I bought my first stock when I was ten years old. My grandfather, who'd been investing for years, sat me down at the kitchen table and gave me my first stock-market lesson. He told me how to buy a stock and how to read the newspaper stock tables. But I got most excited when he told me about dividends. I remember asking him how the dividend would be sent to me. I thought I'd get a letter in the mail with a few dollar bills and some loose change in it.
He steered me towards a utility company's stock, for its relatively stable share price and healthy dividend pay-out. The company also had a very nice dividend reinvestment program with a discounted share-purchase plan.
So I contacted a broker and bought my first stock, 15 shares of Puget Sound Power Light Company, at $13 per share, and signed up for the dividend reinvestment plan. Before long, with dividend reinvestment and some optional share purchases, I'd built up quite a nice stock position in the company (which I've since sold).
Little did I know at the time, but my grandfather owned hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of stock. He'd been investing for years, building a large and diversified portfolio, all on a teacher's salary. How did he do it? By living within his means, by not overextending himself with debt (credit card or otherwise), and by making investing for the long-term a priority. Very Foolish if you ask me.
By the time my grandfather had retired, he'd put his three children through college, took yearly month-long trips to Europe with his wife, owned his $275,000 home outright, and had built up his stock portfolio to nearly $1 million.
Yep, my grandfather was Foolish before being Foolish was cool. I just wish I'd thanked him for that stock market lesson he gave me.