My Big Issue With The Teen Rumored to Have Made $72 Million in the Stock Market

IMG_2514Between when I penned this on Monday evening and Tuesday morning, the New York Observer already debunked Mohammed Islam’s fiction. However, the point of my post goes beyond my great skepticism of his initial claim, so I’ve decided to publish it as is.

Unless you’re one of those people who avoid the news – yeah, yeah it’s depressing – and swore off social media you’ve probably heard about Mohammed “Mo” Islam. The media is already going bonkers calling him everything from the investment wunderkind to Wolf of Wall St Jr. (not a moniker I’d want). In case you’re unfamiliar with Mo, he’s a 17-year-old student in New York City who is rumored to have made $72 million trading. Now, Mo has denied the $72 million figure, but confirmed his net worth is in the high eight figures*.

If Mo’s story is true – which I sincerely doubt – then he’ll be the greatest investor of all time. Yes, beating out the almighty Buffet.

The sensational story of Mo broke in New York Magazine earlier this week and spawned a ton of articles proving journalists were merely regurgitating tidbits from New York Mag instead of doing their due-diligence. Both Yahoo! Finance and Business Insider stepped up to be something of a voice of reason. Yahoo! Finance reporter Jeff Macke wrote, “What Islam is claiming lies somewhere along the lines of Charles Ponzi’s scheme and stories of Paul Bunyon forming Minnesota’s 10,000 Lakes with his massive footsteps.”

But the poor reporting and the ridiculous rumor aren’t what bother me. If Mo did indeed build even a million dollars playing the market all by himself at the age of 17, without seed money from his parents, then good for him.

No, what bothers me is that Mo is a boy.

Story, after story, after story of remarkable investors, entrepreneurs and financial wunderkinds focus on men. A fact I’ve already grown remarkably sensitive to as of late, was further reinforced when I started doing some digging on Mo.

This isn’t the first time Mo earned media attention. In November of 2013, Business Insider published The 20 Under 20: Meet The Teen Traders Trying to Take Over the Finance World. Mo made this list, along with 19 male peers. Not a single girl or young woman in 2013 counted as a teen trader to watch. Where are all the women in finance?

Take a poll of most articles in finance highlighting the movers and shakers. It’s rare to read about a woman and even when you do, it’s more rare to read about one with investing chops.

Now, there are notably successful women in business who’ve received a decent amount of press: Sophia Amoruso, Sara Blakely, and Sheryl Sandberg to name a few. But it irks me that the financial world – especially investing – remains largely a boys club. (Seriously, try Googling “best investors in the world” and see who pops up).

Even when you take a quick poll of personal finance blogs, women (myself included) tend to stick to more emotional, less hard-hitting subjects. Instead of dishing out investment advice, we write about how to budget for a family, or handle gift giving or pinchpennies to help pay down debt. (Yes, I’m painting with a broad brush for the sake of argument.)

Why is that?

Personally, I don’t feel qualified to give investment advice. I don’t have a degree in finance. I haven’t taken a Series 65 or Series 6 or Series 7 nor Series 63 exam. I’m neither a CFA nor a CFP. Simply put, all I know of investing is what I’ve read and done myself. I also prefer to keep my net worth and specific investment decisions off the worldwide web.

But perhaps this is where gender roles and stereotypes come into play.

I’ve noticed plenty of male bloggers who don’t have any qualifications other than investing their own money still write about how to invest. And lots of women bloggers who have experience in the field still relegated themselves to the “softer” subjects.

Is it that women don’t feel confident enough to give advice unless we’ve passed a series of tests and certifications while men don’t wrestle with such thoughts? Sexist as though that statement may be, I’m curious why those of us with a double-X chromosome seem less likely to really do a deep dive into a investing and why so few women seem keen on joining the ranks of stock brokers or hedge fund managers?

We push STEM fields now and promote toys, games, stories and educational courses to encourage girls and young women to enter male-dominated fields. Why aren’t we doing this with finance? Why not encourage young girls and women to play in the stock market, become stockbrokers, analysts, or overall mavens of industry?

