Investing. The word itself conjures up Wolf of Wall Street scenes i.e. sterile offices filled with shouty men in suits flitting between multiple screens. However, thanks to the abundance of accessible information available online – be it TikTok, YouTube or the bounty of free courses – and a breed of new modern banking platforms, investing has garnered a younger generation of fans in recent years. In the last year, investing success stories have become mainstream news and meme-ified across the Internet. If you bought $500 of cryptocurrency Bitcoin on the cheapest day in March 2020 it would now be worth $5000 now (oh to have a time machine). When the community of amateur investors on Reddit forum WallStreetBets bandied together and pushed up the price of Gamestop stock (a video game chain store) they won money and shook conventional trading floors in the process.
The growth in younger investors today is multi-factorial but it’s partly to do with what the finance world dubs ‘The Great Wealth Transfer.’ Baby boomers, the wealthiest generation in history, are expected to transfer $30 trillion in wealth to younger generations over the next many years. The pandemic has also driven more people to invest. “I started investing at the end of March 2020, just after lockdown came in,” says 32 year-old PR manager Hayley, who picked her own stocks through banking platform Revolut and started by investing in Zoom. “It’s not easy but the more you research and learn, the more you start to identify patterns, and understand when to invest.”
says 32 year-old PR manager Hayley
Many stock prices dropped when the virus first hit making lockdown 1.0 a good time to buy. “I started investing for the first time when the markets crashed due to Covid,” Hannah, 29, from Gloucestershire, explained. “I'm employed as a finance manager and self-employed mindfulness teacher. My company was making redundancies and my freelance work dried up.” Investing what she had gave her some financial security. Over the past year she has invested around £1,500 in a mixture of stocks and cryptocurrency and has seen an 8% return so far. Of course, getting your head round investing can be a minefield at first – it’s an industry dictated by jargon – so, here’s what first timers need to know before diving in.
When you own a stock, you own a fraction of a business; its worth fluctuates in line with the company’s. You buy and sell stocks through a broker who uses one of the different worldwide stock exchanges (for example, the London Stock Exchange). Cryptocurrency – for example, Bitcoin – is separate. It’s a digital currency you can buy and keep virtually. Just like any currency, its value fluctuates up and down.
Investing is a long-term project. The goal is to gradually build your money over time by buying a portfolio of stocks and leaving them. Trading is different: you buy and sell stocks more frequently in an attempt to make money off the market there and then. For newbies, it’s worth considering whether you want to be an active or passive investor. This depends on how much time you want to spend researching. Active investors, for instance, individually choose which companies they invest in (whether that’s stocks in one company or buying cryptocurrency). To succeed in this you need to know a decent amount about what you’re choosing to buy. It’s riskier, too, because essentially you’re putting all your eggs in one (or a few) baskets.
However, with informed decisions the payoff can be higher. Passive investors choose a portfolio (known sometimes as a fund), created by a financial advisor (a real person or AI), which includes a mixture of different stocks. This is safer, takes less management and can be a good choice if you have smaller amounts of money. “By choosing a fund, your investment is spread across multiple assets and you can achieve a high degree of diversification, even when investing a small amount,” Anna-Sophie Hartvigsen, co-founder of Female Invest, notes. For sound advice on getting started, try advice websites like Fool or Robinhood Snacks. If you want a portfolio try Nutmeg or Hargreaves Lansdown whereas apps like Revolut and Plum are ideal if you want to pick the individual companies you invest in.
“Historically, the stock market has increased 8% per year,” Hartvigsen explained . “If you make sure to spread your investments across continents and industries and be patient - even in volatile times, you should be set up for financial success,” Hartvigsen added. To weather the ups and downs you ideally need to be able to keep the money invested for a while. “As a rule of thumb, be prepared to keep your money invested for at least five years but preferably longer,” Hartvigsen confirmed. And always remember to have an emergency fund on standby. While you can, of course, sell your stocks or cryptocurrency at any point, keeping the money in there makes more financial sense in the long term. Investing is not a get quick rich scheme, think of it more a case of slow and steady wins the race. As the experts tout: "The best time to start investing was yesterday."