Even before officially entering the financial industry back in 2004, I had already started dabbling in stocks while in college. It wasn't much, but I saved what I could from my part-time job and tried to make it grow by investing in the market (keyword: TRIED). What I put in, over time, dwindled away as I traded in and out of stocks - jumping from one hot tip to the next. I didn't know what I was doing (obviously), but I learned a lot, and I had fun doing it.
More fun than trading/investing was learning about it. I spent hours and hours reading every book I could get my hands on recommended by famous business people and investors. I had always loved fiction at an early age - I read nearly every book written by authors like Tom Clancy, John Grisham, Agatha Christie, and many, many more. Once I started getting into investing, I went head-over-heels, completely submerging myself in the topic. Only later did I realize most of what was written wasn't worth the paper they were printed on. Much of the books recommended by "financial experts" in the mainstream media do more harm to the average investor than good.
Recommendations such as "buy low, sell high" SOUNDS simple enough and easy to do. But that couldn't be further from the truth. And listening to CNBC and Bloomberg, one feels confident that THIS stock is about to take off - only to realize (far too late) that it's just about past its peak. They sell when they can't take the pain anymore, only to have the stock turnaround and take off again. I won't go into the machinations of what causes this - but know that a considerable percentage of the population will NOT make money investing/trading in the stock market or other financial instruments. Probably about 90% of the population is not naturally wired to make money in the market. That is not to say that people don't make money investing - but it's rarely the ones that trade in and out. People that ignore the financial media and focus on earning money, saving a portion of their earnings in IRA's and 401K's but resist the temptation to trade in and out are more likely to have a more significant nest egg by the time they retire.
The key to successful investing is knowing who you are. As ancillary as that may sound, this is the crucial determinant of whether or not you'll be a successful investor or not. Most people are not wired to buy low/sell high. If you know this about yourself and entirely dedicate yourself to:
1. Earning money in your chosen career
2. Save a portion of your earnings in a compounding vehicle (such as the stock market) and stay ahead of inflation
3. Dollar-cost average to reduce your cost over time
4. And minimize expense and avoid trading in and out of the market
You will allow the powerful forces of compounding to take your savings to a whole new level. Of course, this takes time, discipline, and dedication. Unless if you were unlucky enough to start investing at the peak of a multi-decade depression (such as those experienced during the Great Depression in the '30s or in Japan in the '90s), you will most likely do very well and achieve the rarified status of "financial independence." By my guestimate, I would venture to say that about 15-20% of the population can do this. The good news is that anyone, from any walk of life - if they can implement this strategy - has a good chance to retire with a modest to great lifestyle.
But what if you know that you are not the disciplined/dedicated type and you can't stop checking your 401K account every week, let alone every day? Afterall, not everyone has that kind of fortitude and there's nothing wrong with admitting who you are. Especially with the younger population that's grown up on instant access to everything at their fingertips, it's next to impossible to avoid checking your retirement/investment account... Check your social media account, check email, check your newsfeed, and check your brokerage account... and then go back to checking your social media - just in case... Most people probably do this a dozen times throughout the day.
So what do you do if you're not a financial wizard, and you don't have the discipline to stick to the plan for the long term? I would guess that this is probably about 60-75% of the population. This is probably the great majority of people who are ill-prepared for retirement, who have less than $300K saved up by the time they're 65, and will probably have to work menial jobs well into their 70-80's. It is sad beyond belief. The financial industry has led people down the wrong path. The government has created bubble after bubble and essentially enslaved the population to be dependent on a ponzi scheme that's expected to blow up in the coming decades - if not sooner (yes, I'm talking about Social Security and Medicare).
Fortunately, the spirit of human innovation and American entrepreneurialism has not stopped. Whenever there is a problem, humanity has found a way to solve the problem. New and innovative advances ARE being made (outside of Wall Street) that people are starting to take advantage of. And on this channel, we'll go into all the details - delving into the pro's and con's, who this can benefit, and who it will not work for, and much more. Stay tuned, and comment below with any questions!