So, I implore parents to encourage their daughters to consider finance and economics. I implore men to recognize their sexism and encourage women to join their ranks in investing. I request other women writing on financial issues to consider taking on heftier topics. And I hope journalists also start featuring women in articles other than those offering budget tips, or debt repayment strategies or how to afford vacation for a family of four.

And if anyone brings Janet Yellen into this as an argument, that’s the same as saying racism is over because Obama is the president.

*Then back tracked and came clean about earning $0.

Posted in Women in Finance Tagged with: ,

Buyer’s Guide: Your Store Strategy for Holiday Shopping

“Whether you’re battling the crowds on Black Friday or squeezing your shopping in a few days before the holidays, you have to get your mind, body and most importantly — wallet — ready for the challenge.”

I’m on video!

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[You try getting a good still of of yourself talking!]

Click over to DailyFinance to check out the video I filmed for AOL!

Posted in DailyFinance Tagged with:

Are You Really Saving Your Money?

Tin CanOn Black Friday, I mentally high-fived myself when I used cash-back rewards money to buy several pieces of clothing I needed for my winter wardrobe. I thought to myself, “I just saved $100.” But really, I didn’t. While $100 didn’t leave my checking account, it didn’t go into my savings account, either.

We all routinely brag about a way we saved money. You’ll hear people wax poetic about cutting the cord and no longer paying for cable, or couponing to save a few bucks on groceries, or using credit card bonuses to pay for a vacation. But here’s the big question: are they really saving?

While we claim to be saving, is that extra $40 a month from cutting cable actually going into savings or just being reallocated to justify eating out or going to the movies?

A Penny Really Saved

Abigail Perry, founder of I Pick Up Pennies, realized her mistaken assumption about saving and decided to make a simple change.

Read the rest on DailyFinance.

Posted in DailyFinance Tagged with:

Frugal Find Friday: Stacking Cash Back Rewards

I’m not much of a gamer when it comes to churning credit cards for rewards, travel or cash back. (I’ve only once applied for a credit card in order to get a free flight — which I still haven’t cashed in on because I’m saving up for Hawaii.) But I recently wandered into the wonderful world of stacking cash back rewards.

Full disclosure: this won’t be a long-term game for me because I’m really cashing in on Discover’s 5% cash back for online shopping this quarter and I do most of my holiday shopping online.

For all you rookies to stacking cash back, it goes a little something like this:

1) Find a referral code site like Ebates or Mr. Rebates*. Screen shot 2014-12-04 at 8.19.49 PM

2) Click through their site to your intended shopping site (ie: Amazon, Sephora or TOMS).

3) Make your purchase on intended site with a cash back credit card.

Confused? Let’s break it down with a real example.

Peach has been harping about wanting a very specific type of gloves. After a few unsuccessful attempts to find them in a brick-and-mortar store (silly millennial), I opted for Amazon. Within a few minutes I found what he wanted, but instead of checking out right through Amazon I went to Ebates. Ebates was offering 6% cash back on Amazon purchases.

Once on Ebates, I clicked through to Amazon. When I made my purchase, I used my Discover It card, to cash in on that  5% cash back for online shopping this quarter.

So, my $16 purchase received 6% cash back from Ebates plus an additional 5% cash back from my Discover card.

Sure, it was on a paltry $16, so I only earned $0.96 from Ebates and $0.80 from Discover for a staggering $1.76, but say I make a $100 purchase. That’ll be $11 in cash back on a single purchase. Not too shabby.

As with all things related to credit cards and gaming a system, there are catches.

Screen shot 2014-12-04 at 8.06.26 PMFor starters, referral sites don’t give you cash back on any purchase. Right now, Ebates and Mr. Rebates are offering cash back on Amazon for purchases in children’s, women and men’s fashion, home & kitchen, toys & games and Amazon local. The amount of cash back also fluctuates rather quickly. During Black Friday, you could score 8% back on Ebates, but now it’s down to 4%.

Second, your cash back card might not offer cash back on a site you’re going to through a referral. I recently bought a pair of shoes on TOMS.com, and earned $6.56 back through Ebates for the purchase, but Discover didn’t count it as shopping online, so I didn’t get the extra 5%.

