A high school student investor
“You will thank me for this one day,” my mom said, as I impatiently squirmed in my chair inside the office of what she had called a fund manager. Warcraft 3 was still new then, and the only thing I cared about doing on a Friday afternoon after class was to log online and play with my best friend until 2 in the morning.
Instead, my mom had picked me up from school and muttered something about investing and making money for the future. I obeyed everything my mom told me to do, but that didn’t give me an incentive to care about wasting time inside a boring office.
After I had signed some documents, we went down to a Metrobank branch where she filled up a piece of paper (I was later told it was called a deposit slip), and gave me P8,000 which she asked me to bring to the teller. After I finished, we went home and I played Warcraft with my friend until the sun came out.
In my ignorance, I didn’t know that I, a mere student of 15, had done something only 3 percent of the population in our country today participates in: invest in the stock market.
Words like bonds, corporations, stocks, rallies and bear markets were words that didn’t matter to me. What mattered was successfully getting the phone number of girls at Ice Bar in Greenbelt and mastering how to counter a tower rush by my opponent in Warcraft.
Out of all the adults who were concerned with my development, only my mom was encouraging me to learn about the art of making money without doing anything. And while I respected her efforts to make me want to learn something new, it obviously wasn’t as important as the other things I learned in school, otherwise it would have been part of the college entrance exams. Or so I thought. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I am now a college student majoring in literature. A deep sense of fear has engulfed me as I stare at the algebra exam questionnaire. I took a bachelor of arts precisely to avoid all kinds of math!
A week after barely passing that exam, I came home one day and discovered a letter addressed to me from First Metro Asset Management (Fami). I had no idea what it was about, and so I did what all lost school boys do —I brought it to my mom.
She scanned the contents and quickly said, “Oh! This is the investment account I opened for you four years ago. You’ve made 20 percent or P1,600 from your initial P8,000.”
My life was never the same from that day. I spent the rest of the afternoon computing how much I would have made if I had placed more than P8,000.
With P100,000, for instance, I, a liberal arts student who had schoolmates who frowned on my nonbusiness degree, would have made P20,000 in four years while I was out gallivanting with friends in clubs and wasting hours on online gaming. I literally made money in my sleep, and the sensation was both exciting and depressing at the same time.
I was haunted by the mistake of not putting more, or not saving enough of my allowance to begin investing immediately. But what really bothered me was, why wasn’t everyone else doing it? Why was there no course in school with basic investment life skills?
While it is never too early to start investing in the market, there is most definitely a chance of being too late, because the safest way to make money through the stock market is by being patient as one weathers through the years of bears and bulls.
Invest when you are young, because not only does it force you to save, you also don’t really need to spend all that much when you’re 16 as opposed to when you’re 25 and just about to start a family. And even when you are 25, you don’t need to pay for a hip replacement or intense medical bills, unlike a 70-year-old.
One’s lack of an education in the field of finance, disinterest to solve math problems, and even the amount of income one makes is never a good reason to not start.
If you have internet and a curiosity to learn, then you are halfway there, because there is a wealth of free or inexpensive material available.
Begin with Investopedia.com and “The Intelligent Investor” by Benjamin Graham. Go to Philequity, Fami or your local bank and ask them about their investment options.
Ask questions, read the business section, start small by putting in as little as P2,000. Or don’t even put in a centavo, but use a simulation application first where you can create a portfolio affected by real-time market changes. The best way to building confidence and learning anything is to get your feet wet through the art of doing.
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Rafael Conejos ([email protected]) is a lawyer, writer, entrepreneur and a former professor of law and literature at the De La Salle University Manila. He dedicates this piece to his mom and all parents who get their kids started on personal finance at an early age.
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