In this episode of Industry Focus: Tech, host Dylan Lewis and analyst Joey Solitro round up some audience questions for a mailbag bonanza. How can investors make more money each month? Do Motley Fool analysts think of their investments in terms of shares or dollars? And, any advice for some aspiring Fool analysts? Tune in to learn some easy ways to whittle down your monthly expenses or generate a little extra cash; how commissions play into investing, and how that's rapidly changing; tips for investing in pricey stocks when you're just starting out; and, of course, some insider tips on getting hired at the Fool.
To catch full episodes of all The Motley Fool's free podcasts, check out our podcast center. To get started investing, check out our quick-start guide to investing in stocks. A full transcript follows the video.
This video was recorded on Nov. 8, 2019.
Dylan Lewis: Welcome to Industry Focus, the podcast that dives into a different sector of the stock market every day. It's Friday, November 8th, and we're dipping into the mailbag. I'm your host, Dylan Lewis, and I've got Motley Fool premium analyst Joey Solitro with me in the studio. Joey, what's going on, man?
Joey Solitro: Oh, not much. Ready to answer some questions.
Lewis: Yeah, these are some of my favorite episodes. We put at the end that we want people to reach out on Twitter and via email, firstname.lastname@example.org. And every now and then when we get enough of those questions, either through those channels or through our YouTube channel, people comment there, and we have some stuff that we can't hit in the videos there, but we can do lumped into some of these larger mailbag questions. We love to do these episodes, where we address some questions from these folks. That's what we're going to be doing today.
I'm going to kick things off with a question from Eric. He asked this via our YouTube channel. He says, "I'm a Fool and I'm looking to increase my monthly income. How do I make that happen?" Now, Joey, when I think about this, there's two different parts of it. What you need the money for will largely dictate how you go about making sure that that money is there.
Solitro: Exactly. My main question for this would be, are you looking to increase your monthly income in your portfolio or in your bank account because you're looking to pay extra bills? This is definitely a broad question, but we can hit it on both sides.
Lewis: I think for the folks that are looking for that income, maybe people a little bit closer to retirement or in retirement, they want some investments that are going to perform for them, give them a little bit of cash, maybe so they don't have to dip into their retirement accounts. Let's start with that side of the equation. There are some options for people that are looking for that.
Solitro: Yeah. If you're looking to do it know, monthly dividend stocks, there's plenty out there that do that. You've got real estate investment trusts, there's a lot of energy companies that could pay you on a monthly basis. That's when you'd basically just turn off the DRIP and have that cash roll in to where you can withdraw it. There's a lot of options on the investment side. Luckily, we've got quite a bit on fool.com that can give you those monthly dividend options.
Lewis: Yeah. And I would say with that, too, monthly dividends are tempting for people that are looking for regular income, because the idea is, you get that dividend check every single month, rather than have to wait for the quarterly cadence to come in like you see with a lot of stocks. You get it on a monthly basis. It might be worth looking at stocks like the dividend aristocrats, like you mentioned, the REITs out there if you're looking for income. Don't be wed to the idea of getting a check every month and have that limit the stocks that you're choosing from.
Solitro: Yeah. Also, if you're willing to do the work, you can also find stocks that pay quarterly, but you can find ones that pay it in different months, so you're always getting your dividend each month, but from quarterly dividend payers.
Lewis: I will say, if you want just income, and you're not in a position where you really need cash because you're retired, I would discourage people from solely looking at dividend stocks for producing income. The reason for that is, you have to own a lot in dividend-paying shares in order to generate a significant amount of money. Just as an example, say you want $200 in dividend income, and you own Verizon. You have to sink about $5,000 into that stock for that 4% yield to give you $200 over the course of the year. So, if you're looking to generate an extra couple of hundred dollars, you're staking several thousand dollars, and the value of that thousand is going to fluctuate based on how the shares are trading.
Solitro: Yeah, and imagine if Verizon takes a 20% dip, and then you're down $1,000. Does that $200 in dividend income really help you at that point?
Lewis: Yeah. So, I worry sometimes that people get motivated by the dividend payout, which they assume to just be there. They assume that yield is always going to hold. That's not always the case. Sometimes you run into hiccups. So, don't let chasing monthly income or dividend income in particular have you stray from whatever your investment goals are. If you're earlier on in your investing journey, you have a long runway, you can weather a lot of market volatility, you might be a little bit better off going toward some growth stocks.