If you have a flat-rate cash back card like Quicksilver, Fidelity or Citi Double Cash, then you’ll be guaranteed some level of cash back above 1% — but I don’t have any of those cards.

Some of you may be wondering how these referral sites work. I admit they sounded a little sketchy to me at first.

Basically, you can think about it just like a credit card reward. Credit card companies offer you a piece of the interchange fee they charge merchants in order to incentivize you to use their cards. That’s why (and how) companies offer cash back deals! And why you should be skeptical of of cash back above two percent — but that’s a post for another time.

These referral sites receive a kick back from retailers for sending you to the retailer’s online store. As a repayment, the referral site offers you – the customer – a little piece of the kick back.

You’re not going to get rich using these sites, but if you believe every dollar counts and you’re already going to be buying something online, it’s probably worth the extra two minutes of your time to see if you can get some cash back!

If you’d like to read a full (and extensive) review of Ebates and Mr. Rebates, then hop on over to MagnifyMoney’s blog where I recently compared the two.

*If you sign up for Ebates or Mr. Rebates with my referral code and make a purchase then I will receive a referral bonus.

Posted in Frugal Find Friday Tagged with: , ,

Dear Millennials, Let’s Be Friends. Sincerely, The Stock Market

2159087073_b2425e73ea_zDear Millennials,

I fear something is amiss in our relationship. A week doesn’t go by without me reading an article or watching a news segment about your utter distrust in me and disdain for those I work with – or in your minds, my puppeteers.

I do apologize for the scare I gave you in 2008 and the subsequent recession. I understand some of your loved ones may have been hurt by my failings (and fallings). It gave me no pleasure to see so many retirement accounts, index funds, mutual funds and other investments take a tumble. It terrified me to watch my Dow Jones peak at14,164 in 2007, and then fall to a mere 7,882 a year later.

You spent years hearing phrases such as “crisis,” “depression,” “TARP,” “bailout,” “too big to fail,” “subprime” and “collapse.”

Some of you were just graduating college and entering a difficult workforce, while others saw your parents’ savings and college funds significantly reduced. Undoubtedly, my erratic behavior impacted you all in some way, which is why today you aren’t interested in me as a bedfellow or even a friend.

I empathize with you that I may seem untrustworthy. But, despite all this, let’s be friends.

Read the rest on US News and World Report.

***

Long-time readers – yes, this is a refresh of a post I did in 2013. However, it’s completely different.

Picture from Michi W. on Flickr

Posted in US News' My Money Blog Tagged with: ,

Welcome to Broke Millennial: Personal Finance Advice for Millennials (and others)

Hello there –

Is this your first time here? Perhaps you saw a giant photo of me next to the words “Millennials want to save, many can’t.

Other than now knowing that my discretionary income is put towards spending time with my friends and enjoying New York City, you probably don’t know what I’m all about. Let me explain.

I started this site almost two years ago in an attempt to make learning about finance at least some what enjoyable for the common millennial. Generally, I share stories from my own life and tie them into a financial literacy lesson. Some are as simple as why saving is important or what is a credit report/score, to how to build credit history, or rolling over a 401(k) or handling fraud.

Hopefully you’ll spend some time poking around my site and share this with any millennials (financially literate or not) in your life. Or hey, maybe a Gen Xer or Boomer might even be interested! I don’t discriminate based on generation.

Here are some of my most popular posts to date:

And as a bonus, here my origin story.

Thanks for taking the time to visit!

Erin (aka Broke Millennial)

P.S. I’m not actually broke. It’s just a clever moniker.

 

Tin Can

See, I can prove it!

 

Posted in About Broke Millennial Tagged with:

Being a Woman Busted My Budget

Dear enraged feminist readers – don’t worry. This is not a sexist diatribe.

“$1,412. No. That can’t be right. I can’t possible have $1,412 in credit card charges from this month,” I began muttering to myself.

The portion of my brain housing a financial panic button started buzzing and I ran through four of the five-stages of grief.

