Invest or Pay Off Debt First?

The short answer is do both.  Why you should do both would be the real question.  To financially get ahead and feel more secure most people should start investing now for their future.

(Have you starting investing yet or are you paying down debt first?  I would love to hear your story.)

I have been coming across this debate off and on for decades and understand the reasons for each side.   I use to believe in paying down debt first, but because of my experience with my own debt I have changed my thinking.  Let’s start by looking at each side of the argument.

Why pay off debt first?

Every month that you are paying a monthly payment on a loan you are paying extra money called interest.  This interest is your charge for getting and paying off the loan slowly.  The money you are paying in interest is not helping you pay down a loan.

Let’s say you are paying $80 on a debt.  If $40 is just in interest than each month only $40 goes toward paying down your actual debt.  This is why it is so important to find good interest rates when looking for loans or credit cards.  As you pay down your debt you will be paying less interest each month.

Having debt hang over your head and struggling from pay check to pay check is stressful.  The process of trying to get out of the ‘debt trap’ is hard.  It takes planning and tightening your belt when it comes to purchases and your lifestyle.

Paying off the debt first feels wonderful.  It reduces your stress and it gives you extra cash that you can start investing with.  This is a great reason for paying debt first.

Why invest first?

It is always a good idea to have money put aside.  You never know when you will need it.  This includes short term (savings) and long term (investing) money.  Knowing you have a safety net is very comforting and can reduce stress even if you are still paying off debt.

Advise:  You should be putting money into an emergency account that you can withdrawal easily.  This savings should be big enough to support you and pay your bills for 6 months.  Of course it will take a while to reach this amount, though putting a little away each month will help you to eventually reach this goal.

Investing long term is money you invest for the purpose of letting it grow.  That means once you invest it, you don’t touch it!  The reason long term investments in the market are a good thing is because the stock market averages a 10% growth each year.  Some years it will increase 5% and some years it will increase 15%.  Either way it has a better growth than an average savings account.

Disclaimer:  Know your risk level.  Younger investors can usually go for the higher risk stocks because if they lose money they have more time to recover it.  So, know your risk level and do not gamble with your money.

Why should you pick one option over the other?

When you decide to only focus on one option and then really work hard to achieve, it will help you get there faster and have better results.  You will be able to pay off your debt faster or you will be able to put more money into investing.  Either way working hard toward one option will make it easier.

Why tackle both together?

I do understand that trying to do both will mean you will be paying off your debt slower and not investing as much as you could if your debt was paid off.   Though it is too easy to not save money.  And that is why many will put it off and some will never do it.  When you don’t start you miss out on the gains you could have had. (I have this regret.)

In life unexpected bills always seem to come.  So, we keep turning to the credit card to get us out of trouble.  (At least that is what I have done, especially car repairs.)  If you are trying to pay it off and keep adding to it, then the debt will be around a lot longer.  Waiting to invest UNTIL your debt is gone may take too long. (Yep!)

Many of us always feel like we don’t have enough money.  By putting some money aside each month will help you not feel so strapped.  You will see that you do have money to fall back on and that you are also investing for your future.

If you invest into stocks with dividends and reinvest your dividends back into the stock, you will benefit from the compounding effect.  Make sure you pick a stable company. There are many out there.

If you wait to invest till everything is calm in your life and there is no debt, then many of you may never start.  Give yourself the gift of security and peace of mind by investing in a savings account and an investment account.  This will help you know you have a safety net if you need it.

To save money is easier than ever these days

There are several apps out there to help you with your savings and investing.

I have heard many people talking about the Acorn App.  It helps you to save in a savings account by putting little bits of money aside.  Soon it starts to grow and gives you a safety net.

Stash* is an app (I use this one) that helps you to invest with as little as $5.  If you invest $5 into a stock that is worth $20, then it will buy ¼ of the stock for you.  You will receive gains and losses based on the % of stock you own.

Remember for investing you are doing it long term so don’t pay too much attention to the market.  Unless you are playing out of your risk comfort, which you just shouldn’t do. Stash has a feature that will ask you what risk level you want and it will recommend stock bundles for you.  (Always investigate a company before you invest money.)

There are many more companies coming down the pike to help you save and invest. The ones I mentioned were the ones I was more familiar with.  Do your own research and pick what feels right for your personality and comfort zone.  Make sure to start putting money away as soon as you can

The sooner you make a habit of putting money aside and not spending it on things or having it disappear into your revolving debt the sooner you will start feeling better about your financial health.

Get a savings account with the best interest you can and let the interest compound to help the account grow faster.  Get an investment account and reinvest any dividends again to help your account grow faster.

Use time as an ally.  The sooner you start the more money you will have saved up. Whether you decide to put $5 in a month or $500, you will get a better feeling the earlier you start.

