God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.
On January 1st, I saw a TV ad for Stash, an app for newbies to begin investing in the stock market for $5 or less. I don’t know why the ad stood out to me. Maybe it was the young, brown-skinned female face instead of the middle-aged white guys from the other financial services commercials. Maybe it was a God thing. After all, I believe in the God who takes the piddly little loaves and fishes we bring to Him--and multiples them to feed thousands. So let's talk about investing in the stock market with your spare change, shall we?
Whatever it was that compelled me to Google the words Stash app that day, right up til this brave year 2021, I knew nothing about stocks and didn’t care one bit. I mean, I’ve been just some poor kid from the sticks all my life; stock markets are for rich people in big cities. Right?
That mentality’s part of the problem, as described perfectly in this article on “What Poor Kids Don’t Get to Learn About Money.” Meanwhile… something about the Stash message really intrigued me. On a whim, I looked it up. From the FAQs on the homepage, I learned…
Stash is a personal finance app that simplifies investing, making it easy and affordable for everyday Americans to build wealth and achieve their financial goals.
Stash was built with a simple philosophy: everyone should have access to investing. Thanks to fractional shares, anyone can invest in the stock market with $5 or less. And along with other investing and saving tools, like the Stock-Back® Card, Stash helps more than 5 million people reach their financial goals.
I mean… I figured if there’s ever been a time for everyday Americans to be empowered to take ownership of our stake in the game, this is it.
So I set up my Stash account and made my first transfer and put a couple of bucks into some brands I know. I didn’t really expect to do much with this platform after that, but the more I learned… the more I wanted to learn more.
In the days that followed, as I began following the in-app recommendations and doing some Google searching and getting the hang of things, I started to realize this could be a really big deal for my life.
When my $600 government stimulus check hit my bank account early in January, I stopped to think. Then I spent the next week, in my spare time, gradually reading up on the best stock picks for 2021 and gauging which ones make the most sense to me.
By the end of that week, I’d invested my entire second stimulus check into fractional shares through the Stash app.
Is that crazy? Maybe. Believe me, it’s not a move someone like me would make lightly — especially in the middle of a global pandemic, when no job is safe and the economy’s been lingering on the brink of total disaster. I could’ve definitely used that $600 check a lot of other ways.
But over the first two weeks of January, as I learned a few nuts and bolts about investing and realized how easy and accessible it is to begin building a portfolio through the Stash app, I became convinced: this is the best decision I’ve made for the New Year. What started out as a random curiosity to see how this thing works has quickly become a serious consideration for what I do with my money from now on, and how I take ownership with the day-to-day purchases I make.
Now, it bears repeating: part of why I’m excited to share my experiences with Stash is that I’m the kind of person who’s never been excited about the stock market. I wanted no part of it. I had all the reasons in the world for why all those boring, pushy financial planning topics weren’t relevant to me. Investing was too expensive… it took too long to see a pay-off… I didn’t have enough money to bother trying… I didn’t know where to start… I didn’t know anybody who could help me without charging me for it… blah blah blah.
Many of these things might’ve been true back when I was 18, stepping out from a family background of poverty into hopes of a better adulthood, with no financial direction or guidance to speak of. But the worlds of technology and business have both come a long way since then, and the options are completely different today.
The truth is, all of a sudden, knowing what I know now, I realize my attitude has been a lot more limiting than my lack of know-how. When I look back, I can admit there’s been a lot of stubborn Midwestern pride wrapped up in all of it. You see, I’m a product of the hillbilly migration, with family lines stretching up from the Appalachians to the Northwoods. I’m a first generation bootstrapper who’s fought tooth and nail to be the first woman in my mother’s family to earn a four-year college degree. Raised in the shadow of my mom’s permanent physical disability from birth and my dad’s 5th grade education (because he entered the labor force with his older brothers at age 12, after his folks were killed in an accident), I know hard work is the main lesson taught in the school of hard knocks.