Solitro: Absolutely. Growth is my way of life. Dividend stocks I don't play with. I always say, if I buy a dividend stock, it's going to be a day where I start carrying caramels in my pockets to hand out to kids. It's just not something I'm ready to do yet. But I understand a lot of people are in that situation, and later in life, that's kind of the way you have to go, dividends and bonds.
Lewis: Now, there are some other options out there for folks that are looking to either make some extra money or have the appearance of some extra money coming in. I want to touch on that, too. I'm a little bit more of a fan of this approach. I tend to think about finding an extra couple of hundred dollars, $200 a month, as something that can be done quite easily by looking at the money that's going out right now. Look at your checking account, look at your credit card bills, and I think you can just print them out and really circle, "OK, here are my recurring expenses. Here are my streaming fees that I'm paying every month. Here's my cable bill. Here's my wireless bill." Those are the big ones right there. If you own HBO, Netflix and Hulu, you're paying $350 a year. Chances are, you don't need all three of those at the same time. If you're able to rotate those the way that I know some of our co-workers like to, where it's like, "Q1, we're a Netflix household. Q2, we're an HBO household," and have it roll that way, you can save yourself $150 right there. That's something I would really encourage people to consider.
And, one of the big sources of savings a lot of people don't realize is, with your wireless plan, with your cable plan, if you've been a customer somewhere for a long time, that business is very happy that you've been a customer for a long time. They've probably been upping your rates. Check, see what you're paying, and see what the competition might be able to offer you.
Solitro: Yeah, it's much easier to reduce who you're paying each month. That's a great way to find some cash. I did the same thing. When I moved up here, the cost of living is significantly higher than in central Florida. Even looking at my T-Mobile bill, I think it was $70 a month, and I just jumped on to my in-law's plan to where it was down to $20 a month. It's easier to just send them some cash on Venmo to cover that. Like you said, if you have a cable company, you can always call them and negotiate your rate down. I know one of the big things around here, luckily, we don't pay commissions on trades anymore, but, if you have a mortgage, call your bank, say "Hey, look, I've been a customer with you for a long time. Let's get me a rate adjusted down," especially since interest rates have come down quite a bit over the years. There's a lot of things you can negotiate down. Credit card companies and banks, you can easily pull your statements and see, "Hey, what am I charge for monthly?" I have a Chase card and it does that, it gives you a full breakdown of your monthly expenses, and you can show the fixed category. Then you say, "OK, how can I reduce these, or which ones am I not using and can eliminate entirely?"
Lewis: I know before the no brokerage revolution that investing has experienced over the last couple of months, you were regularly on the phone with your broker just making sure, like, "Hey, come on. Give me a free trades so I don't have to worry about this."
Solitro: I feel really bad for Jarvis over there at TD Ameritrade in Central Florida. I would hit him up as soon as I'd be down to five free trades. I'd be like, "Hey, listen, they're talking over here at X Brokerage that they would give me this much commission-free trading, they're looking to give me some cash just to transfer over a certain amount. How can we get mine down? Can I get some more free trades?" I'd say I haven't paid TD Ameritrade for years. So, to see them go to zero commission... zero is my kind of price.
Lewis: It's hard to argue with that price. To your point on the wireless plans, I was someone that was with Verizon for a long time. I just mentioned their stalwart dividend status. Well, I was with them as a customer for a long time, and wound up switching. And I went from paying like $60 a month, to the point where I'm paying $300 for the year. You look at that, and you're like, OK, that's $400 in savings like that. It's a one-time switch. Those are the things that I'm a huge fan of because it requires one activity change and then you're good to go.
Solitro: Yeah. I was with AT&T before that. I'm a huge fan of John Legere over there at T-Mobile. You always know it's going to be a set price, unlimited data and all that. Not advertising for T-Mobile or anything like that, but you can always use a competitor as the threat. Like, "Hey, if you don't get my bill down, I'm going to go to this company."
Lewis: They will act very quickly if you do that.
Solitro: Play nice at first. If not, just say, "Alright, see you later."
Lewis: The one other way that you can boost your monthly income, we talked about getting some income-producing investments, we talked about finding that money in your spending as is right now, you can, of course, also do some side hustles, do some things to bring extra cash in.