My recipe for success     (Make sure you research and do what is best for you)

1. Make sure to pay all debt payments on time.  You do not want to waste money because of late charges.

2.  Always make sure to pay over the minimum payment each month. Whether it is 50 cents or $50.

3.  Make sure to put some money aside into emergency savings.  Make sure this is not touched unless you are in real trouble.  (Goal: enough $ to last 6 months)

4. Put money into long term investments.

5. Do this EVERY month.   Make it a habit!
These 5 activities should be done at the same time.  Do a little squirreling away with your money.  As you pay down debt, then put more money into savings and investments.  Some people find that if they do this online instead of at a bank, which they can easily get to, they are less likely to dip into their savings.  Also, try to make it automatic.  Have the bank put money automatically into a savings, so you don’t have to think about it monthly.

This is for your future!  This is for your peace of mind!  This is to protect you from unseen financial problems and having a future with no money!

These things are very easy to do, though they are also very easy not to do.  Do yourself a favor and start making sure you have a safety net now and for the future.

*If you would like to try Stash.  If you sign up through this link they give you an extra $5 in stock.    https://get.stashinvest.com/dianeimv06

Have you starting investing yet or are you paying down debt first?  I would love to hear your story.

 

ROBINHOOD APP: 7 Months Into My Trading Journey

(Have you tried stock trading?  What trading company are you using?  How is your journey going?)

I will start from the beginning.  I watch a lot of YouTube videos and how to trade stocks is one of the topics I am interested in.  I found out about the Robinhood App and it is a game changer for me.  I did not have much money to devote to trading and with the Robinhood App I do not pay a fee for trading.  Most trading companies charge $4-10 per trade.  To trade I would be required to pay when I buy a stock and again when I sell.  So, even if I found one that only has me paying $4, then I would need to make over $8 to bring home any profit.

My bankroll would have been gone long time ago if I went the regular route.  When I started Robinhood I had $100 to invest.  This may not seem like much in the market place and it isn’t.  Though there are many stocks between $5 – 15, that I have been able to buy and sell.

Here is the update of how I have been doing with my trading stock adventure.  I know several people have been waiting for this update.  I am finally ready to share my journey.

I was so proud of myself because my first few trades were awesome.  My first trade I made a 32 cent profit.  The second trade I made a $2.25 profit.  And my third trade I made 30 cents.  Then it started going downhill.  I would get into a stock too late and then when it was going down I would hold on too long.  Though as soon as I jumped out it seemed like the stock was saying, ‘Yeah, Diane just jumped out… now I will go up in value. ’   Yes, I would make some money off and on, though my portfolio kept going down.

The markets going down didn’t help either.  But even with the market going down some of the stocks I was watching would go up.  Jumping into a stock at the right moment is challenging.  My timing wasn’t great.  I would keep catching the stock near the top of the run and then lose money as it came back down.

Here is my total.  I started with $100 in Robinhood.   As of 7 months into my stock trading adventure I am down $34 dollars.  This may not seem like much but I pretend that $1 is $100.  That way when I am trading every penny is worth my attention.  If this value was true I would be down $3,400.  That sounds a lot more painful.

20181115_134629 Look at the pretty bump at the beginning.  From then on… not so pretty.

Even though my first 7 months is not profitable I am really glad I have started trading.  I  wanted to start trading stocks about 20 years ago.  Because of what I have learned from YouTube videos and the Robinhood app being invented, this was the right time for me to dip my toe on and see if I would like trading as much as I thought I would.
Practicing with this $100 is giving me a thicker skin.  It is helping me to not just buy a stock because it is going up.  It is helping me slow down to look at the pattern of the stock.  I will look into news of the stock if I see it drop suddenly.  Even though I know this how to do this I am still not good at predicting the stock movement.

For a while I thought the company’s quarterly earnings were a sure fire way to know which way a stock price was going to head.  I was wrong and I don’t understand why, yet.  I have seen and invested in companies that exceeded their earnings forecast and had the stock fall.

There are reasons I am not doing as well as I thought I would do.  Here are some of the things I have done which haven’t helped me be successful.

•  I am not able (or I chose not to) to be awake or at home to watch the markets in the morning.  A lot of movements happen in the morning.  Or some patterns are set up in the morning that I could take advantage of later in the day.  My jobs hinder my watching the market opening because one job I can work till 1 in the morning.  Another job I need to be out of the house at 7:30am on some mornings.  And when they are back to back I am super tired and getting more sleep is more important than checking the stock market.  (That is not the right thinking, but my reality.)

•  On top of that I am not watching the market very close.  I really planned on it when I first started.  My vision for my future is me not having to go to a brick and mortar for work.  Instead I would wake up early with a cup of coffee and do my stock trading for 2-3 hours in the morning, then have the rest of the day to follow my dreams.  (I may be watching too many videos that promise easy results.)   I could be watching closer though my work schedule, being tired, and I having other projects that take my time away makes it harder.  Especially since the stock market closes at 1pm my time.   (I have started long term investing though.  I will share that story in another blog. )

•  I am staying in the stocks too long.  When I am unwilling to sell the stock then my money is locked into that stock.   I seem to do this a lot because I don’t want to sell at a loss and hope to wait till the value comes back up.  A few times I have wanted to buy another stock, but didn’t have enough cash in my account to do it.  All my money was in stocks that I am holding onto.  So when I see favorable movement I can’t jump on it.