The way I grew up, whether we’re patching roads or scrubbing toilets or running heavy machinery or pulling 12-hour shifts on the manufacturing floor or canning our own food to get through the winter, we work for a living — not like those “rich people in big cities.” This was the story told to me all through my formative years, and it was the story I carried with me into my go-it-alone young adulthood. “We get by on our own,” “we don’t want anybody’s charity,” “we don’t need anybody telling us what to do,” and “we’re not good enough for anybody, anyway.”
So maybe you can see the prejudices that made it so out of character for me to take a sudden interest in “rich people stuff” like investing in the stock market. And that’s exactly why I’ve been so uniquely intrigued by my experience with the Stash app for beginning investors.
Like many working-class Americans, my only acquaintance with long-term investing in the past has been through company-sponsored retirement accounts, otherwise known as employer 401(k) plans, which I never understood and didn’t pay attention to. I need my paycheck now, not when I’m 65! Besides, all the financial language and legal terms sounded horribly complicated and boring to me.
Over the years, of course, I’ve gradually become aware there are actual people out in the real world (such as my in-laws, never to be seen because they’re always off on a luxury cruise somewhere) who’ve somehow been able to live off of their investments. That kind of financial freedom seemed admirable to me, but I figured it was way out of my reach. I never asked those people how they learned to do that stuff, of course. I just assumed it was too complicated, or I was too late in life for it to matter, or I didn’t have enough money to get started, or… [insert some other vague, self-defeating misinformation here].
When I get honest, what it comes down to is this: even though I’ve always been a savvy, street-smart, self-made woman, there’s a part of me that grew up on the wrong side of the tracks, watching everybody else get all the opportunities. And, as that article “What Poor Kids Don’t Get to Learn About Money” suggests, that part of me still assumes I’m not good enough.
There are those who claim the U.S. is a classless society — the land of equal opportunity for all, if you just work hard enough. I venture to guess the people who see it that way didn’t grow up in lower-class America. Frankly, I don’t have the energy to try to convince people who don’t get it; I’m here to talk to the people who do understand what it’s like.
So my point is, the heart behind the Stash app for beginning investors is especially compelling to me. I keep coming back to one line in particular… “Stash was built with a simple philosophy: everyone should have access to investing.”
Everyone should have access. That philosophy has got me thinking in ways I never have before. During this past election season, we saw all kinds of accusations about who’s to blame for inequity and poverty in our nation, tangled up in a bunch of name-calling and radical claims about communism and socialism taking over the United States.
Then there are the jaw-dropping demands for audacious government solutions, including universal basic income, student loan cancellation, yet more stimulus checks for Americans…
Seriously? For most of my life, I’ve been as uninterested in politics as I’ve been in following the stock market. But this past year has been different. It’s hard to be a human with access to the internet without knowing how much craziness is going on in our nation these days.
And, in the middle of all the finger-pointing, blame-shifting, promise-breaking, and back-stabbing… it seems like everybody’s got their own ideas about how to fix the system. But all of a sudden, in the first two weeks of 2021, it occurred to me that hardly anybody’s using the whole system we’ve already got to begin with.
We continue to see a ton of arguing and infighting about the distribution of wealth in the United States, with a steady stream of complaints about how the rich get richer while the poor get poorer. Endless political messaging, campaign platforming, and legislative manipulating goes ‘round and ‘round the tactic of levying taxes to share resources to provide for the common welfare, operating on the belief that if we can just tax the right people the right amounts, everybody’s basic needs will be taken care of.
Well, if there’s anything the COVID-19 pandemic crisis has shown us, it’s the countless ways that system has never really worked. Meanwhile, much to Wall Street’s upset, 2021 is shaping up to be the year of the “retail investor”—a smarmy term for everyday Americans, like me, who are figuring out there are apps like Stash, Robinhood, Acorns and more. Here are these disruptive companies stepping into the gap to create everyday access to the stock market, working to democratize trading and providing valuable financial education in understandable, uncondescending language. For me, this has been a game-changer. All of a sudden, the prospects of financial freedom no longer look so far out of reach.
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.