  1. Denial: Do I have fraudulent charges, again?
  2. Anger: What did I spend all this money on?! And why did I decide to spend so much on a ticket to see It’s Only a Play?!
  3. Bargaining: I picked up some extra side-hustle income this month, it’s really okay.
  4. Depression: Why didn’t I do my regular, weekly budget crunches this month?

Poring over my statements I started to see these charges were indeed made by my hand (or finger in the case of online purchases).

The financial panic button began blaring as the picture came into focus.

Being a woman ruined my budget and for the first time in a very long time, I would have to dip into my savings account to pay off my credit card bills.

But let’s backtrack to why my ownership of lady bits is directly correlated with my busted budget.

Part I: Letting My Emotions Control My Budget

As a feminist, I generally begin seething when I come across any of the countless stereotypes of women and money. Oh you know, the ones about how we don’t invest. We don’t save as much for retirement as men (with no nod to the pay gap). We can’t negotiate well. We only want to marry rich men. A woman is just out to spend her husband’s money. A woman should be the primary caregiver and take her husband’s last name – oops ranting – let me reign it back in.

It appears there is a woman-centric stereotype I did not receive proper immunization for: the desire to nurture*.

Peach moved to New York City just over two months ago for a three-month stint as a student teacher. His reasons for coming were two-fold.

  1. He’s interested in being a teacher for inner city youths and wanted to experience teaching in a major urban environment.
  2. We wanted to spend a few months testing our relationship in close proximity to each other after nearly three years of long distance.

Unfortunately, student teachers are glorified unpaid interns. He works a full, 40-hour (or more) week and receives no compensation, while still needing to take some other graduate courses, which makes it tough to get a part-time job. Peach also had to quit his full-time job (which he did on top of being a full-time grad student) in order to move to New York.

Peach saved up for a long-time to move here and has a nest egg to live off of for three-months. Regardless, I still feel a twinge of guilt at times that he’s here spending thousands of dollars when he could be living at home, rent-free and getting his student teaching credits accomplished. He also isn’t living with me and paying a subsidized rent (I didn’t think it would be good for us), so he’s spending over $2,000 in living expenses alone for his apartment.

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At least we looked good at the wedding.

This seed of guilt started to grow into a sapling and then a full-blown oak tree, which I tried to chop down by beginning to cover small costs.

If I wanted to go out to dinner instead of having to cook, I’d offer to pay. Or I’d pick up the tab at happy hour. Or I wouldn’t tell him the real amount it cost for us to travel to my cousin’s wedding and cover 70 percent instead of 50 percent.

These small financial gestures – which I tried to space out, so I didn’t emasculate my boyfriend – began to add up until I reached a point of crunching numbers and facing a financial panic attack. [I’d also like to take a moment to appreciate my boyfriend who is confident enough to be okay with me picking up tabs and encourages the notion that I may be the long-term breadwinner in our relationship. Talk about an evolved man.]

After assessing the damage to my bank account, I called a meeting with Peach — or more accurately asked him to pause How To Get Away With Murder so I could rant.

I admitted that I’d been trying to sneakily cover some expense of him living here so we could enjoy living in New York together without putting too much of a burden on his wallet. He told me I didn’t need to cover for him. He’d been diligent with his finances and built some discretionary spending into his savings.

We spoke through my plan to get back on track and ways to have him hold me accountable.

Part II: Getting Back on Track

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Another expensive afternoon, but worth it to watch the Bills crush the Jets.

First, you may be wondering why $1,412 busted my budget. To many of you this probably sounds like a relatively small sum.

I don’t typically disclose income or real financial numbers on this blog (a blogger needs to keep some secrets). But for the sake of explanation, I’ll break it down a bit.

After contributing to my 401(k), putting money in my savings account, paying for rent, utilities, cell phone and metrocard – I have just over $1,000 left to spend in a month. For the sake of clarity and full-disclosure, all my side hustle income goes directly into savings and I don’t count any of it towards discretionary spending.

So, when I ran my budget and saw $1,412 – I realized for the first time in a very long time, I would need to pull some money out of savings to pay off my credit card. I also don’t tend to keep much in checking other than what I’ll need in the month.

