Confessions Of An Investment Beginner Who Got Hooked On The Stock Market

Money used to strike me as an evil that I couldn’t escape. It scared me. Money is like a never-ending game that often brings me stress and worry. How will I pay for a house one day? Will I be able to afford to have kids? Will I be able to afford nice vacations? When will I be able to buy a newer car?

I’ve always had this hesitance, but since I opened a Roth IRA I have, for the very first time, learned to have fun with money. I know that statement may sound strange – money and fun in the same sentence? – but knowing I’ve worked and earned my paycheck makes me think twice about how I use it. Just a short year ago, I only thought about what shoes or purses I could buy with my bi-monthly paycheck, but my questions and concerns about money have shifted, and now I think about how much money I can save and invest. Should I invest in a company in which I already own stock? Should I invest in a new company? How many shares should I buy? How much money have I lost or gained this week? When I receive my paycheck, I’m excited to distribute my money between my three accounts – checking, savings, and my Roth IRA. 

First, to clarify, I have a Roth IRA, which is very similar to a traditional IRA, apart from the way the tax deductions work. I can thank my dad for my investment fervor. He’s talked about the stock market for as long as I can remember. I used to despise hearing about the value of this company, and the stock options with that company, but now I find my Fidelity Watch List to include more than 25 companies in the short year since I opened my IRA, which was initially funded by a college graduation gift.

The first few months after I opened my IRA, I simply let the money sit there. I didn’t fully understand the stock market – and frankly, I still have a lot to learn – and I really wasn’t interested in putting in the work. I have a degree in english, far from accounting or business, and all I wanted to do after college was write about topics that interested me, and read the huge stack of books I had amassed during college that I never had time to read. Then, I started thinking about the money that was given to me for graduation, and decided I needed to do something with it. It shouldn’t sit there doing nothing. So, I decided it was time to take charge of my investment, and get more involved. I put half into an energy ETF (exchange traded funds) and half in a technology ETF, which were two areas I thought would have good rewards in the long term.

In almost no time, I saw my initial value start to grow. I was addicted. Six, seven, eight times per day I found myself logging in to my account to see how much money I had made in the last hour. I was upset when I saw the green (gaining) numbers turn red (losing) because I didn’t like the thought of losing money, which has happened more than I’d like, even though my initial investment has grown within the last year.

I started to talk about my IRA constantly. “I made $15.45 this morning,” I’d say. Or “I’m hooked again. I lost $12.15 yesterday.” I quickly drove my family a little crazy because all I wanted to talk about was the stock market and how much money I was gaining or losing. My dad would smile, though, because I was finally talking about something he has always been passionate about. My mouth nearly fell to the floor when one afternoon I logged into my account, looked at the numbers above “today’s gain/loss,” and saw $33.35 highlighted in bright red. For a minute, I was shocked. I just lost $33.35, I thought. But I was quick to change my feelings because there are always gains and losses when you’re investing; it’s a well-researched chance I’m taking that I hope will pay off in the long run.

With time I’ve eased off of my obsession and only check my account once or twice per day, and sometimes I even skip a day without checking. I’m proud of myself, though, when at 25 years old, I can say, yes, I have a checking account, a savings account, and a Roth IRA that, without hesitation, I deposit money into every month. There have been times when I have wanted to blow every penny, fly to Europe, or buy a Prada bag, like I’ve always wanted. I quickly change my mind, though, because I want to be smart about my money, and to me, that means saving and investing wisely. Yes, I believe in having fun and spending some money on occasion. I believe in occasionally eating out, buying new clothes, and going to concerts, but I also believe in setting money aside for the future.

Every time I log into my savings account and my IRA, I think of my dad and all I’ve learned about the importance of being money smart. I no longer think money is evil and have learned to appreciate the ~fun properties~ without obsessing over the market. Yes, money, especially saving and investing, is often complicated, overwhelming, and stressful. But it’s also rewarding, freeing, and confidence boosting because I know my money is there for my future. 

Kalee Cowan is an office assistant for an insurance agency in her hometown. She loves to read, bake cupcakes, and attend every concert she can. She loves her hometown, but constantly dreams of moving to Nashville, TN.

Image via Flickr

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