paul la rosa

We are a nation of financial illiterates….

by , on
Nov 13, 2017

I heard a startling statistic today. Since 2010, the USA has created 18 million new jobs, far more than were lost in the great recession. I told my wife that and she said, “Yes but what kind of jobs? They probably don’t pay much.”

She’s right and that’s what a lot of people say but, unlike the 1960s, these jobs may never pay enough. That’s why you cannot depend on a paycheck alone.

Let me tell you a story. One of my wife’s relatives–a single, never-married woman in her 80s–came to a realization back when she was working. She was a public school teacher in NYC and realized her paycheck would never give the opportunity to retire early and live independently.

So she did something about it. She bought some books and began studying the stock market, something she knew nothing about. She had a feeling it would be the key to making her into the independent woman she wanted aspired to be.

She did research and read a lot and began to carefully buy stocks. She wasn’t rich, didn’t come from money and, as I said, was a public school teacher. But she had the gumption and nerve and smarts to take control of her own life. The result? She became a millionaire a couple of times thanks to her investments, retired early and has been doing what she wants for the past 30 years.

When I was in my 30s, I did pretty much the same thing. No one in my family ever owned stocks but I decided when my children were young that I would learn about the stock market. I bought “The Wall Street Journal’s Guide to Understanding Money and Investments” and studied it. I slowly began to buy stocks and mutual funds and contribute more to my IRA and 401K. I lived through some major market corrections and crazy times but I stayed in the market and today I’m happy I did.

What I’m trying to say is this: a paycheck will never provide enough to make you independent of your employer but the stock market may do just that. And it’s available to every American but only about half are invested in any way.

I’m sure many people, like me when I was young, find the market a confusing place. Others no doubt have little money and not enough to invest. But you don’t have to invest great sums. You can start small and invest a little each week. You don’t even have to be a great stock picker. Buy a mutual fund that mimics the S & P stock index and there you go. Almost anyone will tell you that’s the best investment.

It’s unconscionable that schools do not teach kids about the market and finance. Few of us will use geometry but almost everyone can benefit from even a cursory knowledge of the market. We graduate from high school, even college, as a nation of financial illiterates. (And as my wife points out–you don’t even have to be good at math, something I suck at.)

There is a lot of socio-economic inequity here. My father never owned a single stock and he and I never exchanged one word about stocks. Compare that to my son and I. I’ve been advising him about the market since he was a teenager and he told me that he’s up 30% from when he started investing.

You might say, yeah, but the market has been great for awhile now and that’s true. It is overdue for a correction but you know what? That’s the time to jump in! When the markets go down, you should buy. Buy low, sell high is rock solid advice.

Don’t be afraid. Jump in, albeit a little at a time. Just don’t be the half of American workers that ignore the market completely. A paycheck alone is not going to cut it. You need to take your financial future into your own hands.

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