When Sharon Connolly, a change manager at a financial services company, received an email from social investment site eToro with a free $20 voucher back in 2013, she thought it was a scam.
“I think I was given the choice to invest in Facebook or Google,” Connolly told Yahoo Finance.
“I was very sceptical. I thought it was a scam. But I went ahead and I signed up and I put my $20 on Facebook – and then I actually completely forgot about it.”
Six months later, Connolly’s $20 had more than doubled into $46.
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Now, seven years later, she’s one the site’s most popular investment profiles in Australia, boasting 1,373 followers and between $50,000 and $100,000 in assets under management.
But Connolly admits the hardest part of investing is taking that first initial step. “I didn’t really trust it, and I didn’t know what I was doing,” she said.
So she simply started slow.
“I put $20 in Google, $20 in Microsoft, and I started to build up a portfolio,” she said.
“I would make mistakes. And then slowly, very, very slowly, you read stuff and you start to learn.
“But I think that if you don’t have an investment background, it can all be very overwhelming to begin with, particularly if you talk to somebody that already knows what they’re doing,” she said.
Now Connolly has developed a strategy she thinks everyone can employ – and it’s as simple as swapping shoes for stocks, and some light reading over brunch.
You can pick what you know
Connolly’s initial strategy was to pick stocks she knew, and that’s still her strategy today.
“For the most part, I invest in companies that I know and like,” she said.
Those are companies like major luxury goods brand LVMH, Tiffany’s and makeup and skincare brand Estee Lauder.
“As a female investor, I think about what products I like. If you walk outside and you see a massive queue at Louis Vuitton, it means something,” she said.
The other perk of investing in things you’re interested in is that you naturally want to know more about them, Connolly said.
Learning over brunch
Connolly uses her weekends to learn about the companies she’s invested in, and the ones she’s genuinely interested in.
“When I’m eating my Eggs Benedict and drinking my tea, I won’t be reading about oil prices,” Connolly said.
“I’m interested in reading about Asia’s love affair with luxury goods, or the latest Apple watch.”
And this light research over breakfast is what ultimately fuels her investment decisions.
You’ve got the time, and the money
Connolly doesn’t believe you don’t have the time to invest – because it doesn’t take much time to learn, she said.
“When anybody says that they haven’t got time to do anything, I ask them to check how much time they’re spending on Facebook and Instagram,” Connolly said.
“If you make it a priority, and it’s a choice, it doesn’t take ages – you just have to decide what’s important for you.”
And if you don’t have the money, you should rethink a few purchases, she said.
“Think twice about that dress,” she said. “Everytime you put something back on the rack, you can invest that money instead. If you can spend $200 on a pair of shoes, you can invest that $200 too.”
It’s never too late to start
While Connolly admits she wishes she was this “financially savvy” 20 years ago, there’s no time like the present.
“It’s never too late to start,” she said. “I feel much more secure.”
Sharon Connolly will be speaking at the Yahoo Finance Breakfast Club: Women's Money Movement event on March 18. Find out more about the event, and buy tickets here.
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