Solitro: Oh, man, there's just a plethora of opportunities out there. What I did for side income for years was I wrote for The Motley Fool. It's almost like my side chick that I married. You've got that, you've got Fiverr. You've got all these gig websites that you could do. You could deliver groceries for Instacart or Shipt. There's Uber Eats, there's DoorDash. There's so many opportunities if you have a car. If you don't have a car, you could be the shopper in the store for them. If you're looking to supplement your income by getting another side gig, even Rover, Wag, taking care of other people's dogs, there's so many opportunities. I feel bad if you google it, because you're going to have hundreds of websites pop up. There's plenty of opportunities out there if you're looking to go that route.
Lewis: Yeah, and those are just the conventionalA gig economy jobs. If you're a copywriter, or someone who has a background in a creative field, design, video editor, whatever, chances are, you can do stuff outside of your main job and make a little extra money with the skills you already have. You don't need to go and turn your car into an Uber-friendly version of a vehicle. You can just take a lot of your marketable skills and do a little side work with them.
Solitro: Oh, absolutely! If you have skills in technology, there's always opportunities. I mentioned Fiverr was one of them. You could do some design work. Even I have some friends that like to go to antiques road shows and have their Etsy shops. You can always turn your hobby into a good money-making venture.
Lewis: Alright, our second question. This one comes in from Jay. I think he got a direct response from Jason Moser on this one, but I wanted to talk about because I think it's a common question that a lot of people tend to ask when they're starting out investing. Jay writes in, "Love your podcasts, never miss MarketFoolery, Motley Fool Money, or the Financials Industry Focus on Mondays." What about Tech, Jay? Come on, man! "The other day on Industry Focus, Matt and Jason were talking about zero commissions. Matt said something to the effect of, 'I could buy one share of Apple now without having to pay the commission.' I also hear on various podcasts that, quote, 'I picked up a couple of shares of x stock.' It made me wonder, when the analysts at TMF buy stock in a company, how many shares do they typically buy? Or, maybe they look at total dollar amount invested and not the number of shares?"
I think that Jay started to arrive at our answer a little bit as he asked this one.
Solitro: Yeah, this is very important. I know a lot of people think about how many shares they own as their ownership in a company, but I always look at it as almost a percentage of the market cap. I don't care if I'm buying one share of Berkshire A, that's $300,000, or buying 300,000 shares of a $1 stock. You always want to look at it as the dollar amount invested and what you think that stock could return over time. Whether it's $10,000 invested and getting one share for that, or 10,000 shares of a $1 stock, if it returns 100, you're still doubling your money.
Lewis: I think the important thing to think about this, too, is, what are you working with, with your account? There's a big difference in how you're going to invest if you have $2,000 in your brokerage account vs. $100,000 in your brokerage account.
Solitro: Yeah. This is also where commissions come into play. If you only had $500 in your account, and you were paying a $7 commission, that's a significant hit that you're taking just on placing that trade. But what they mean is, now, if you can buy two shares of Apple for $500 and not pay that $7, you're more apt to not wait for cash to build up in your account to place that trade, because commissions are out of the question now.
Lewis: I think the guidance that The Fool had given in some of our past books and podcasts and things like that, when it was $7 a trade across the board, was, you don't want your fees taking up more than 1% or 2% of the overall amount you're investing. If you're paying $7 for commissions, you probably want to be investing at least $700 when you do make those purchases. The calculus on this has totally changed since then.
Solitro: Yeah. Robinhood spearheaded that. They made it much easier for people to start accounts with $100, $200, that wanted to get their feet wet. But now, all these big platforms are doing it. I just see that as, this is a way that everyone can start investing easier. And now, with a lot of these platforms allowing for fractional shares, that makes it even easier to own something like Amazon, where you might not have $1,700 to buy a share, but now, if you've got $200 and you want to buy a piece of Amazon, now you can.