While this $412 isn’t a massive amount of money by any means, it’s significant to me and sets me back on some of my financial goals for the remainder of the year.

In a silver linings moment, this experience does reinforce my militant mentality about saving and proves the importance of a fully funded savings (and/or emergency) account.

Part III: Rectifying My Error

This long story brings us to my final confession: swiping with a credit card makes you spend more than handing over cash.

There. I said it. All you Dave Ramsey loyalists can start amen-ing and nodding fiercely towards your computer screens.

I will still 100% continue to use credit cards and in no way blame my credit cards for my overspending last month. Frankly, I’m sure I would’ve still just taken more money out of the ATM if I were a cash-only kind of woman.

However, I will acquiesce to the proven psychology that you think longer and harder about purchases made with cash over the swiping of plastic.

On that point, I woefully admit I’ll be participating in a cash-only diet challenge and tracking each penny I spend for the month of November.

IMG_3117Typically, I budget by saying I have X-amount to spend in a month and then I run my numbers weekly to see how much I have left to spend. As a woman with no dependents and no debts to pay off, it’s been effective until last month.

This month, I plan to give myself an allowance of $200 a week in cash. This money will need to cover groceries and all extracurricular activities. If I don’t spend all $200 in on week, the remainder is allowed to roll over to the next week. If I buy using a credit card, for example a book on Amazon, I’ll either a) put the cash equivalent in a savings envelope or b) subtract it from the $200 I can take out for next week.

Four days into the challenge, I’ve spent $96.98 of my weekly $200. Granted, this included grocery shopping. But the rest of the month will certainly be interesting and I anticipate will encourage me too enter hyper-saver mode.

I will post updates throughout the month to keep myself accountable and allow you to gleefully poke fun at my fall from financial grace. Hmm, I’m suddenly craving an apple.

What have you done to rectify a busted budget?

*A few of my friends reading this just choked on their water laughing at that line. Those who know me well don’t see me as a particularly, well, nurturing, individual. In fact, I get accused of being more akin to those with a Y-chromosome instead of my fellow double-Xers.

 GIF taken from GIPHY

Posted in Budgeting, Millennials, Saving money Tagged with: , ,

How a Pack of Gum Helped Me Graduate College Debt-Free

We all have different reasons behind why we pick the colleges we attend. My reasons came down to a surprise party and roll of Bubble Tape gum.

The weekend before my ninth birthday, my Dad seemed anxious to get me out of the house. “Let’s go to Media Play,” he proposed. The now-defunct retail store used to be my favorite place to peruse cassette tapes, and later CDs.

An hour later we were in the checkout line, and I eyed a roll of grape-flavored Bubble Tape gum (a treat that, like those CDs, is less popular now than it was back then). “Dad, can I have that Bubble Tape?” I asked.

“Sure,” he said and casually threw the gum atop a movie he planned to purchase.

Something Is Wrong Here

IMG_2976To a casual onlooker, this would seem like a typical father-daughter exchange. But that “sure” set a siren off in my head. My parents never just outright bought me anything, except for presents on my birthday and Christmas. My sister and I had to put up a 50 percent stake in any item we wanted. Few things teach a kid how to curb impulse spending like insisting she pays half for the stuffed animal she wants.

The fact my father would just buy the Bubble Tape without asking for that 50 percent meant something was amiss. I wracked my brain on the drive home wondering what could cause his sudden willingness to abandon a core value.

When we arrived at home, a surprise birthday party awaited, which explained my Dad’s distraction. In that pre-cell-phone era, he was trying to finesse getting me back to the house at the right time, but without letting me see 25 kids sneaking in the door.

An Entitled Perspective in High School

Fast-forward nearly a decade later, and the family deal of paying for 50 percent impacted one of the biggest decisions of my young life.

[To find out more, read on at DailyFinance.com]

Also live today, Why Her Emergency Money Backup Plan Is a Credit Union Visa

Posted in DailyFinance Tagged with: ,

Frugal Find Friday: Pack For Every Occasion

 

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In my younger years (yeah, yeah I’m only 25 so what “younger years”?) I used to be something of a chronic overpacker. Friends used to joke that I was prepared for any event short of prom. Frankly, not much has changed. I’ve just developed black-belt level skills for maximizing space in a suitcase to avoid paying for a checked bag.

