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Q&A with a Teen Investor

Finding people we can relate with is sometimes important. Meet Erin Brandwein, a 16-year-old beginner investor interested in finance and business. She runs her blog called Project Wall Street, where she focuses on beginner investing techniques and concepts. Her goal is to simplify all the aspects of finance and make learning about it as easy as possible! You can check her blog out on her website or her Instagram @project.wallst.

Q: How long have you been investing and why did you start investing? Was there any particular event or situation that played a part in your choice to start to invest?

EB: I’ve been investing for almost a year now, but I was interested in the stock market and investment banking ever since middle school. But, what pushed me to start my investment account was the stock market crash in March 2020. I’ve always wanted to start a portfolio but wasn’t sure how to start. So, when the market crashed, I immediately started to research brokerages and ended up creating an account on Robinhood. I knew it was a perfect opportunity to get into the markets since everything was so low and it was a great place to buy in.

Q: What mistakes have you made so far on your investing journey? What did you learn from them?

EB: Just like any investor, I’ve made my fair share of mistakes. I remember when Pfizer broke the news that they received approval for the vaccine, which was of course a huge step. The stock soared, and without thinking I bought a few shares. Unfortunately, I was too late to the trend and the stock promptly turned around and decreased in price. It was a knee-jerk reaction and I quickly learned that those types of decisions don’t fare well on Wall Street. Either way, I rode it out for the long term and ended up breaking even on the trade (thank goodness!). But I learned not to trade based on what everyone else is doing, and to always make decisions based on research, not hype.

Q: What resources (books, podcasts, social media pages, groups, YouTube channels, blogs, etc) have you found helpful for investing? Why were they helpful to you? Did you find any unhelpful resources? If so, why were they unhelpful to you?

EB: One of the most helpful resources that have made me a better investor is watching the morning news on CNBC, which centers around finance and economics. It keeps me up to date with the state of the economy (which is a big factor in the markets) and lets me know what to expect for the trading day. Every single weekday I will watch 30-45 minutes of CNBC before school. When watching, I always look up terms or concepts mentioned that I’m not familiar with. I recommend this for anyone who wants to get ahead in the world of finance: learn everything. Investopedia is a great resource for this, there’s always so much information on there! I also love the classic books in finance like “Rich Dad Poor Dad” (Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter) and The Intelligent Investor (Benjamin Graham), which I found are great places to start.

As for unhelpful resources, I try to stay away from any Discord or Reddit investing groups. You never know the credibility of traders on there and that type of environment can pressure you into a bad investment. Overall, I always make sure the sources I use to learn about investing are reputable and sound.

Q: What was one instance when you were confused or lost along your investing journey and made a mistake? How did you bounce back from it?

EB: I remember this one day over the summer where the stock market did particularly badly. Of course, my portfolio wasn’t immune to the downturn. I lost over 6% and it was safe to say I panicked a little. I asked myself, why all of the sudden was I losing my grip on the stock market? I thought maybe I wasn’t as good of an investor as I convinced myself I was. But after a rough week of losses, my portfolio started to recover. I figured out what stocks were dragging it down the most and made plans to safeguard my portfolio with steady stocks that would hold up on both bad days and good. I’ve learned about adaptability and to not freak out about a few bad days! No matter how long it takes, the market historically always goes up, so I had to remind myself not to get upset over short term losses.

Q: What advice did you wish you were told before you started investing? What would you tell a complete beginner teen investor?

EB: I wish someone would have told me that it takes time to build a profitable portfolio. Especially at the beginning of my investing journey, my portfolio growth was nonexistent and I was worried about continuously seeing red every day. However, it takes time to build a portfolio and even with a fair share of bad days, you’ll have good days too.

My best advice for a teen investor is just to jump in and go for it. Open up a Robinhood account; the app gives you one free stock just for signing up. Watch what that stock does for a bit, so you can get a basic understanding of how the market moves and what it’s affected by. When you feel ready, put $100 into that account and invest it in one security you researched on and you are confident in. For me, I invested in an ETF under the ticker $SPY, which tracks the 500 of the biggest companies on the New York Stock exchange, and I made about $150 in profit off of 2 shares!

Now, you can see a bit of a perspective into a teen investor’s life! We hope you found some useful information and advice that can help you along your journey as well.

Written by Allie Chang

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