Investing for Nerds: Emergency Savings
by A Real Person on July 19, 2011
My dad likes to tell me that investing in the stock market requires an iron stomach. If one of the stocks you’ve carefully researched tanks all of a sudden, you need to have the peace of mind to be able to rationally look at the circumstances surrounding the company and decide if you agree on its new valuation or not. You might need a change of pants as well; however, since you’re investing like a nerd, you won’t need to sell any stock to buy those pants because you’ve got some emergency savings to back you up!
Investing in the stock market is loads of fun, but it needs to be done with money you aren’t planning on needing any time soon. There’s enough economic turmoil in the world right now without nerds losing their shirts (or pants) because they’re investing with their rent money. I’m glad this was drilled into my head because as a fellow nerd, I can obsess with the best of them so I could easily see myself getting overexcited and neglecting to build myself a rainy day fund.
So let my dad’s advice wash over you the way it did me and before you consider throwing down cash for your first investment, make sure you have all high interest debt (credit cards, bail bonds, loan sharks, etc.) paid off and a decent amount of emergency savings stashed away somewhere safe like, say, a bank. I doubt anyone with credit card or mob debt would argue that it’s at the top of their financial to-do list, but it seems that among my fellow 20-somethings, an emergency savings account isn’t as high on the list as it probably should be. It might not be that sexy, but it’s an important part of your general financial health.
Most advisors recommend emergency savings that will sustain your current lifestyle for 3-6 months in case you lose your job or an unexpected expense comes up. This can be anything from car repairs to hospital bills. The bottom line is, if you need to shell out some quick cash to keep yourself out of debt and out of trouble, you have your rainy day fund all clean and untouched. If you’ve neglected to build up any emergency savings and you need to take out a high-interest loan, you’d better hope you picked some winning stocks because they’ll need to do pretty damn well just to break even with your interest payments.
If you aren’t financially comfortable with investing in the stock market yet, there’s no reason you can’t nerd out with me! Here are a few options:
1. There’s no minimum to how much you can invest so feel free to buy as few shares as you’d like. Keep in mind that most brokerage accounts have a transaction fee, though. I use Fidelity and they charge $7.95 per transaction, so as long as I make more than $15.90 when I sell, I’m in the black!
2. You can give yourself $100,000 on a Google Finance portfolio and have fun playing the investing game without any of the high stakes stress. It allows you to have a line for cash so just “deposit” that money like the nerd baller you are, and start trading. It calculates your gains from the time you purchased the stock until now and can account for transaction fees too. This is probably my favorite option.
3. If playing it solo on Google Finance doesn’t excite you, then you might prefer a more competitive option. There are actual stock market fantasy games available throughout the internets, where you can match financial wits with other enthusiasts. Friends have recommended the CAPS community at The Motley Fool where you can pick which stocks will overperform and underperform, than CAPS keeps track of how your picks perform against the S&P 500 Index.
Do you know of a great stock market fantasy game or have any advice to readers about starting and growing an emergency savings account?
This column should not be construed as recommending or advising on specific investments. The views and opinions expressed in this article or column are the author’s own and not necessarily those of Nerdist Industries; No endorsement by Nerdist Industries of any advice or trading strategy is implied.