Sarah Potter – Trading & Market Expert
My daughter just started kindergarten. So this is a really exciting time. It marks a time when me, as a parent, is going to hand my child over to this education system and hope that she learns the skills she needs to be successful in life.
I’ve only dropped her off at kindergarten, and I’m already thinking about high school. But really, when we drop off our kids at school, it kind of evokes a lot of deep philosophical reflections about what we need in order to be happy or to be successful in life and what our children will need.
Now, one of these topics is something that I know that she’s really not going to learn in school, as much as I wish she would. And oftentimes, this conversation doesn’t actually happen at home.
The topic that I want to talk to you about today is this, and specifically: “How do you make more of this?”
Now, my experience with money started very differently than most.
I was in education; I was an educational consultant, worked there for about ten years. And at the time, I was doing my Masters of Education, and I had this hobby called trading in the market.
As you can imagine, when I first started, I didn’t make a lot of this stuff. And what I decided to do when I did my Masters of Ed was apply the things I was learning about how we learn best with the skills of making money. It ended up working out really well.
I left that full-time job, and now I do this for a living, and it’s pretty fantastic. But it’s with this perspective of both education and investing that I want to talk to you about today.
When we think about money, many of us are very familiar with the skills: “save more,” “spend less,” “budget.” Those are terms we use all of the time; we throw them around, we know they’re things that we should do, and they’re really focused on preserving what we have.
Then on the other side of the coin, we have this idea of what it would be like to make a ton of money. We have these ideas and notions in our head when it comes to the market — that we think we need to risk it all to make millions of dollars.
This is Gordon Gekko, a very familiar character when it comes to making money. We’ve probably all seen the movie Wall Street, we might watch shows called Billions.
This is the typical depiction of what we normally think about when it comes to trading. This is me.
Trading in a coffee shop while my baby is sleeping on me. What we see and hear when it comes to money-making is so far removed from what it’s really like.
So, if you have a bit of money saved, and we’ve done what we’re supposed to do, and we want to actually grow some wealth, many of us are trying to hit that other very traditional notion of what it’s like to be in the market, the notion that’s actually more appropriate for institutional investing or people who already have millions of dollars trying to make more.
Depictions of average people are few and far between. If we actually want to do something with our money, we are somewhere here in the middle, and there’s a big knowledge gap.
And so, no wonder it’s pretty confusing for all of us. I mean, 76% of millennial women find investing confusing. 71% of Americans find talking to their financial planner scary.
And get this: 44% of Americans find the most challenging conversation you can have is about money. Even the topic of death comes in second at 38%. So this is a real problem. We all work really hard for our money. We are all told to save our money.
But what do we do if we want to make a little bit more? What do we do if we’re somewhere here in the middle? Most of us are probably handing our money over to financial institutions because this is often what we’re told to do. And when we do that, that’s fine for some.
But unfortunately, we don’t really get to see what they do, we definitely don’t get to learn how to do it. And many of us don’t even know the questions we should be asking about why are they making the decisions that they are.
And I don’t think that this is really right. Many of us don’t even realize that we actually have the technology to be able to log in to your cellphone or your laptop, and to be able to trade at any point in time during the day.
Unfortunately though, the skillset that’s gone along with this hasn’t really kept up, so many of us don’t really know.
So what if we turned, then, to the formal education system? This is where we would think about: “We need to learn to make money.”
So, the latest term that we have here is called financial literacy. This is supposed to help all of our money woes.
But if you look at the narrative about what is still being discussed when it comes to financial literacy, we still are talking about the same old, same old: “save more,” “spend less,” “budget your money.”
And I want you to think about it for a second. If we actually took this idea and started helping people to know how to make money, and then they started spending money based on the profits that they actually made from money they earned, how would that change the conversation about money?
We need to help our students realize that when it comes to the markets or the ability to make more money, this can be actually very achievable for most of us. But we need to stop trying to make millions of dollars and risk it all and start realizing that this is a skill that any of us can do at any point in time.
We need to take some of the skillsets that kids already learn. So think about something like: “compare and contrast” or “sorting” for that matter.
In kindergarten, they’re starting to learn how to sort things and build patterns. Those are skills that actually I use in the market every single day.
And, in fact, when I learned how to trade — and I trade for a living — a lot of the skills that I use aren’t actually financial skills; they’re skills that I actually learned in other areas. So we need to help students bridge the gap between information they’re already learning and tying that to conversations about money.
The other piece that I want to talk to you about is realistic expectations. Again, this is something that can be very appropriate for students when we talk about this with them.