Lewis: Yeah, and that's huge. Now, not every brokerage account is allowing for fractional shares. There are some that offer free trades that don't offer fractional shares. Some offer fractional shares but you have to pay for your trades. We're still figuring out this landscape a little bit. I think, to put some numbers to it so that folks understand how to think about the overall portfolio, this is at least how I was thinking about it when I got started. Say you have $10,000. If you're buying $1,000 of one stock, that means 10% of the portfolio is whatever is happening with that stock. If that stock's doubling, great, that's now going to be a much larger chunk of your portfolio. But, with that size, and where commissions are now -- if you're still in a position where you're paying commissions, I think that you can buy stocks in about $500 bunches, $600 bunches, and be OK. With that level, you're not committing a huge chunk of the portfolio to any one stock, and you're not committing it to any one position. I think something that we lose sight of a lot when we talk about diversification is, you not only have the diversification of the things you own, owning maybe an energy company and a bank, we'll say; but, you also have the diversification of when you decided to buy those shares. If you commit to, "OK, we're going to buy this several times. We're going to build the whole position out over three purchases," starting out with $500, $600 gives you the room with a portfolio of that size to do that.
Solitro: Yeah, absolutely. We always preach about scaling into positions. To not have to have the commissions on each of those trades, easier to scale. So, as you build that, say you buy it in three different spurts to get that position, then yeah, you're not paying the three different commissions to do it. You're spot-on with that.
Lewis: I think for some folks that don't have access to the fractional shares, and they're looking at a stock like Amazon, at some point, you just have to bite the bullet and say, "I'm going to save up the $1,800 that I need to buy one share of this company." Hopefully, you do that, and if you're working with a small portfolio, realize that that's going to drive a very large portion of the portfolio's returns. So, you got that one share, maybe it's time to build out positions in other stocks until you save up more so you can buy a second one.
Solitro: Exactly. I always focus on buying a company that I think will return a specific amount over a specific period of time. I know we've talked about it before, but I'm looking 10X over 10 years. If it's a $1,000 stock, I'm just making sure, as long as that $1,000 can go to $10,000, then that's my focus. I don't care how many I'm getting or anything like that. If you think Amazon's going to go up 10X over the next 10 years -- which is a tall order --
Lewis: It's a tall order.
Solitro: -- if you put $200 into it, that's a fantastic return.
Lewis: Yeah. And to bring it back to what you were talking about before with market cap, that $1,000 to $10,000, for example, what we're really saying is, this company is worth a trillion dollars, could it become a $10 trillion company? We're ultimately looking at the size of the market, the market that they operate in, and how all of that comes together for the broader growth story, not just the share price movements.
Solitro: Exactly. Yes.
Lewis: Cool. Alright, our last set of questions, related, is career-advice-oriented, which is kind of fun. We had Craig write in, and he said, "My name's Craig, I'm 24. I've been investing since I was 18. I want to get into the world of finance and become an analyst at some point. I've applied for TMF internships and would love advice on how to make the jump into a career at investing/ at The Fool." He says he's taken some classes in accounting and finance and he has a YouTube channel where he talks about stocks and investing.
And then similarly, we got a question from Max. Max says, "I've been one of the dozens of listeners for about two years and have been a member of the Stock Advisor service for a year now. I want to know what qualifications you look for with hiring new employees and contributors."
Joey, I think you're one of the perfect people to have on for this conversation because you made that jump. You were interested in investing, wrote for us, and then went from writing for us to being an in-house analyst.
Solitro: Yes. I was in Craig's situation. I was at UCF at the time, and I was very interested in becoming an analyst. We had the blog network, which is no longer standing, but I would just basically craft articles how I would see other Motley Fool analysts do it. Craig, if you went on and pulled -- I'm sure you have favorite writers at The Fool, like I did. Just try crafting your own articles just like that. We have freelance positions here that you can apply to. So, my path was more, I followed The Fool very closely. I did something called the campus challenge that was run back in 2013, where we would craft articles. It slowly got syndicated to the site, so I slowly made some side income doing that. Then I worked for the U.S. Consumer Goods team as a contractor. Then I worked for the Canadian Division as a contractor. We have those freelance positions where, if you showcase your work, whether it's your own blog, or on our message boards, to show what you can do, and then slowly apply to those positions, that was my path. Then I applied to probably 25, 30 positions in-house, which is the ongoing joke with me and the people team here. It's almost like a coming home, where I'd been applying for so long, and they'd always see my name in these applications, to where it's like, "Hey, here's Joey again."
Lewis: Yeah, and then the fit was finally right.
