a part-time tutor (over the course of a couple of years). Then I read Smart Women Finish Rich, a book I highly recommend that helped me to organize my finances and start an Ameritrade account. Since then, I have bought several more books about personal finance and investing in the stock market–William O’Neill’s How to Make Money in Stocks, Jim Cramer’s Real Money and Stock Investing for Dummies, and Make Money, Not Excuses. although I haven’t gotten around to reading them yet. Make Money, Not Excuses is specifically designed for women, but unlike Smart Women Finish Rich is assumes women are stupid and includes a chapter on how to do simple math like converting decimals to percents. Still, any book that gets me to save more and spend less is worth $20, so I kept it.
I’m writing today about investing because I know that so many people out there are afraid to invest because they don’t know where to begin. Back when I was modeling and had spent all but $20,000 of my money, I wanted to invest that money. If I had (or better yet, if I had invested the tens of thousands of dollars I blew on traveling, dining out and buying designer clothes), I would have made a lot of gains during the 90s when the stock market was soaring. Instead, I left it in my checking account and watched it dwindle away. Then I began living off my credit card until I was in a lot of debt. Today I still have student loans that I pay each month (from both undergrad and grad school), but I also have an IRA and an investment account in addition to my savings and checking accounts. I don’t have a ton of money, but as long as I keep putting a little in each month, and making smart investments like in Google, I’ll continue to watch my savings grow.
So if you want to get started and you don’t know how, first start by opening an online account–either with Ameritrade or eTrade or another brokerage company. Then read this article. It’s a good way to begin.