While attending Penn State Law, I made $300,000 in thirteen months by buying and selling stocks. When people hear my story of success, they ask the obvious question: "how?". After all, school in general -- but especially law school -- is supposed to be a drain on the finances. How had I overcome the enormous amount of debt school poses for most and actually grown my assets in the process?
The simple answer…I was tired. I was tired of the cycle of debt. Tired of being broke, living paycheck to paycheck, working forty hours each week and having nothing but paid bills to show for it. Most of us trade time for money to buy what we want or need. I decided I wanted to track my money well into the future. So, I became an investor and bought stocks.
I'm not really one for planning out all of the finer details. One day I simply jumped off the cliff and opened a brokerage account. You can do the same thing, learning as you go. The following simple mindset changes and steps helped me solidify hundreds of thousands in earnings:
Step 1: Blow past fear.
People fear investing in stocks
because they often don't understand the process or terminology. I understand this apprehension intimately because I too was once afraid of the idea of putting my money in the stock market. No way was I going to waste my hard-earned money "gambling" on stocks. But wealth is created through investments (real estate, stocks, starting a business, etc.). This is why it's vital to push past fear and misunderstandings about stock investing. Had I never moved beyond my fear I wouldn't be writing this article today. The first step in every journey is always the hardest part, and moving beyond fear is a difficult but mandatory first step if you plan to grow your finances through investing.
Step 2: Invest extra money.
During my first semester of law school, I used money from my refund check and purchased stocks in Amazon. I had never purchased stocks before and had no background in finance, licensing, or experience. Initially, I had no idea which stocks to purchase or what was a good investment. I figured Amazon was a company unlikely to go out of business anytime soon. Plus, I shop on Amazon so why not invest where I consume. By investing, I could see where my money was spent, and also have an opportunity to watch it grow.
I realize not everyone will have extra money lying around from scholarship refunds. Each version of investing "extra money" will differ and might come in the form of income tax refunds, inheritances, or holiday bonuses from your job. Any windfall apart from your paycheck is always the first place to start. Additionally, "extra money" may have to be generated using a bit of creativity. This creativity might be switching from cable to a low-cost streaming service, skipping a personal luxury each month (i.e. hair treatment/cut, pedicure, eating at a restaurant, etc.) or having a garage sale of things no longer used. Many believe you need mountains of money to begin. But the reality is stocks can be an affordable investment, and you can begin purchasing stocks on almost any budget. A stock portfolio can be built little-by-little on your own or by investing in a mutual fund where a professional selects the stocks for you.
Step 3: Prepare for your next money move.
After investing in companies like Amazon, Netflix, Tilray, and Beyond Meat I had found much success in the stock market. However, the goal is to avoid stagnation and continue to make your money grow over and over again. To accomplish this, you must continue to educate yourself on new investment opportunities. Take advantage of the many great financial apps available through your smartphone. You can use these apps to check the pulse on the housing market, economy, unemployment rate, and more. Knowing different areas will help you plan when you should consider buying and selling stocks, adding bonds to your portfolio, purchasing new IPOs, or even diversifying into real estate. One way I chose to increase my wealth was to take profits from the stocks I sold and invest in my retirement account (IRA). By using money earned in the stock market to fund my retirement contributions, I can grow my money even further through years of compound interest.
Ultimately, if you are unsure where to begin with investing, simply take it one step at a time. Begin by committing to read one finance article each week. This exercise introduces you to terminology and keeps you informed on market movements. Follow finance pages on social media for integrated exposure. When scrolling your favorite news feed those finance pages will sprinkle in quick tips to help you understand investing. Finally, pick up a used copy of the book "Personal Finance for Dummies". This is a cheap, simple, and straightforward guide to understanding a world that seems complex, but in reality, is very manageable.