•  When I don’t want to take a loss I would hang onto a stock to long.  But then still sell it later for a lower price when I couldn’t stand to be in it anymore.  All the books I read and people I listen to say to ‘Always have a stop-loss limit!.’  I still don’t like the idea of having a stop loss, though I guess this is a lesson I really need to learn the hard way.  I do understand the concept a lot better now that I keep losing money.

•  I started listening to other people’s opinion about stocks more often.  Instead of checking out the stock myself.  I would jump on what others are doing.  I heard somewhere that this is what is called ‘being a sheep’.  Just kind of following the herd around.

•  I have about 10 stocks that I trade.  They are not the best, but they were my first.  I think I have only stopped watching one because it was really bad.  My view is very narrow.  I need to learn how to find more variety and stronger stocks to trade.  Having so few… many days I just don’t do anything because the few stocks I have are not making moves that I want to jump into.

•  Making sure I don’t accidently day trade.  If you have less than $25,000 in your account you cannot be a ‘day trader’ .  You can do 3 day trades within a 5 day period though anymore and it is illegal.  There have been times that I couldn’t sell a stock because I would go over my day trade limit.  So, I was forced to sell later at less of a profit or even a loss.  I feel like I really like day trading.  Just hop In and out of a stock and not wait days or weeks to sell the stock.  Though without enough money I need to worry about going over my day trading limit.   Luckily, Robinhood tries to watch my back.  It has stopped me from putting in a sell request if they feel it may sell the same day and put me over my day trade limit.  I really like this feature, but don’t know if it is foolproof.  So, I really try to keep my eyes on how many day trades I have done.

•  I went into the trading stocks thinking trading was going to be easy.  I underestimated how challenging it could be. I read a few books and figured that I could easily do it.  I like the fact that I thought that way.  It is kind of like a child who doesn’t have fear since they don’t know all the facts and the consequences that could happen.  Because of this I jumped in and have learned a lot.

I still have hope that I will become a better trader, though at this point I have different things on the burner that I am trying to spend my time doing.  I will give you an update and of course I want to get my portfolio up again.  I am slowly working at it.

Just recently I was watching someone on YouTube and they said you are a newbie if you have less than 3 years in the market.  I believe it takes a while to find your rhythm and emotional stability.  I also think you need to learn what kind of trader you want to be.  Is the fast day trading your style or is investing long-term more your temperament?

Good luck to you on your journey and send good thoughts my way when you get the chance.  If you do want to try the Robinhood App I left my link down below.  There are now more free trading apps out there, though this is the only one I have tried so far.

https://share.robinhood.com/dianez7

By signing up through this link you get a free stock.  They mention big company stocks, though I heard someone got a $4 stock for free.  I believe I get a free stock also.   Good luck.

Have you tried stock trading?  What company are you using?  How is your journey going?

Stock Trading: My Very First Trade

(Have you been wanting to trade stocks or have already started?  Have any stories to trade with me?)

I have been wanting to learn how to trade stocks for decades.  I have not had enough money to put toward this endeavor.  Things have changed a little.  I still don’t have much money to put toward trading, but instead I have found a way where it will cost me less to trade.

On April 23, 2018 I bought my first stock.  I did this impulsively and just because someone online said it was a good stock.  I have read several books about how to trade.  Don’t just follow tips, don’t be pushed because of time to get into or out of a trade, and don’t let your emotions decide what you will do.  I know this…. every book goes over these rules.  Though when it is real money I seemed to stop thinking clearly.  I jumped into this without really checking it out.  (I plan to make a lot of newbie mistakes.)

I bought this stock and it started to go down. NOOOOO!

When I was reading about trading I decided that Swing Trading (holding it at least overnight) would be more my style verses Day Trading (buying and selling the same day).  Now that I made my first trade, it is really hard going to sleep knowing I am down money.  I trust the system (mostly).  Historically stocks eventually go up unless something bad happens to the company.

So, I was going to wait till it went up and then sell it as soon as I was able to get a profit. It went up over my buying price twice, but I was at work and not looking at the market.  If I was able to catch one of those my profit would have been higher.  About 4x higher than what I ended up with.

I know you are waiting for me to tell you the result.  On the third day I sold for a profit of 30 cents.  You may not think that is impressive, but I was thinking WOOHOO!

I jumped in and did something out of my comfort zone.  A topic I only knew a little about and had never tried.  I ended up with a profit and not a loss.  In my book, that makes me A WINNER!

Have you been wanting to trade stocks or have already started?  Have any stories to trade with me?

[When I am writing a blog I will write it then walk away for a couple of hours or a day, then come back and reread it.  I usually find several mistakes that I didn’t notice at my first sitting.  Rereading this question at the end I didn’t realize I had made a pun. ….stories to TRADE with me…. LOL ]