Solitro: Yeah, the fit was finally right. So, yeah, to both of you, especially to Max, where you're saying, is there a specific path? Or, if you're heading to the energy sector, could you make the jump to this? I mean, if you have the smarts to get your degree in energy, if you just learn how to break down even energy companies, since that's where your expertise lies, and what drives energy stocks, you could easily find your mix in here. There's Fools from all different backgrounds here. We've got a geologist upstairs. It doesn't really matter what your background's in. If you have a passion for investing, finance, podcasts, whatever you want to do here at The Fool, I would encourage you to apply, and apply often.
Lewis: To highlight the diversity that we have with our hiring, you look at our editorial department, and some of our recent hires, one of them was someone who went to law school, passed the bar, decided he didn't want to be a lawyer. That's Nick Sciple, host of the Energy show. And then, Kirsten, who you mentioned, a geologist who was monitoring fracking, realized that she was really interested in investing, and then came over to The Fool, and is somewhat self-taught in investing, and picking up more in her time here. There's no cookie cutter for how people get here.
But, what you mentioned with writing for the site, and actually what Craig wrote in and mentioned with his YouTube channel, great example of one of the things that I look for as a hiring manager here. It's great to go into an interview and say, "I love investing. I'm so into it. I manage stocks on my own," all that kind of stuff. But if you can go and say, "Hey, I'm really into investing. By the way, I've been putting out content on this YouTube channel," or, "I run a really active Twitter account that follows the market," or, "I've been running a blog and I've been putting all my thoughts there for the last year and a half," that really hammers that point home. That's the kind of thing that I look for when I'm hiring folks. Frankly, that's what got me my job here. I was someone who was a finance major, journalism minor, had worked at some of the conventional big-F finance firms and really didn't like it, and applied for an editorial position here, trying to combine what I had some background in. And my hiring manager told me, straight up, my first boss, he said, "We liked a lot of the stuff on your resume, but what really sold us was, in your free time, you were running this blog. That showed that you had a passion for this and an interest for this." It's a hard thing to fake.
Solitro: I was actually going to make that same point. It was probably your passion that showed. You're saying you have this YouTube channel, you have a blog that you like to do. If that's the kind of line of work that you want to go into, it shows, if that's what you do in your spare time and you love doing it, then The Motley Fool knows that if we hire you into this position, you're going to enjoy every single day of doing it. So, I'd say, keep doing that, and use that on your resume.
Lewis: 100%. The thing I'll add to that, it gets into that intellectual curiosity thing, too, is, I'll let you into the hiring process a little bit and what I ask people, as an insider tip. Every interview I'm in, I will ask more or less the same question: what is something that you've taught yourself how to do, and how did you do it? It's not a trick question. I'm not trying to see if you're only at your desk ever at work, always in spreadsheets. What I want to do is just get a sense of, what's a thing that you love, that you love so much that you decided to pick it up as an adult, and how did you go about the process of doing that thing? It could be that you learned how to refurbish furniture. It could be that you wanted to learn how to build a website and you're a financial analyst. All those things get at the idea that there's a hunger and an intellectual curiosity that you are going to chase. I think that's one of the biggest things that we look for when we hire people.
Solitro: Yeah. I would definitely echo that same thing. We're looking for people that are passionate. Whether you have a background or a degree in one thing, if your passion lies in finance or stock-picking or social media management -- I mean, I'm going through all of our job postings here, there's a wide range. If there's something you're passionate about, then I'd say, apply and explain.
Lewis: In case you want to know where you can apply and explain, go over to careers.fool.com. You can catch all of our current openings. As Joey mentioned, there are dozens. Just like our listeners, there are dozens of openings. I guess everybody gets a job. [laughs]
I think that's going to do it for this mailbag episode. Joey, thanks so much for hopping on!
Solitro: Thank you!
Lewis: Alright, listeners, that's it for this episode of Industry Focus. If you have any questions or you want to reach out and say hey, shoot us an email over at email@example.com, or you can tweet us @MFIndustryFocus. If you want more, subscribe on iTunes or catch videos from the podcast and tons of other video extras over on YouTube. As always, people on the program may own companies discussed on the show, and The Motley Fool may have formal recommendations for or against stocks mentioned, so don't buy or sell anything based solely on what you hear. Thanks to Austin Morgan for all his work behind the glass today! For Joey Solitro, I'm Dylan Lewis. Thanks for listening and Fool on!