Investing is smart.
What’s not smart is investing without the knowledge that enables you to invest smartly.
Without guidance (such as Money Under 30’s starter guide), new investors can get in over their heads.
And there are a lot of new kids on the block: despite, or partly because of, historic economic uncertainty, young people are more eager than ever to invest, according to Money Under 30’s recent survey of more than 2,000 Millennials.
Investing platforms like Robinhood, Webull, M1 Finance are gaining in popularity with Millennials, who can dabble in the market on the cheap because little is required to get started.
Charles Schwab saw a record 600,000 new accounts opening in the first three months of this year, according to an email interview with their spokesperson.
This may all sound like great stuff, but problems arise when investors don’t understand the risks involved or the mechanics of investing.
The fallout can be anxiety, depression, and in the case of one 20-year-old student who didn’t realize that his negative balance of $730,000 would have cleared, suicide.
To get a greater sense of the scale of the problem and to find out what steps to take to avoid these kinds of issues, MoneyUnder30 spoke to Millennial investors about their foray into the investing world and asked financial experts for their advice for newbie investors.
Millennials in the investing mix
Isiah Ram, 23, started investing in March.
“I was introduced to trading through the Robinhood app and felt like I ‘bought low.’ I doubled my money within four weeks, which was great. But since I was new to investing, I didn’t lock in profits and I lost most of it. I’m now back to similar pricing when the market was low. I’ve secured some wins though.”
He tried day trading a couple times in the app and realized that it had some bugs.
“I joined an online community and downloaded TD Ameritrade’s Think or Swim app. I’ve been using that and learning more as I go. For me, using the 10, 50, and 200 EMA (exponentially moving average) has transformed my investing game. I learned to use a cash account over a margin, and I’m building wealth daily. My goal is to turn $2,500 into $25,000 over the next 90 days. So far, I’m on track.”
Ram believes it’s a big mistake to not lock in profits quickly.
“Once the market hits your price target, or percentage target, sell it! You can also buy back when it dips. Also, keep up with the news and with press releases. They change everything. If you’re a first-time investor, other advice I’d give is to have patience. Our community uses the phrase ‘paytience’ a lot, funny enough.”
Ram says trading is stressful:
“I’m learning. I’m working on trading without emotions and stress and focusing on price targets and charts. I’m treating trading like a job. The market is built off fear and greed, so removing yourself from that will help a new trader make money sooner.”
At 24, Aziz Bey is an investing newbie who says he has made about $300 in a day trading options.
“The biggest challenge for me is keeping my money into the app. Depending on how I am investing whether I am trading options or investing in stocks that pay dividends, if I’m having a bad day investing I am tempted to taking my money out of my account and use it for other things. But I have come to realize that investing should be used with a long-term strategy.”
Investing is not all fun and games for Aziz.
“I definitely feel stressed about my decisions sometimes. I’m using real money and trying to do the best research I can on companies with limited knowledge on investing. It makes me nervous to think this investment could really pay off or it can potentially be worth less than it was a few years ago. I’m learning using my own money so making mistakes really sucks.”
Millennial investor Ryan Scribner takes advantage of the commission-free trading apps.
He has a dividend stock portfolio with M1 Finance and a growth stock portfolio with Robinhood.
“One of the challenges I have faced while using these apps is the lack of data available for research. I do subscribe to Robinhood Gold, and I find that the Morningstar reports are very useful, but I often utilize other sources when conducting research. I tend to use Yahoo Finance for fundamental research like reading the balance sheets. I understand these apps are designed to be as simple as possible, but I can’t help but feel they are a bit too ‘watered down’ at times,” says Scribner, who is co-owner of the personal finance blog Investing Simple.
He already had an M1 Finance account and opened his Robinhood account and made his first investment in February.
“My strategy is to have some active investments and some passive investments, then to compare the performance of both.”
In early April Scribner opened up an account with Wealthfront (an automated investment service firm) and contributes $500 a week.
His advice for a first-time investor,
“Invest in what you know and use. During the peak of pessimism during the pandemic, I started scooping up blue chip dividend stocks. I bought companies such as Coca Cola, Lowe’s and Walgreens. I figured Walgreens and Lowe’s were safe bets because they were allowed to remain open. As far as my growth stocks go, one of my biggest positions is Amazon because of how much I use it. The pandemic accelerated the shift from brick and mortar retail to online shopping, and Amazon is poised to greatly benefit. I am familiar with all of my investments as a customer, so I know what I am investing in.”
Katie Bowles started using Stash (an app specifically targeted to first-time investors) around two years ago.
“I’ve been fairly pleased — not getting rich off of it, but definitely learning a lot and making a bit of extra income.”
What does she like most?
