I was thinking back to how I first became so enthusiastic about saving and investing and how far I’ve come since my dad brought home the first finance book I’d ever read from the library. It was a book about George Soros and how he’d made Billions on a bet against the British Pound. I’m not sure why that book had such a profound impact on me since I never got into currency trading at all, but I suppose it was the story of what a guy with some investment prowess and a unique idea (and some leverage) could do. Following that book, I’d read the Millionaire Next Door, Beating the Street and some of the other common investing and personal finance books of the 90s and was hooked on investing.
My First Investment
I was in college at the time and usually had a few bucks left over from each summer. Since I worked during college too, to help defray expenses, a good part of what I made during summers was available to invest. So, rather than letting it languish in a savings account forever, I’d decided to put it to work with a mutual fund company rather than trying to invest in stocks myself. It was a load mutual fund investing in a broad market basket of stocks. The fund company had since been taken over and I don’t recall the actual name of the fund, but it got me started. What I do recall was the the going was a bit slow initially and I wanted to see more substantial gains. I was impatient and naive. This is funny, but now that I recall my next move, it reminds me that there weren’t even online brokerages at the time. I called up an actual live stockbroker and paid what was probably $50 at the time, to place my first investment in Philip Morris as well. I’m not sure why I was so hot on that stock; I’d probably read somewhere about cigarettes becoming popular in emerging markets or something. Looking back, over a 2 decade period of time, that stock probably would have done pretty well if I’d just held onto it. But I didn’t. I grew bored of slow returns quickly as well and sold that also.
It wasn’t until I started my real job out of college that I started to have enough money to make actual trades with an online brokerage. I must say, having a couple years to trade during the internet boom was quite exciting. I was trading in and out of Amazon, Yahoo and other hot stocks that were zooming up and down each day. But in hindsight, that’s not what investing is supposed to be all about. That’s the high you get from gambling. And like many gamblers, taking inventory of my trades in those early years, after the dotcom crash, I came out a loser. It was fun and exciting while it lasted, but a valuable learning experience. Of late, my focus has been more on long-term returns, keeping my costs low with the lowest expense ratio funds and ETFs I can find, and diverisifying my asset classes.
What Was Your First Investment Experience Like?