We all have some major events in life that led to us getting where we are — professionally and personally. All kinds of events led me to become a journalist. But three events stand out to me that brought me to where I am today as a freelance writer specializing in personal finances, and fueled an interest in investing.
I could write a book on my financial path in life, but I can narrow my path to becoming an investor to three events. Without such a keen interest in investing, I think, I wouldn't have become a personal finance writer.
Here are the three main life events that led me to want to learn more about investing and to eventually write about it and related topics:
A stock picking exercise
I was in a rowdy history class during my senior year of high school. The teacher sent three or so "well behaved" students to the school library every week to chart stock performances from our local newspaper.
I did this with an eye on if news events about a company affected its stock price. If a company had bad press one day, did its stock price fall that week? Often it did, and it gave me a lifelong interest in how stocks perform after good or bad news is reported about them.
With some luck and knowledge about a company's product that I used as a teenager, along with some good news in the paper about an upcoming product line, I invested in a company called Coleco and doubled my money.
That hour at the library every week to chart stocks helped spur my interest in how news affects stock prices. It's probably the best lesson I learned — and remember — from that history class.
Joining an investment club
Early in my second job as a copy editor at a newspaper, I met some co-workers who had formed an investment club and needed another member. I jumped at the chance to join and learned many lessons about investing, starting with the importance of researching a company thoroughly before investing in it.
It was a fun group and we made some smart investments, buying stock in companies that we all researched and pooled our money to invest in.
I wouldn't say that losing my job during the Great Recession eight years ago was one of the best things that ever happened to me, but having my job eliminated because of cutbacks in the newspaper industry taught me the importance of specialization as a worker.
I've learned many skills as a journalist. One is to focus on what you enjoy doing and to turn that into a skill.
As soon as I lost my job, I started looking for full-time work while my wife went back to work full-time. I couldn't find a full-time job, so out of necessity I became a part-time freelance writer while caring for our daughter, who was about to turn 4 at the time.
It led me to start a blog called Tales of an Unemployed Dad, which led to an editor at AOL seeing my work and hiring me as a writer for a finance blog owned by AOL.
From there I've written for many websites while specializing in a niche I enjoy covering: personal finance.
I've learned investment lessons along the way, and I think I've become a better investor by trying to become an expert in every personal finance topic I cover.
And when I'm not expert enough, I'm always thrilled to interview interesting experts who can explain investing principles to me so I can make them understandable to readers. It's the best part of my job and gives me something to look forward to each day when I get back to a job I love.