Taxation isn’t the only way money can move from the rich to the poor. (And we obviously can’t count on charity out of the goodness of our hearts to solve the world’s problems, or everyone would be taken care of already.) Here’s a brain game for you: maybe the mean, green economic system has an untapped role in liberty and justice for all.
See, our leaders, thinkers, and advocates spend so much time talking about how we need to create some kind of new wealth distribution system to help level the playing field. But… we already have a wealth distribution system that can share money from the rich to the poor. It’s called the stock market.
“But poor people don’t have money to invest!” I know. It sounds crazy. I certainly would’ve told you I didn’t have money to invest. And in the past, when shares could only be purchased in full, for hundreds or even thousands of dollars a pop, that might’ve been true.
But it’s not like that anymore. In today’s world, with today’s technology, fractional shares let us invest in the stock market with the spare change from our pockets (or our debit cards). Apparently, this isn’t exactly “new news,” but hey, if you’ve been living under a rock like I have, don’t feel bad—I just learned on January 1st that this was a thing. Welcome to my world.
Anyhoo, moral of the story is, the Stash app for beginning investors lets people like me, who have no idea what they’re doing and didn’t think they could afford to invest, begin to build a portfolio — with any few bucks available to spare at the moment.
Or, if you have no dollars to spare, there’s another way the Stash app breaks down the barriers for literally anyone, at any income level, to start investing in the stock market. This is where, from what I’ve seen so far, Stash really stands out from the crowd.
With the Stash app, there’s actually a way to earn stock rewards from your regular purchases that you’re already making, or—even better—to "round up" and invest your spare change from your everyday debit card activity, without changing your spending habits. After all, even broke people still buy gas, groceries, and other necessities in the normal course of life. Right?
With as little as a $1 monthly subscription to the Stash app services, you can link an existing checking account to "round up" and automatically transfer in cash to invest based on purchases you're already making. For instance, if you buy a pack of cigarettes for $6.65, Stash will calculate a "round up" of the remaining $.35, which will go toward your balance to invest. Once your round-up balance reaches $5, that $5 will automatically be available for you to buy stock through the Stash app. Can it possibly be any easier to save and invest?
I don't know if you've ever paid attention to see how quickly spare change from normal purchases can add up. I'm not an extravagant spender, by any means, but within the first week of activating Stash's round-up feature, I'd accumulated $9.11 to invest, without feeling like I was "missing" money from my account. And watching those random cents adding up in my round-up balance, which I can check on my smartphone any time I want to see it, is seriously the most motivating money-saving activity I have ever experienced.
As someone who grew up below the poverty line, I know how hard it can be to start making a change. Even when we sincerely want to put money away and save for a rainy day, it can seem like everything in the world is stacked against us. Just when we feel like we might finally be able to get on our feet, here comes the next unexpected expense that knocks us back down again.
With that perspective, I gotta tell ya… now that I’m finding my way around the Stash app as a brand-new investor, everything I’m seeing is adding up to one big question in my mind: Why isn’t everybody doing this?
More specifically, why is investing considered exclusive to the white-collar elite? With smartphones making the stock market more accessible to everyday Americans than ever before, why aren’t we sharing the wealth — literally? I mean, seeing social media in such an uproar about perceived threats of communism and socialism this past year, it seems to me a lot of us have never really been educated about how our existing system of capitalism can work for us in the first place. (In fact, lack of financial education and unfair barriers to entry are a couple of the problems Stash was created to address.)
Understand this: the system is already in place for wealth to be distributed from the rich to the poor. The poor have just been (intentionally, it seems) left in the dark about it.
Critics of capitalism argue that it concentrates power in the hands of a minority capitalist class that exists through the exploitation of the majority working class and their labor, prioritizes profit over social good, natural resources and the environment, is an engine of inequality, corruption and economic instabilities, and that many are not able to access its purported benefits and freedoms, such as freely investing. (Wikipedia)
Long story short, since the beginning of January, I’ve been experimenting with Stash. This has been my first step toward learning about the stock market, venturing into the world of investing in fractional shares, as I build my beginner’s portfolio. I’m calling this journey The Serenity Project — an experiment in winning the wealth-building game.
I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’ve learned more about investing in 2021 than I’ve ever learned before. And so far, the more I understand what sets the Stash app apart from the rest, the more deeply excited I am about what this can mean for people like me — people who’ve struggled to get by, always living paycheck to paycheck, never seeming to get ahead; people who are tired of not being “good enough” to make it anywhere in life. (Think you're the only one? Read this view on “What Poor Kids Don’t Get to Learn About Money.”)
I’m not saying I expect to become a millionaire. I am finding a place to start, though. And, when it comes to investing, that’s more than I’ve ever given myself the chance to do before.
What I can say for sure is that investing in the stock market isn’t a magic bullet or a get-rich-quick plan. It’s not an overnight solution to all of the world’s problems. But in a crazy, subversive, really satisfying, revolutionary kind of a way… it’s a method to slowly but surely start turning the tables.
I mean, what could be more ironic than using a system that’s created so much inequity in our society to actually begin correcting that inequity, just by learning how to play the game? Capitalism isn’t the problem. Assuming only people who are already rich can win at capitalism — that’s the problem.
Now, you should probably know I’m a bit of a dreamer. My imagination goes zero to sixty in no time flat. But I’m also a protagonist and a strategizer. I’m one of those people who can see the big picture and the small details, at the same time.
I realize the road to building wealth by investing in fractional shares will be a long one. As a person starting from scratch at the ripe old age of 36, I know that realistically, I’m a bit late to the game. Even people who know nothing about investing know that a key to successful investing is to start young. But I’m a staunch believer that the only way we get anywhere is by starting wherever we’re at.
And now that I’m learning about investing in fractional shares, the potential I see… bit by bit… purchase after purchase… adding up over time… multiplied by who knows how many people… learning together and learning from each other… in it for the long haul… shifting the tide for our children, and their children to come… that’s world-changing potential.
And that’s the kind of thing that gets me really fired up.
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.