About Basheer Abdul-Malik
The year was 2009; I was 24 years old, working backstage catering at Live Nation. I was comfortable earning a $15 wage, which was more than twice Philadelphia’s $7.25 minimum wage at the time. Still, it was a seasonal job, and I knew I could do better. It was boom or bust, and it seemed like I was going nowhere. I was either working two jobs or suffering through Philadelphia’s coldest months, November through February, on nothing but my savings and the charity of others. Eventually, I grew tired of suffering through the off-season months, with only a few thousand dollars and sporadic job opportunities.
I wasn’t very good at it, but I thank god I knew how to save because there wasn’t much left after I paid my bills. Besides the clothes on my back and the few dollars that I did manage to tuck away in my bank account during the busy season, all I had to my name were a few community college credits and some furniture.
The following season I took the first $2,000 that I earned to Charles Schwab, HSBC, Bank of America, and every other investment bank in Center City with the intent of opening up a brokerage account. I did not know anything about investing, but I was determined to open up an investment account. Unfortunately, nobody would take it. It seemed like everyone expected me to have a $5k-10k initial investment before they would even consider opening up a brokerage account. This didn’t include trading fees or the firms’ commission, which would be deducted every year – win or lose.
I eventually told my coworker of the situation for laughs, and he told me about a discount online brokerage firm, at that time known as TradeKing. I immediately opened up an online trading account but never funded the account due to the high trading fees, which were $6 per transaction.
In the winter of 2010, I moved to the Northern Neck of Virginia without a job or car. At that point, my only goal was to earn my associates degree. While in school and living with my grandmother, I worked two jobs, and while searching through the perks offered to part-time employees, I discovered that my employer offered a Direct Stock Purchase Plan (DSPP).
Through the DSPP, Dollar General employees were able to buy partial shares of company stock through weekly payroll deductions. I quickly learned that I was also able to obtain partial shares of several other stocks, including Exelon Energy. Excelon owns Philadelphia’s PECO Energy (gas and electric company), whom I had personally handed over half of my paycheck every month just for the privilege of having electric and heat.
On July 10, 2014, I made my first investment totaling $11.54, which was automatically deducted from my paycheck, officially making me the owner of 0.20 shares of Dollar General stock. By the end of the year, I had invested $140.39 into Dollar General and owned 2.253 shares. My initial $57 per share was now worth $68 per share, meaning my cumulative $140.39 investment was now worth $155.91.
A $15.52 return may not sound like much, but it sure beat the interest I was earning from my savings account. I was thrilled. I couldn’t believe how easy investing was and wanted to tell the world. Unfortunately, I quickly realized that most people would rather play the lottery than invest, which actually makes sense because most people are more familiar with the state-sponsored lottery then they are with the global stock market.
Neither finance nor gambling are taught in school, yet everyone understands how to play the lottery. I quickly realized that saving and investing are only complicated because nobody talks about it. So I did what any highly motivated & super passionate person would do. I started a financial literacy group on Facebook and named it Pocket Change Investments.
About Pocket Change Investments
In our podcast and social media posts, we discuss money using plain English and challenge listeners to continue the conversation with their friends and family members. We hope to empower community members (our readers and listeners) to create change in their own lives.
We believe that the first step to financial freedom is financial awareness. The goal of Pocket Change Investments is to change the way our listeners and readers think about money.
The Pocket Change Investments Facebook group was founded on December 23, 2016, followed by the Pocket Change.Investments website and podcast.