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Thursday, January 7, 1999

Am I a Weirdo?
(Confession of a young investor)

by Shoma Aditya sterope1@yahoo.com

I'd say that I'm a relatively normal person. In fact, I'm an average 25-year-old: I've graduated from college, been working a couple of years at a steady-but-underpaying job (aren't they all, though?), I go to parties once in awhile, have hopes for graduate school someday, and tend to get along well with my other steadily-working-but-totally-underpaid peers.

That is� until they find out that I'm one of them.

"Wow. So you, like, invest?"

Yikes! All of a sudden, I've become a weirdo, some young anomaly. People our age do not invest. Why, we aren't supposed to have the money to be able to invest. And unless you were a business major and are now working at a finance-related job, young people aren't supposed to have the knowledge to make real investment decisions. That's something adults do. After all, they have to! We don't have to make mortgage payments, we don't have kids to support, or retirement to think about -- that's so far away!

All of this conveyed in one simple, wide-eyed look.

Why is this so weird? I mean, being in publishing doesn't exactly rake in the big bucks, so I have the same money problems as everyone else. I have rent/food/utilities bills to pay, credit card payments to make, and like everyone else, I will occasionally make a really big splurge (the last was a $350 suede jacket -- really, it was begging me to take it home, how could I say no? It looked so lonely without me).

So I have enough to scrape by with. But you know, I don't want to just "scrape by." Someday I will have those mortgage payments, car payments, and college tuition to think about. For me, financial planning isn't about me having too much money and not knowing how to handle it. It's more about having a better sense of what to do with my money today so I can afford the things I want in the future.

And as part of my planning, I invest some of my money. It's not easy to learn, but with reading and research comes the knowledge to make better, informed choices. Not just about what someone might like to invest in, but how the money should be invested. Perhaps index funds are a better option right now. Maybe at this point, the best thing to do is to max out your 401(k) contribution at work. Or it's possible that you have the time and inclination to buy and sell stocks yourself.

The information is out there, the knowledge is attainable -- the hardest part is to actually take the time to read about it. Financial planning and investing doesn't make you a weirdo. There's nothing weird about taking responsibility for your finances. There is no better investment you can make than in your future.


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