By Gracie Alvarez

Many students I’ve met feel like they can’t invest in the stock market during their college years because they don’t know enough, don’t have the money, and/or don’t want to risk the money they do have. In addition, some students come from backgrounds that are not supportive of investing.

For me, when I came to college, I didn’t know anything about investing. My parents and siblings just believe in working hard, getting paid, and keeping their money in checking and saving accounts. The only kind of ‘return’ they cared about was the 0.66% interest in their savings accounts. I had a job starting at age 16 and managed  my own money throughout high school, and still do now in college, and I basically followed what my parents did. One
of my siblings tried investing while he was in college and it was the talk of the family. His investment wasn’t successful, so that further confirmed my uncertainty about investments.

But when I came to college, I was faced with a lot of new people from different backgrounds and different understandings of the financial world. After hearing from some of my peers about their investments and success, I was still incredibly cynical of the whole process. I thought it was just for rich people (or the kids of rich people) who had money to waste and risk losing. In my head, it was equivalent to gambling.

However, as I continued through my college years, I became more open to the idea and did some further research on investing. Turns out, a lot more people I knew were investing than I expected. I wanted to try it out, but I  was too fearful to pull money out of my savings and risk losing it. At this time in my college career, I was working a part-time job at a flower shop and getting paid to take notes for some of my classes by the university. The notetaking paid only about $100 or $200 a semester, depending on how many classes I took, but it was easy work since I was already taking notes for myself. If anything, it kept me more consistent with my studies.

I decided to take this money, which I already kind of thought of as ‘free money,’ and try my hand at investing. I started out small, just $100 into a couple stocks on Robinhood. I did some research and decided to invest in big companies like Apple, Tesla, and GE. Again, since I was only investing a small amount of money, I felt comfortable testing things out and seeing how it went. As time went on, I realized that I was seeing steady growth on my
investments and was encouraged by that. I continued investing, each semester, with the note-taking pay, getting more creative with the investments as I went.

My most recent ‘big’ investment was in early 2020, when I invested in a few companies that were working on developing vaccines for COVID-19. Based on some research I did in the companies, I felt confident in Moderna and Novavax being successful in the coming year. Both investments turned out to be wise, as they are now up 356% and 72%, respectively, over the past year. I’m proud of myself for getting out of my comfort zone and investing that first $100, freshman year, and even more proud that now I’m able to research companies and make my own analysis of what their stock will do in the next year.

I don’t claim to be any kind of financial expert, and I’m not anywhere near as successful as some people my age who are nothing short of investor prodigies. But I think college students often don’t want to take the risk, especially because they’re insecure in their knowledge or have a family who isn’t into the idea of investing. I’d encourage other students to give it a try, even if it’s just a few dollars, and see how it works. It helps you be a more financially informed person and can have long term positive impacts for your wallet.