4min readFinance 08 January 2020
While attending Penn State Law, I made $300,000 in thirteen months by buying and selling stocks. When people hear my story of success, they ask the obvious question: "how?". After all, school in general -- but especially law school -- is supposed to be a drain on the finances. How had I overcome the enormous amount of debt school poses for most and actually grown my assets in the process?
The simple answer…I was tired. I was tired of the cycle of debt. Tired of being broke, living paycheck to paycheck, working forty hours each week and having nothing but paid bills to show for it. Most of us trade time for money to buy what we want or need. I decided I wanted to track my money well into the future. So, I became an investor and bought stocks.
I'm not really one for planning out all of the finer details. One day I simply jumped off the cliff and opened a brokerage account. You can do the same thing, learning as you go. The following simple mindset changes and steps helped me solidify hundreds of thousands in earnings:
Step 1: Blow past fear.
People fear investing in stocks because they often don't understand the process or terminology. I understand this apprehension intimately because I too was once afraid of the idea of putting my money in the stock market. No way was I going to waste my hard-earned money "gambling" on stocks. But wealth is created through investments (real estate, stocks, starting a business, etc.). This is why it's vital to push past fear and misunderstandings about stock investing. Had I never moved beyond my fear I wouldn't be writing this article today. The first step in every journey is always the hardest part, and moving beyond fear is a difficult but mandatory first step if you plan to grow your finances through investing.
Step 2: Invest extra money.
During my first semester of law school, I used money from my refund check and purchased stocks in Amazon. I had never purchased stocks before and had no background in finance, licensing, or experience. Initially, I had no idea which stocks to purchase or what was a good investment. I figured Amazon was a company unlikely to go out of business anytime soon. Plus, I shop on Amazon so why not invest where I consume. By investing, I could see where my money was spent, and also have an opportunity to watch it grow.
I realize not everyone will have extra money lying around from scholarship refunds. Each version of investing "extra money" will differ and might come in the form of income tax refunds, inheritances, or holiday bonuses from your job. Any windfall apart from your paycheck is always the first place to start. Additionally, "extra money" may have to be generated using a bit of creativity. This creativity might be switching from cable to a low-cost streaming service, skipping a personal luxury each month (i.e. hair treatment/cut, pedicure, eating at a restaurant, etc.) or having a garage sale of things no longer used. Many believe you need mountains of money to begin. But the reality is stocks can be an affordable investment, and you can begin purchasing stocks on almost any budget. A stock portfolio can be built little-by-little on your own or by investing in a mutual fund where a professional selects the stocks for you.
Step 3: Prepare for your next money move.
After investing in companies like Amazon, Netflix, Tilray, and Beyond Meat I had found much success in the stock market. However, the goal is to avoid stagnation and continue to make your money grow over and over again. To accomplish this, you must continue to educate yourself on new investment opportunities. Take advantage of the many great financial apps available through your smartphone. You can use these apps to check the pulse on the housing market, economy, unemployment rate, and more. Knowing different areas will help you plan when you should consider buying and selling stocks, adding bonds to your portfolio, purchasing new IPOs, or even diversifying into real estate. One way I chose to increase my wealth was to take profits from the stocks I sold and invest in my retirement account (IRA). By using money earned in the stock market to fund my retirement contributions, I can grow my money even further through years of compound interest.
Ultimately, if you are unsure where to begin with investing, simply take it one step at a time. Begin by committing to read one finance article each week. This exercise introduces you to terminology and keeps you informed on market movements. Follow finance pages on social media for integrated exposure. When scrolling your favorite news feed those finance pages will sprinkle in quick tips to help you understand investing. Finally, pick up a used copy of the book "Personal Finance for Dummies". This is a cheap, simple, and straightforward guide to understanding a world that seems complex, but in reality, is very manageable.
4 Min Read
During a recent meeting on Microsoft Teams, I couldn't seem to get a single word out.
