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
In 2020, as the world turned on its axis, we all held on for dear life. Businesses, non-profits, government organizations, and entrepreneurs all braced for a new normal, not sure what it would mean, what would come next, or if we should be excited or terrified.
At the same time that everything is shifting, being put on hold, or expanding, companies have to evaluate current talent needs, empower their teams to work from home, discover new ways to care for clients from a distance, and navigate new levels of uncertainty in this unfamiliar environment. Through it all, civilians are being encouraged to lean into concepts like "resilience" and "courage" and "commitment," sometimes for the first time.
Let's contrast what the business community is going through this year with the common experience of the military. During basic training, officer candidate school, multiple deployments, combat, and reintegration, veterans become well-versed in resilience, courage, and commitment to survive and thrive in completing their mission. Today, veterans working in the civilian sector find the uncertainty, chaos, instability, and fear threading through companies eerily familiar.
These individuals do not leave their passion and sense of service behind when they separate or retire out of the military. Instead, typically veterans continue to find avenues to serve — in their teams, their companies, their communities.
More than ever before, today's employers who employ prior military should focus on why and how to retain them and leverage their talents, experience, and character traits to help lead the company — and the employees — to the other side of uncertainty.
What makes veterans valuable employees
Informed employers recognize that someone with a military background brings certain high-value assets into the civilian sector. Notably, veterans were taught, trained, and grounded in certain principles that make them uniquely valuable to their employers, particularly given the current business environment, including:
It's been said that the United States Armed Forces is the greatest leadership institution in the world. The practices, beliefs, values, and dedication of those who serve make them tested leaders even outside of the military. Given the opportunity to lead, a veteran will step forward and assume the role. Asked to respect and support leadership, they comply with that position as well. Leadership is in the veteran's blood and for a company that seeks employees with the confidence and commitment to lead if called upon, a veteran is the ideal choice.
The hope is that all employees are committed to their job and give 100% each day. For someone in the military, this is non-negotiable. The success of the mission, and the lives of everyone around them, depend on their commitment to stay the course and perform their job as trained. When the veteran employee takes on a project, it will be completed. When the veteran employee says there's an unsurmountable obstacle, it is so (not an excuse). When a veteran says they're "all in" on an initiative, they will see it through.
Strategy, planning, and improv
Every mission involves strategy, planning, and then improvisation from multiple individuals. On the battlefield, no plan works perfectly, and the service member's ability to flex, pivot, and adapt makes them valuable later, in the civilian sector. Imagine living in countries where you don't speak the language, working alongside troops who come from places you can't find on a map, and having to communicate what needs to get done to ensure everyone's safety. Veterans learned how to set goals, problem-solve challenges, and successfully get results.
With an all-volunteer military for decades now, every man and woman who wore our nation's uniform raised their hand to do so. They chose to serve their country, their fellow Americans, and their leaders. These individuals do not leave their passion and sense of service behind when they separate or retire out of the military. Instead, typically veterans continue to find avenues to serve — in their teams, their companies, their communities.
When companies seek out leaders who will commit to a bigger mission, can think strategically and creatively, and will serve others, they look to veterans.
Best practices in retention of veteran talent
Retention starts at hiring. The experience set out in the interview stage provides insight about how it will be to work and grow within the team at the company. For employers hiring veterans, this is a critical step.
Veterans often tell me that they "look to work for a company that has a set of values I can ascribe to." The topic of values can serve as an opportunity for companies seeking to retain military talent.
The veteran employee may have had a few — or several — jobs since leaving the military. Or this may be their first civilian work experience. In any case, setting expectations and being clear about goals is vital. Remember, veterans are trained to complete a mission and a goal. When an employer clarifies the mission and shows how the veteran employee's role supports and fulfills that mission, the employee can more confidently and successfully complete their work.
Additionally, regular check-ins are helpful with veteran employees. These employees may not be as comfortable asking for help or revealing their weaknesses. When the employer checks in regularly, and shows genuine interest in their happiness, sense of productivity, and overall job satisfaction, the veteran employee learns to be more comfortable asking for help when needed.
The military is a values-driven culture. Service members are instilled with values of loyalty, integrity, service, duty, and honor, to name a few. When they transition out of the military, veterans still seek a commitment to values in their employers. Veterans often tell me that they "look to work for a company that has a set of values I can ascribe to." The topic of values can serve as an opportunity for companies seeking to retain military talent. Make it clear what your values are, how you live and act on those values, and how the veteran's job will promote and support those values. Even work that is less glamorous can be attractive to a veteran if they understand the greater purpose and mission.
Today, veterans working in the civilian sector find the uncertainty, chaos, instability, and fear threading through companies eerily familiar.
Finally, leveraging the strengths and goals of any employee is critical, and particularly so with veterans. If you have an employee who is passionate about service, show them ways to give back — through mentoring, community engagement, volunteerism, etc. If your veteran continues to seek leadership roles, find opportunities for them to contribute at higher levels, even informally. When your veteran employee offers to reframe the team's mission to gain better alignment across the sector, give them some runway to experiment. You have a workforce that is trained and passionate about and skilled in adapting and overcoming. Let them do what they do best.