We’re navigating busy, 21st century lives; gadgets and social networks create engaging bubbles that are capable of enriching and distracting us in all directions.
Yet, as hard as we try to filter our world, there is one thing none of us can escape: the stock market. How many times you hear or read the “Dow” or “SNP” thrown around?
In our modern economy, the gambling table that we call the stock market has you either in a noose or on a first class flight to Bermuda. But how well do you understand it? It’s quite an amorphous concept — people buying and selling a small share of company in hopes the value of the share will rise and make them rich. Money for nothing, at least not any labor. It sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
Not so fast. The elbow grease is only being replaced by layers of risk. While many efficient market theorists would tell you that the stock market is a great place to put your money, it doesn’t take much digging to uncover the truth. The stock market is not some mathematical algorithm that lets you know when its safe to invest and when you should get out. It is a complicated marketplace where trillions can be lost when a few CEOs make some bad decisions.
While it has much in common with gambling, it is not one of the friendliest tables to play at.
Yet, the temptation is understandable. “What about just a little bit?” you might wonder. “Maybe I’ll make it big, like that Warren Buffet guy!”
Ignore the romantic notions, because Mr. Buffet guy wasn’t just some lucky sap. He’s smart, he’s experienced and he’s been doing it for a long time. The stock market can be a fun thing to play around with, but who has a couple hundred to play around with these days? If I did, Bermuda sounds a lot more tempting than the stock market.
While most of us don’t even have enough money to go to a bar, hardly any of us have money we can throw in the stock market. But presumably you are going to college so that some day, you’ll have money for that new ride and hopefully a little extra. That little extra could mean the difference between five and six figures if you bought some hot stocks. In these tumultuous times a semi-experienced trader can make good money investing in stocks, but a “semi-experienced trader” isn’t made over night.
That’s why they created Yahoo Finance.
Make no mistake, this isn’t a paid advertisement; the company hasn’t wined and dined me. But of the many programs available to the cautiously curious, it is the one I use and appreciate for its ease.
Yahoo Finance is a web browser-based program that allows you to create a stock portfolio. It’s like Monopoly on steroids. You can start out with any amount of money, then begin buy and trade stocks at will. Yahoo keeps track of all your trades and how much your portfolio is worth.
It is a great way to test your skills at the market, and best of all — it isn’t real. You use digital money, take digital risks and have endless room to experiment.
As an economics major, it isn’t much of a stretch for me to spend a little time doing research and bringing my portfolio up a couple of percentage points. Besides, it keeps me up to date on the market and provides a general sense of the economy. If you’re one of those people who likes to be in the know, this is one of the more interactive avenues.
College is the ideal time to test your skills. You’re not always going to have another refund check around the corner, but you may not always be broke, either.
And if you feel like the Money Olympics could be a your thing, I’ve a small simple piece of advice for you: You don’t have to be a member of the one percent to borrow their strategies. When a big player like Warren Buffet spends a fortune on a floundering company that’s selling cheap, you’d be wise to take notice. That Bank of America stock in my Yahoo! portfolio has almost doubled since I noticed Buffet dabbling in their potential success.
Justin Chapin is member of Students of Economic Interest