When I tried to chime in, I kept getting interrupted. At one point two individuals talked right over me and over each other. When I thought it was finally my turn, someone else parachuted in from out of nowhere. When I raised and waved my hand as if I was in grade school to be called on (yes, I had my camera on) we swiftly moved on to the next topic. And then, completely frustrated, I stayed on mute for the remainder of the meeting. I even momentarily shut off my camera to devour the rest of my heavily bruised, brown banana. (No one needed to see that.)
This wasn't the first time I had struggled to find my voice. Since elementary school, I always preferring the back seat unless the teacher assigned me a seat in the front. In high school, I did piles of extra credit or mini-reports to offset my 0% in class participation. In college, I went into each lecture nauseous and with wasted prayers — wishing and hoping that I wouldn't be cold-called on by the professor.
By the time I got to Corporate America, it was clear that if I wanted to lead, I needed to pull my chair up (and sometimes bring my own), sit right at the table front and center, and ask for others to make space for me. From then on, I found my voice and never stop using it.
But now, all of a sudden, in this forced social experiment of mass remote working, I was having trouble being heard… again. None of the coaching I had given myself and other women on finding your voice seemed to work when my voice was being projected across a conference call and not a conference room.
I couldn't read any body language. I couldn't see if others were about to jump in and I should wait or if it was my time to speak. They couldn't see if I had something to say. For our Microsoft teams setting, you can only see a few faces on your screen, the rest are icons at the bottom of the window with a static picture or even just their name. And, even then, I couldn't see some people simply because they wouldn't turn their cameras on.
If I did get a chance to speak and cracked a funny joke, well, I didn't hear any laughing. Most people were on mute. Or maybe the joke wasn't that funny?
At one point, I could hear some heavy breathing and the unwrapping of (what I could only assume was) a candy bar. I imagined it was a Nestle Crunch Bar as my tummy rumbled in response to the crinkling of unwrapped candy. (There is a right and a wrong time to mute, people.)
At another point, I did see one face nodding at me blankly.
They say that remote working will be good for women. They say it will level the playing field. They say it will be more inclusive. But it won't be for me and others if I don't speak up now.
- Start with turning your camera on and encouraging others to do the same. I was recently in a two-person meeting. My camera was on, but the other person wouldn't turn theirs on. In that case, ten minutes in, I turned my camera off. You can't stare at my fuzzy eyebrows and my pile of laundry in the background if I can't do the same to you. When you have a willing participant, you'd be surprised by how helpful it can be to make actual eye contact with someone, even on a computer (and despite the fuzzy eyebrows).
- Use the chatbox. Enter in your questions. Enter in your comments. Dialogue back and forth. Type in a joke. I did that recently and someone entered back a laughing face — reaffirming that I was, indeed, funny.
- Designate a facilitator for the meeting: someone leading, coaching, and guiding. On my most recent call, a leader went around ensuring everyone was able to contribute fairly. She also ensured she asked for feedback on a specific topic and helped move the discussion around so no one person took up all the airtime.
- Unmute yourself. Please don't just sit there on mute for the entire meeting. Jump in and speak up. You will be interrupted. You will interrupt others. But don't get frustrated or discouraged — this is what work is now — just keep showing up and contributing.
- Smile, and smile big. Nod your head in agreement. Laugh. Give a thumbs up; give two! Wave. Make a heart with your hands. Signal to others on the call who are contributing that you support and value them. They will do the same in return when your turn comes to contribute.
It's too easy to keep your camera turned off. It's too easy to stay on mute. It's too easy to disappear. But now is not the time to disappear. Now is the time to stay engaged and networked within our organizations and communities.
So please don't put yourself on mute.
Well, actually, please do put yourself on mute so I don't have to hear your heavy breathing, candy bar crunching, or tinkling bathroom break.
But after that, please take yourself off mute so you can reclaim your seat (and your voice) at the table.