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Of all the personal finance skills I have strapped on like a lifelong carry-on, investing was the hardest. There were so many obstacles that were more mental than physical barriers.
The biggest, the size of Denali, was fear.
I feared the unknown. Investing is all about the unknown. It has a language with its ETFs, index funds, dollar-cost averaging. It even has its own math the ever-relevant compounding. But I can’t blanket all my blame somewhere else, truthfully, I still struggled with doubt at not being smart enough to understand.
A bachelor’s degree in science, reteaching myself algebra, and learning to drive a rocket on two wheels, wasn’t enough to shake the chance that there are some things I couldn’t, wouldn’t, understand.
Praise all that is green, growing, and compounding that I was wrong.
A Stuttering Start
At first, I tried to fix my finances with the easy stuff – a budget and saving.
I read every blog and book I came across to learn how to better tweak a budget or save just a bit more. As I chugged along, I eventually leveled off and started seeing the same advice again and again.
I had reached a point where finding new insight was occasional, not frequent.
With nothing new, I got bored which is why I started looking at other ways to level up. Investing 101, started with exposure therapy.
Therapy started with looking at the stock market every day. I didn’t understand it with its bizarre codes, graphs, and points that rained down or fired up.
Looking at the foreign jumble was uncomfortable and just as the panic was starting to overwhelm my number-averse brain, I would close the page.
I signed up for a spammy investing email too. I didn’t take any of their advice, but their articles would insert foreign terms with context, which was helpful as I was examining bigger concepts.
Plus, I started reading investing books too, which was painful. I had to look up terms again and again until they stuck. It felt like it would take a lifetime to understand investing, but I was determined to try.
Slowly my comfort and knowledge grew. It helped that Mr. BuLL was getting more active in investing too, so we would discuss the concepts I was learning. Mr. BuLL and numbers are like peanut butter and burgers, questionably good. He could see the concepts better in numbers, whereas I needed the words before I understood numbers. There were plenty of nights where our back-and-forth conversation led to deeper understandings.
At this point, I had a basic understanding of investing 101. It wasn’t shiny or impressive, but it was basic.
Also at the same time, my bank started changing their products and was giving my retirement investment the boot. It was an ideal time to find out how my fund was doing.
I asked about the growth of my investment and the customer service representative replied with an emotionless 4%.
By this point, I knew the market averaged 7%, including 3% inflation. This fund was to pay for my most expensive investment, my retirement and it was barely cresting inflation.
I bypassed gross and was pitched face-first into fury.
Anger not for the rep but myself. I defaulted to the bank’s suggestions and was left with a pitiful underperforming fund bloated with fees.
At that point, I made a vow that only a scorned woman can. Never again would I let someone else dictate my investments.
The next stop was bot-based investment platforms.
I dabbled with a couple of platforms, but I enjoyed Ellevest. I loved their values and appreciated their offerings.
As my investment knowledge continued to build like a drop of water on the Nile, I opened a Vanguard account to figure out how to buy and sell stocks. After a few months of practice, I no longer felt nervous when the litany of text greeted me after pushing buy. The price of DIY confidence was turning me away from the moderate investments with Ellevest.
By the end of 2020, I had the confidence and knowledge that every nonfiduciary dreads. The world didn’t know it, but I did, I was a DIY investor.
The journey of none to investing 101 can’t take all the credit.
Tracking my net worth was an important lesson in my education too. At first, it was tedious as learning how to juggle. It didn’t help that I had 12 different accounts from retirement to savings which is an excessive amount of accounts to juggle for a rookie!
Plus, my net worth was pitiful. For the first few months, it was depressing just opening the spreadsheet with my net worth tab, especially with personal finance gurus echoing their success.
My success was anything but evident.
Over time, updating my net worth became a sharp stick. It was glaringly obvious what was clean and pristine and what needed to be cut to the quick.
Fear to Fun: Investing 101
The baggage that I carried during this journey was brimming with negative feelings from anger and confusion to misery and mistakes.
If this was the start of my bestie’s romantic relationship, I would have advised her to get out, move in with me, and for furry sake bring the cat!
Yet, I powered through. I embraced the suck and now I have success; equal parts stubbornness (thanks, mum!) and collusion (thanks, Mr. BuLL!).
However I want to justify this journey, my route took 35 years with plenty of pitfalls and waterfalls that threatened to wash me away. I should have started 20 years ago, instead of 2, but as Jenny at Good Life. Better. says, “While starting before today might have been the best thing, starting today is for sure the second-best thing.”