How I Started Investing as a Not-Quite-Financially Literate Single Mom
Ideally, most of us would be able to go to college, earn a decent living, and retire—like the generations who came before us. But, unfortunately, we now live in a world rife with inflation, job uncertainty, and insurmountable educational debt. Experts assert that the retirement age may be raised even further for future generations. Not only that, but monthly social security payments may be lessened, while inflation is also on the rise.
So, many millennials like me have to take our financial futures into our own hands. Personally, as a single mom, this dismal glimpse of the financial future was enough to compel me to start investing as a means of creating my own retirement fund. However, as someone who is admittedly not the most financially literate, this was much easier said than done.
While starting to invest may be an intimidating notion, if I can learn to do it, I'm confident anyone can. Although I am still in the beginning stages, I have already learned so much information about investing—and the financial sector as a whole. And so can you.
Here's an overview of some actionable steps I've taken that helped me start investing, despite a lack of financial literacy—and without thousands of dollars to waste in the process.
Tips to Start Investing Today
If you're looking for some solid tips to kick-start your investment journey, here are the steps that helped me do just that.
Luckily, these days, there are tons of content creators who freely share valuable information about investing. For instance, Mad Fientist is one of my favorite investment blogs. It was created by a scientist on a quest for financial independence. The site is geared towards those who want to retire early and includes a podcast and tons of resources to teach you about everything from tax avoidance to building your investment portfolio.
On the flip side, if you are not much of a reader, YouTube also offers lots of free information via video. For instance, The Break and Charlie Chang have incredible investment channels. I love each of these because they provide a great deal of information and post regularly.
No matter how you choose to learn, you should seek out reputable experts—those whose content also speaks to you in some way.
Create an Emergency Fund
I've also learned the importance of creating an emergency fund. No matter how great your investment portfolio may be, if you do not have some money stashed away for an emergency, you will likely end up using the money you earned from your investments to respond to emergencies. Since experts assert that over half of Americans (51%) and even more millennials (57%) have either no savings or not enough to cover the recommended three months of expenses, it's clear that most of us could use some help in this department.
So, even as you build your investment portfolio, you should also be putting some money away for a rainy day.
Pay Your Debts
Millennials are the generation with the fastest-growing debt, carrying approximately $4,651 per person in credit card debt. Therefore, another crucial step to take when trying to build an investment portfolio is paying off what you owe—so you're not accruing more debt via interest long-term. As we all know, debt is something that only multiplies the longer you have it; owing hundreds now means you will likely pay thousands over the years.
So, if you really want to focus on building your investment portfolio, you first need to get more aggressive about paying off your debt. This could mean anything from hiring a debt counselor to creating a limited spending budget until you pay it all off. Either way, taking the time to eliminate your debt is one of the best things you can do to secure your financial future.
Find Your Strengths
We all have our unique strengths; this applies to the investment world as well. For example, while some may prefer to invest in stocks, treasury securities, or low-initial-investment mutual funds, others may gravitate towards cryptocurrencies. Others still prefer to take on newer types of investments, such as NFTs. Additionally, crowd-funded real estate has made it possible for people to invest in the real estate market with very little money.
According to finance expert Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez, regardless of what methods you choose to start investing, it is essential to start as soon as possible—and stay dedicated to your mission no matter what. Many people fail in the financial realm simply because they are not committed to the process for the long haul.
- Related: Could Your Child Earn Money Playing Video Games—and Should You Let Them?
Take Calculated Risks
All investments are risky in some way. So, in order to build a sound investment portfolio, you must learn how to take calculated risks. For instance, although investing in the stock market is relatively common, there is always a risk you will lose everything. Likewise, simply saving your money in a retirement fund carries a very low risk. However, you then run the "risk" of not meeting your ultimate goal—because you were too afraid to allow your money to work for you. So, embrace the riskiness of investing, and decide what level of risk you are comfortable with.
Overall, my investment journey is still in its beginning stages, but I've learned so much. My most important advice for any single mom like me? Start where you are, and do what you can.
As with all other aspects of life, your investment journey is uniquely your own. What works for someone else may not be the best fit for your financial goals. So, take the time to learn, take some risks, and above all, make sure that you dedicate yourself to building your finances for the long haul.