Last night, my little sister demonstrated the reason being an overpacker pays off – in a rather literal sense.

MeiMei* came into town this week for a documentary she’s working on. Peach and I took her out for dinner and drinks last night before she needed to go to a jazz club around 10.

At 8:15 she received a text telling the crew everyone needed to “suit up” (she’s the only woman on the crew).

“Uh, I guess I need to go buy a dress,” she said.

“Why?” I asked.

“Well, the men have to wear a suit and tie. I don’t have anything with me fancy enough to go to a place that requires a suit and tie,” she explained.

A quick look at the club’s website and a Yelp review confirmed she needed to be in a fancy dress and heels.

“I’d let you go through my closet and borrow something,” I told her. “But, we don’t really have enough time to get to my apartment and then back to your hotel before for you need to leave.”

“I guess I’ll have to go buy something,” she said while rolling her eyes.

Fortunately, Nordstrom Rack was around the corner and open until 10:00. In the most efficient shopping trip of my life, we took 20 minutes to pull five dress options, have her try them one and find a matching pair of heels. She’d only packed boots and sneakers.

Unfortunately, she was forIMG_0572ced to spend money on an outfit she didn’t exactly need. While both the shoes and dress will be worn again, she didn’t need to buy them if she’d simply had access to her wardrobe (or packed a nice dress and heels).

And this is why I always overpack.

MeiMei didn’t know she’d be expected to go to an upscale jazz club when she packed for her trip. She packed to be a producer on a documentary aka to stand on her feet all day and maybe go to one nice dinner.

In this way we differ in our packing strategies. I always am ready for an unexpected occasion. There will be a pair of heels and a nice (to fancy) dress in my bag, just in case! Even if I were the camping kind of gal, I still might bring one.

Another option is to get a credit card that offers the option to check a bag for free or just fly an airline that gives you a free checked bag – but those airlines are quite limited these days. Granted, credit cards with perks like free checked bags typically have an annual fee. Personally, I find the annual fee pays for itself if you just check a bag one time (unless you’re a high roller paying crazy $500 annual fees for club perks).

I realize I may be misrepresenting myself (and making my gender look bad) at this point. When I say overpack – I’m not carrying a mountain of luggage for a weekend get away. I just tend to bring about six outfits for a two or three day trip.

I would roll my eyes at the sight of four pieces of luggage for a weekend getaway (or really more than one + a personal item if it isn’t a wedding).

To those packers: come on now. Find a pair of shoes that matches more than one of your outfits.

Unless you’re Lady Gaga, I guess.

*Not her real name. It’s Chinese for little sister.

Posted in Frugal Find Friday Tagged with: ,

8 Online Banks That Let You Skip the Fees, Enjoy the Interest

IMG_3167

Stop letting banks take your money in fees!

The goal of a checking account should be to find an FDIC-insured bank with few or no fees. Unfortunately, millions of Americans are banking with enormous brick-and-mortar banks that charge monthly maintenance fees, as well as a host of punitive fees such $30 or more for overdrafts. Some of those friendly financial institutions are raking in nearly $1 million per branch in fees alone.

Thankfully, the Internet is good for something other than supplying us with funny cat videos and quizzes to tell you which type of fast food your personality is like. The Web is now a safe haven for consumers looking for low-cost banking options that still offer all the safety the comes from being backed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

Internet-only banks are able skip those ugly fees and still offer higher interest rates than their traditional peers because they don’t have to deal with the costs of maintaining neighborhood branches.

“Most customers today don’t go into a retail branch, so we never built them,” says Kyle Kolsky, senior vice president of consumer deposits for Bank of Internet USA. “We operate from one large headquartered office and give those savings back to our customers in superior products.”

Some Internet-only banks are associated with well-known players like Charles Schwab and Capital One. The institutions on the list below are the underdogs looking to revolutionize banking — and help you keep more money in your pockets.

Find out which 8 banks can help your bottom line over on DailyFinance.

Posted in DailyFinance Tagged with: ,

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