I finished high school in 1998 in San Francisco. The city was abuzz with excitement about technology and the riches that technology was creating. That fall I started my Computer Science major in City College of San Francisco. After taking just one semester’s worth of CS classes (Unix and C++ programming), I was able to get a high paying job at a startup that very spring! Yes, that was possible and common at that time.
My savings account quickly started to grow and I decided to learn how to invest that money. My mom gave me some guidance, and I read YahooFinance with huge interest. But as a beginner in this complicated space, I had not formed the correct and disciplined mental approach nor did I understand stock trading patterns needed to invest successfully. Plus, it is needless to say that I was just beginning to learn business in general, which is absolutely necessary to understand whether a particular stock would be good or not.
Not having the right experience, I gave into the hype. The hype at the time was the start-up IPO trend. I quickly proceeded to lose money with drugstore.com and continued to enthusiastically lose money through stocks like JDSU which went from $100 to $3 during the crash of 2000. Luckily, my mom influenced me not to put too much money into the stock market until I felt that I had figured it out.
Eventually, I slowly got a handle on investing. It does not have to be rocket science. Accept failures as part of the game, be disciplined, be diversified, invest in things you understand, and do not get emotional. It never quite gets easy. You must stay on top of things by continuously learning about the global economy and the particular markets in which the companies you invest are in.
And you must accept that you will never figure things out fully. And that is the trick. No one has the answers of what will happen to a company in the future. People just have guesses of varying quality. Trends always exists and when there is a strong trend, there is a tendency to think that it will last. But everything changes. A strong recent trend was the rise of Apple’s stock. It is one of the best and most proven companies in the world. No one could have guessed that it would drop as quickly as it recently has. But it did. An example of today’s hype is around Tesla Motors. I am a huge fan of what Elon Musk is doing. But who can predict the future? No one. And do I have control to help Tesla in any way? No.
That brings me to the biggest lesson I ultimately learned. One day I had a privilege of meeting a professional money manager who works on Wall Street. Of course, I asked him about stocks and his advice surprised me. “Invest in yourself” he said. I liked his answer right away. Spending money either on my education via traditional schooling or by pursuing business or creative ideas could lose me money just as effectively as the stock market can, but I would take away far more in what I learned. And that would empower me long-term throughout my career.
And of course, I did try various business and creative ideas. First I created comehike.com which is a hiking community site. Although it had moderate success and is still used by people today, it wasn’t the success I had hoped for. I learned a lot about building a product and marketing it. I took that knowledge and created Problemio mobile apps for planning and starting a business. Here is a free sample Android business app and an iOS marketing app which are some of the free apps I offer as a way to give back to the entrepreneur community.
Together, the combination of all my apps have a combined total of 150,000 downloads and growing. Out of those downloads, there have been 15,000 businesses which were actually planned on the apps. And since as one of the features on the apps is me helping entrepreneurs right on the app, the experience of helping so many people has allowed me to learn by not only growing my own business, but also to learn by helping many others grow their businesses. I can sincerely say that in my career, the advice of “invest in yourself” has been some of the best and most transformative.
Alex Genadinik is a mobile developer and the founder of Problemio business apps which is the company behind a number of mobile apps for planning and starting a business. The goal of the apps is to help guide first-time entrepreneurs from the idea stage to having an operational business. Alex also blogs at http://www.glowingstart.com on various topics having to do with starting a business and creating products. Alex holds a B.S in Computer Science from San Jose State University. Please say hello on Twitter @genadinik
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Category: Money Basics