“I didn’t need to put a large chunk of money in to start. Back then, you could invest with as little as $5 (and I think that requirement might be even lower now). This helped me dip my toe in the water and start learning without making a huge financial commitment.”
Mostly, investing has been smooth sailing.
“I do sometimes wish I was investing through a bank/firm that allowed for in-person consultations (although this wouldn’t be very helpful currently). Pre-COVID, I often wondered if I was making the most of my investments. Being able to talk to someone in person about this would have been helpful.”
She says she’s learned patience.
“Many first-time investors sell stocks/scare easily when the going gets rough. I haven’t felt the need to do this yet, and it’s seemed to pay off. Tesla in particular has been doing very well lately, and there were definitely times that I considered selling my Tesla stock.”
Bowles doesn’t lose sleep over her investments.
“I’m fairly conservative with any money decisions. I didn’t start investing until I had a good amount of savings and am very aware that nothing is guaranteed. I’d definitely be bummed if I lost thousands of dollars in one day, but it wouldn’t ruin me financially, so I’m comfortable with the risk.”
Anthony Smith just started investing, contributing $100 per paycheck through the Robinhood app.
“It’s great because it allows me to buy fractional shares so that I get the full bang for my investment budget.”
His portfolio includes Zynga, Fitbit, Tesla, among others.
“I watch a lot of financial YouTube channels and also now read up on a few stock websites, but I’m finding that stock analysts often miss the forest for the trees and miss large waves of publicly available info in their forecasts, so I read their recommendations but often supplement with my own research to find the stocks I want to build my portfolio.”
Sage advice for rookies
Justin Oh is a hedge fund analyst and currently the CFO of Medalogix.
He says many new investors are buying stocks through mobile-focused brokerages because they are attracted to the zero-commission trades, easy-to-use interfaces, and fancy social and gamification features.
“The lack of sports and other entertainment venues during the pandemic brought them to the equity markets.”
Justin Oh says he has received many questions ranging from “what is a stock” to “how do I know if a stock is attractive?”
Many younger investors, Oh says, have little-to-no education in investing in the stock market but are attracted by ostentatious returns based on stock tips and trading methods, hawked by social media influencers.
“The main challenge for a new investor should be learning about stocks and companies and finding high-quality ones to invest in but also avoid scams, bogus classes, or dangerous stock tips. Another question I frequently get asked about is if I know any good stocks that are under $X per share, say $10? Without knowledge of how stocks and corporate ownership works, some search to own more lower-priced shares than one higher-priced share. Furthermore, many are not working with enough capital to buy a higher-priced but higher-quality company, such as AMZN ($3,000 share),” says Oh.
What worries him?
“Gamification features and allows easy trading of derivatives can be very dangerous for a first-time investor. Many people are lured into the huge potential returns from leverage with options contracts, but do not understand how dangerous they can be on the downside. All they see are social media influencers flaunting high returns, but these derivatives are complex and can hurt investors who do not know what they are doing.”
Oh’s best advice,
“Read or watch videos on fundamental research and analysis. The best investments I made as a new investor were Google and Apple because I believed in the companies and products, and the future revenues they could generate. Buying stocks is buying ownership in companies, and at a basic level you want to own companies that you believe in. Also, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is!”
Ogechi Igbokwe, a financial educator and founder of OneSavvyDollar.com, focuses on Millennials.
“The key to successfully investing in the stock market is knowing who you are. For starters, are you a trader or an investor? Most people often use the words interchangeably, but they are so different.”
He explains that a stock trader almost never holds a trade for the hold day while an investor invests for the long term. Another major difference, a stock trader relies heavily on technical analysis while an investor uses fundamental analysis.
“Knowing who you are when investing shapes your strategy and determines what kind of stocks you will buy. Knowing who you are and creating an investing strategy are recipes for success.”
Alexander Petsis, a certified financial planner with Petsis & Associates says the latest platforms are a blessing and a curse.
“Being able to trade with little to no cost is wonderful in that my millennial clients are able to express their best ideas quickly using an app on their smartphones. However, many of the portfolios I have seen come in during initial consultations contain many of the popular ‘cocktail napkin’ stocks and very little diversification across individual stock or industry.”
There’s something to be said for old school strategies.
“The place my Millennial clients have really done well building wealth is in the employer-sponsored plan such as a 401(k). Employing the dollar cost averaging strategy by putting a percentage of their paycheck into the vetted fund choices available in each plan is a thoughtful, convenient way to start investing.”
Investing in your future is smart. As a matter of fact, the sooner you start socking away for tomorrow the better.
Amid a global pandemic and rising markets, more Millennials than ever before are home with free time and looking for ways to bring in extra cash.
Investing is a smart answer.
The power of your money compounding for years is a gift that keeps on giving.
But you need to know the risks – and like any new student, make sure you do your homework first.