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Investment Ideas and Bloopers

I took a big girl step last month: I opened my own individual brokerage account. My goal with this is to gradually build a portfolio of income and growth stocks, while also figuring out if day trading could be a worthwhile hustle.

Before you get all "advice-y" on me regarding day trading vs. buy and hold, I've watched two family members with varying investment experience consistently make four-figure weekly profits through day trading over the past several months. They started with large initial investments and the market has been on a surprising upswing -- but if they can have so much success with it, I wanted to at least give it a shot on a smaller scale. I'm definitely the most risk-averse one in the family.

So anyhow, I transferred some money from savings to the brokerage and set out to make my millions....

Spoiler alert, I was not #greatsuccess. I lost about $7.50 and now have a very small portfolio of AT&T (T), Wisdom Tree US Total Dividend ETF (DTD), and Apple (AAPL).

In September I'll be working most days when the market is open, so my experiment will be curtailed; I'm not putting any more money in the account for now either, since HMH and I should really just stack as much cash as possible to prepare for some time that I'll be on leave from work next year.

I did make one more important investment, though: after reading a post from "metal dad" Tucker Thomasson (who was our Musician of the Month in August), I put $33 into a pair of fire extinguisher spray cans. I've lived in my current home for two years, we have a grill, sometimes people get a little green in the basement.... And it had never occurred to me to buy a fire extinguisher. That has now been remedied -- it's *safe* to say that the fire extinguishers are my most solid August investment!

Feeling curious about the stock market?

Here are some quick tips -- NOT "ADVICE," just the tip -- you can apply if you want to start investing:

  • Consider stock market investing once you have at least a three-month emergency fund and all your high-interest debt is paid off.

  • What if you have a mortgage or student loans that aren't super-high interest, but aren't going away anytime soon? Stock market returns since 1966 are 5-6% when adjusted for inflation -- so if your mortgage interest is 3.5%, it makes sense to throw extra dough into investments.

  • Start your investing journey with retirement accounts -- make sure you are getting the company match with your 401(k) if it's available, set up a Roth IRA, etc. Choose a target date fund for those accounts to keep things super-simple.

  • The most foolproof -- and least complicated -- investing strategy is to put money into index or mutual funds that earn dividends and let the money sit there.

  • Investing in funds rather than individual stocks is easier and less risky. But if you insist on picking stocks, make sure you research the company beforehand and then plan to keep tabs on its developments for as long as you hold the shares.

  • Day trading is among the least foolproof investing strategies and takes a large initial investment to make worthwhile profits. If I ever figure out the magic formula, I'll let ya know! ;)

Let's say you're ready to start, but not sure where to find the money. One great idea I saw in the blogosphere lately is to invest your credit card rewards and other cash back. When you redeem the rewards, just pop 'em over to the brokerage account. You can let the money sit in your core position until you're ready to make purchase.

You can also use an app like Stash, Acorn, or Robinhood to begin investing with small amounts. Just make sure you are putting in enough to make the fees worthwhile!

Learn more about investing with Broke Millennial Takes on Investing and Investing 101.

What were your best recent investments? Stocks, ETFs, fire extinguishers, or otherwise -- leave a comment!


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