So how did I end up authoring The Serenity Project — an experiment in winning the wealth-building game? Well… to be honest, it’s a surprise to me. I never thought I’d begin 2021 writing about learning how to invest in the stock market. How on earth did I get here?
The following is based on personal opinions and personal experiences, and should not, under any circumstances, be considered professional investment advice. Always do your own research before making financial decisions. Please note none of my views or opinions are endorsed by any other party mentioned. (I doubt they even know I exist.) On that note, this post contains referral/affiliate links which may save or earn both you and me some moola on products/services, or provide me with a small commission that doesn’t cost you anything, as a way of supporting one another in winning the wealth-building game. Deal?
When I used Stash to buy my very first few fractional shares in the stock market (a brand-new undertaking described here), I had very little… okay, no investing knowledge to speak of. But those first few investments gave me a starting point to begin learning about stocks. With a little practice, I began researching how to make better, wiser investing choices.
After all, as a lower-income investor, I don’t have much extra cash to spare. I don’t want to just throw money away on bad choices; this isn’t a gamble for me. I want to intentionally gain the know-how to make careful, informed selections that will put me in the best possible position to see returns, not losses, over the long haul. Just because I’m inexperienced doesn’t mean I’m stupid; everything I need to know is out there on the internet somewhere. And my hypothesis is this: If I can figure out how to win the wealth-building game, you can figure it out, too.
Already, my investment strategy has come a long way from just throwing darts at some big-name companies, like I did at first. Don’t get me wrong — about a month in, I’m definitely still an amateur. I don’t pretend to have all the answers. I’m just learning as I go, reading everything about investing I can get my hands on and following stock market news these days instead of scrolling my dog’s Instagram. Like anything else of value, working toward financial freedom takes time and discipline.
What’s important to me, which is why I’m sharing all of this, is that… thanks to today’s technology and access to information… anybody can learn the same things I’m learning.
So, in the next few weeks, I’m going to be sharing three steps I took during the first two weeks of the New Year. These were my beginner steps for building my very first portfolio with the Stash app. Number one, which I’ll talk about today, is certainly not rocket science. In fact, I hesitated to share this part because it already seems so silly, looking back less than a month later.
But this is ground floor, where I began to get an introductory sense of the market, and where I started finding my footing to educate myself further. I want to be totally transparent in sharing about my journey because I know there are other people out there like me who never got started before, and I already know from attitudes I’ve encountered online that there are “experts” who will try to make you feel stupid for not knowing what they know.
So if you already know a thing or two about investing, I’ll just tell you right now, you probably won’t gain much (except maybe a few chuckles or eye rolls) from following along with The Serenity Project—an experiment in winning the wealth-building game. But if you, like me, never had anyone to guide or encourage you in learning about investing… welcome, friend! I can most assuredly say to you, you are not stupid. May my first few stumbling steps on this road be a reminder for us all: do not despise these small beginnings.
Ready for this? My first step involved…
1. Googling the words hot stocks for 2021.
Yeah, I told you it wasn’t rocket science, right? Like I said, I felt a little silly even sharing this. But bear with me. Everybody’s gotta start somewhere. And I’m a staunch believer that the only way we get anywhere is by starting wherever we’re at.
Plus… this initial approach brought me to compelling early picks like Peloton, Square, Etsy, Teladoc, and others. These are companies that wouldn’t come to mind for me on my own because I don’t use any of their products or services, but they’re brands I’m familiar with anyway because apparently everybody else in the world does use them. Most importantly, taking this first step showed me that getting started in the stock market doesn’t have to be humiliating, anxiety-inducing, or even all that overly complicated, really.
Just by Googling on my breaks at work and at home on the couch over a few evenings, I learned, as it turns out, that beginner-level info about which stocks to watch is not all that mysterious or exclusive to the upper crust after all. With search engine research alone, in the first two weeks of 2021, I found myself reading enough articles about current stock news and market trends that I was seeing certain brand names popping up as favorites of several traders writing on the subject in January.
So I might not know anything about researching stocks, but I thought learning which stocks the people who do know about researching stocks are excited about… that might lead somewhere. I mean, I don't know about you... I don’t have time to become an expert in investment analysis (at least not while I’m still working 2.5 jobs and blogging about my road to financial freedom). But I do have time to read what experts in investment analysis are writing about. Scale your strategy to fit your situation.
As I went clicking from link to link, then, I made myself a shortlist of the companies I kept seeing highlighted, until I had a decent selection of six or eight I wanted to examine in more detail. Next, with ticker symbols in hand, I did several more rounds of Googling, pulling up performance charts and expert opinions to get a feel for which stocks looked like the best bets.
I’m not gonna lie… I had no basis to judge here, except for a mostly uninformed sense of intuition about how well I’d guess these companies might do in the future, from what I understood about their business climates at the moment. Add to that my “gut feels” about which direction the zigzags on the charts were trending at the end of a week, a month, a year, five years… call it semi-educated guessing.
At this point, I had no real idea which stocks were the best compared to the others. So ultimately, I read as much information as I could understand, then I picked some of those stocks that sounded good, and I invested a few bucks. Like I said, everybody’s gotta start somewhere, and this gave me something to build on.
Might not sound like anything to shake a stick at, but if you’re like me, and you’ve never spent any time reading about stock news or market trends before, this is actually a real, practical step into uncharted territory. As I’ve said before, just like anything else of value, working toward financial freedom takes time and discipline. It begins with a shift in our mindset and in our daily habits, and it isn’t as hard as you might think.
I mean, how much time do we spend on our phones anyway, watching DIY videos on YouTube or pinning recipes we won’t ever get around to on Pinterest or staring at Facebook thinking about how we don’t even actually like any of these people we’re following from high school? How much of that time—instead of mindless scrolling—could be spent sharpening our brains and reading up on the financial tools, resources, and applications at our very fingertips, equipping ourselves with an actionable dream for changing lives?
If you’re as new to investing as I am, you might be just as surprised as I was to learn how much information is freely available, if you just make a point to start looking into it.
Next time, I’ll tell you about my Step #2 on this journey: exploring the in-app Stash recommendations for diversification, which gave me some seriously helpful vocabulary to work with, along with a much better sense of how to spread out my investment dollars to build toward long-term stability, value, and growth.
>>> Go on to Step 2 >>>
In the year ahead, I plan to continue writing about my experiences as a beginner investor, using the Stash app to build a portfolio in the stock market. I’m not saying you should do it, too — I’m just gonna try it myself and let you know what happens. I’m learning as I go, so if you’d like to come along for the ride, we’ll be learning together, hopefully doing our small part to turn the tables and win the wealth-building game, for the good of greater society.
Does that sound overly ambitious to you? Maybe we just haven’t allowed ourselves to think big enough before.
If you like anything you read here, please share this post with your social media networks to get more people thinking about how we can all start winning the wealth-building game together. Like to connect? Drop me a line or visit on Twitter