In Friday’s column, I explained a few of the basic principles behind wealth creation that allow anyone – black or white, young or old – to reach financial independence.
However, some readers said they were afraid that they didn’t know enough, or had waited too long, or don’t have enough money to get started.
It’s a shame that basic financial literacy is not a part of every American’s high school education.
And it’s true that the earlier you start, the longer your investments can compound and grow in value.
But it has never been easier to manage a portfolio. There is never a bad time to make a good investment. And everyone who is willing to save has enough to get started.
And I do mean everyone.
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We often take the beauty of share ownership for granted.
Most of us lack the time, the investment capital or the experience necessary to found or run a successful business.
But with even a modest amount of money you can accumulate a stake in many of the world’s finest businesses.
And – trust me – owning a piece of a company is a whole lot simpler than running one.
You don’t have to take out loans, sign personal guarantees, hire or fire employees, grapple with an avalanche of federal mandates and regulations, pay lawyers and accountants, or even show up for work.
How great is that?
You can invest in virtually any public company or sector of any market anywhere in the world – and without the help of a high-paid Wall Streeter – thanks to individual stocks, mutual funds and ETFs.
Information has never been so widely available either.
Thirty years ago, I wrote research reports for an international investment firm.
This generally required multiple phone calls to companies, investment banks and trading houses where I coaxed, cajoled and wheedled (okay, begged) other analysts and executives to send me what I needed.
When the information arrived – usually days later – it required follow-up calls to update the data.
The internet changed all that, of course.
Research that once required hours in the periodical room at the library or days sifting through reports is done in minutes.
Monitoring your portfolio has never been simpler either.
You used to have to watch the ticker tape or look up the prices of your stocks in the business section of the paper. (When was the last time you did that?)
Or you could call your broker, get placed on hold and eventually hear a quote that – by the time you received it – was no longer current.
If you placed a trade, your broker would then put you on hold again while he hustled it over to the trading desk.
In those days, a market order was a real roll of the dice.
Today you don’t think twice about getting a real-time quote, placing a trade with a click and getting a near-instantaneous confirmation.
Costs used to be exponentially higher too. Brokers routinely sold mutual funds with front-end loads as high as 8.5%.
That’s not a misprint.
And prior to May 1, 1975, brokerage commissions were fixed. But deregulation – and the debut of Charles Schwab – changed that.
The internet lowered costs even more. Now you can click a mouse – or tap your smartphone – and buy a stock.
Another click and you’re out. (Compare that with your typical real estate closing.)
Spreads are far thinner today too.
When I started in the investment business, a large stock might have a spread of an eighth of a point and a small stock a quarter of a point.
Tack on a 2% or 3% commission and you were already down 5% by the time you got your trade confirmation.
Today – thanks, in part, to wrongly detested high-frequency traders – liquidity is greater than ever and bid-ask spreads are often a penny.
Commissions are now zero at most discount brokers too.
Some Americans obsess over the issue of fairness. But the stock market shines here too.
If you own shares of Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN), for example, your gain over the next year will be exactly the same as the world’s richest man.
Sure, Jeff Bezos may own a few more shares than you do, but your percentage returns will be the same.
Even if you don’t have the $3,000 or so it takes to buy a single share of Amazon, discounter Charles Schwab offers stock slices, where you can own any of America’s leading companies in the S&P 500 for as little as $5.
When you can open a brokerage account with no minimum, there are no commissions, and you can invest in even high-priced shares for as little as five bucks, it’s tough to make excuses.
In short, your investment choices have never been greater. Information has never been more widely available. Monitoring your portfolio has never been simpler. Spreads have never been thinner. Minimums have never been lower. Executions have never been swifter. And commissions have never been less than zero.
The only thing missing for some is the most important part of all: the great investment ideas to take advantage of it all.
But that’s why The Oxford Club exists.
Unlike Wall Street, we have no conflicts of interest, no desire to “capture your assets” or charge management fees.
Our goal is simply to show subscribers the shortest, most direct route to financial independence.
And we’re succeeding. Thanks for being part of our community.