finance

'Regular small investments and conscious decisions.' How Sharon turned $20 into $100,000.

In 2013, Sharon Connolly, then 44, found herself stuck in a “terrible financial predicament”.

She had just left a 17-year-marriage, which had left her in a financial mess. To compound her difficulty, she was living in Singapore, where she had no employment rights.

“I was petrified,” she tells Mamamia. “I’d given up my career opportunities to support my husband’s career. I felt like I was destined to move to a flat the size of a shoe box and a dead end job.”

It was quite serendipitous, then, that an email popped up in her inbox.

It was a $20 voucher for eToro – a global multi-asset investing platform that aims to open up global financial markets so that everyone can invest.

“It basically offered me $20 to invest in Facebook stocks.”

Sharon was sure it was a scam. But she was also desperately needing to be more financially independent, and so researched the platform to see how it worked.

“I withdrew the money out to test it, and then realised that this actually worked and that it was a very exciting opportunity to be involved in.

“The eToro platform enables people to invest in the assets they want, from stocks to commodities,” she explains. “The simplicity of the platform allows anyone to easily buy, hold and sell assets, monitor their portfolio in real-time, and transact whenever they want.”

eToro Australia
Sharon Connolly turned a $20 voucher into $100,000. Image: Supplied.
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She then started making small behaviour changes that would allow her to invest more.

"I began regular small investments and I made conscious decisions to open positions instead of buying clothes and shoes. Sometimes I’d think 'not really feeling like going out tonight, I’ve saved $75... I’ll invest instead,'" she tells Mamamia.

"I worked for myself and my income was erratic, but I tried to invest a little each time I got paid."

Now, seven years on from opening that fortuitous email, she has built her portfolio into a six-figure account.

"I could have done it sooner but I was still nervous about taking money out of the safety of the bank."

For Sharon, she finally feels in "total control" of her finances - a huge achievement considering the predicament she was in following her divorce.

"All the money I have in that account could easily have been frittered away on frivolous expenditure. A slight behaviour change has resulted in not just a large savings pot, but a considerably higher return on my investment," she explains.

"When you take charge of your finances it impacts your life in many areas, for example having spare funds means I always pay my credit card fully and on time.

"Having more money gave me the freedom to make better choices with my money, as I can now plan and evaluate my options for the long and short term."

But it's also meant she is now "less stressed".

"I don’t think my lifestyle has changed much, it’s just my lifestyle used to rely on credit - now things like my car and holidays are all paid for.

"I’ve also been able to help out friends when they’ve been stuck, which is a great position to be in."

Side note... A study found the optimal salary for happiness, and it's more achievable than you might think. Post continues below video. 

Video by Mamamia
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Of course, the recent coronavirus crisis has made a dent in those savings.

"I lost about 20 per cent in the first few days of the crisis, but now I’m lucky that it’s on its way back up. I took the opportunity to invest a little more than I normally would, but I was still mindful to keep cash on hand in case of emergencies."

She continues to use eToro to build her portfolio, explaining: "I like eToro because you can start with small investments - as little as $50 now that they’ve introduced fractional shares and zero-commission stocks for companies listed on US exchanges.

"You can also choose the companies you want, or find an investor like me, who have the same outlook and risk appetite as you do, to copy."

Sharon starting with $20 and now boasting a $100,000 portfolio almost sounds too good to be true.

Her advice to those people who want to start investing is simple: "Think about your risk appetite and how much time you want to spend researching."

Writing for Mamamia, founder of Fierce Girl Finance Belinda White answered the most basic questions most people will have about investing.

While the ASX has a set minimum of $500 for your first trade, she says apps like Raiz are designed to take tiny amounts from your account each time you spend money and invest it.

She says, however, that before you start investing, it's important to consider whether you have your other financial obligations covered first. For instance, do you have an emergency fund that could cover your expenses for at least a month? Have you paid off your expensive credit card debt?

In terms of how long you need to invest before it becomes worthwhile, White explains as a rule of thumb, if you want your cash back within five years, a high-interest savings account or term deposit might be a better idea. Beyond five years, other types of investments like shares, property and bonds can make sense.

If you want to understand more about investing, and get information on finances in general, moneysmart.gov.au gives simple, unbiased information on lots of topics, White says.

Feature image: Supplied.


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