In my role as managing editor of The Motley Fool newsletters, I get to interview a lot of very talented job applicants who are lured by our fun atmosphere, our irreverent content, and our office pizza day on the last Friday of every month.
We get dozens -- even hundreds -- of applications for every opening, so the people chosen for interviews are generally very qualified, very impressive candidates. But amazingly, many of these intelligent people who have an expressed interest in working for a company that specializes in stock advice share a trait: They don't own any stocks themselves.
"I know I should, but ." It's almost an apology, an admission of guilt. Nine times out of 10, the reason is the same: I don't have enough money to invest.
I walk out of these interviews shaking my head, startled that such charlatans made it so far through the interview process.
But then I remember that when I joined the Fool 20 months ago, I had exactly three stocks in my portfolio -- Ford
In my time at the Fool, I've learned a valuable lesson that seems to be a secret from all those interview candidates and thousands of other potential investors: It doesn't take much money to invest.
The fact is you can get past the starting line for about the cost of -- to pick three random examples -- any of an array of garish Tommy Bahama silk shirts, the first season of The Sopranos on DVD, or two side mezzanine seats to see the Washington Capitals play the Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb. 3. If you go through a low-cost broker like ShareBuilder, you can invest $100 for $4, costing you 4% in fees. (Generally, you should try to keep fees below 3%, but an extra percentage point probably won't break the bank.) Even if you've just bought a new house or have a lower salary than you'd like, or any of the other myriad reasons people offer up, you can likely scrape together $100.
But you have to make it a priority. Challenge yourself. Dare yourself. Threaten yourself. Do whatever it takes to make it happen. Because once you make that first purchase, it'll pave the way for many more. It'll become part of your life. You'll develop a portfolio, and you'll get excited about watching it grow, tuning in to the daily ups and downs (even though short-term movements don't really matter to us buy-and-hold investors). You'll get your first double. You'll reinvest your dividends. You'll keep adding capital. You'll record your first triple. You'll program your XM receiver to display stock tickers. You'll log a 10-bagger and brag about it to your friends, then shake your head at them with pity when they tell you -- gasp! -- they don't own any stocks.
I'm on my way. I now own shares in 14 companies, and I'm startled that it's much easier to find money to invest now that I see how beneficial and enjoyable smart investing can be.
Where to start
OK, it's time to get in the game. I'm going to give you three stock ideas, each a recommendation by David Gardner in the Motley Fool Stock Advisor newsletter service he writes with his brother, Tom, and all of them featured in David's top five picks for new money now in his most recent mid-issue update. You ready?
Read about them. Learn about them. If you want to see why David likes them, sign up for a free 30-day trial and gain access to those write-ups and everything else he and Tom have recommended to investors over the years (recommendations that are, incidentally, pummeling the market: Tom's picks are up 71.53%, and David's are up 45.87% compared with the market's 19.05%).
Personally, I'm big on David's most recent recommendation in Stock Advisor. I can't tell you what it is because, well, that's the benefit of signing up for the newsletter service. But I bought shares myself, and I think it's a great time to get in on this company on the verge of a rebound. You can find out more about this company (including its name) with a free trial.
If one of these companies makes sense to you, do it. Make the purchase. Become an investor. If none of these stocks excites you, keep looking -- at Fool.com, at the Stock Advisor scorecard, or elsewhere. Just find something you like and get started.
Because the secret is you're never going to start realizing huge profits as an investor until you start investing.
Click here to redeem your totally free 30-day trial to Stock Advisor. There's no obligation to subscribe.
Roger Friedman is the managing editor of newsletters and the author of Nipple Confusion, Uncoordinated Pooping and Spittle: The Life of a Newborn's Father . Roger owns shares of Ballard, FuelCell, Ford (still!), and the Stock Advisor recommendation that he's not allowed to tell you about. The Motley Fool isinvestors writing for investors.