Stock Investing Is For “Old White Men”

Stock Investing for Millennials

Stock Investing is for “Old White Men”!

Hello everyone! I appreciate you stopping by The Green Swan. Today I want to talk about why stock investing is not only for “old white men”, but also for the millennial generation…women and men alike!

Just like many of my readers, I am part of the millennial generation. I found it disappointing when I heard 4 out of 5 millennials aren’t invested in the stock market, according to a recent Harris Poll.

Why? Well 40% say it is because they feel they don’t have enough money and 34% say they don’t know how. These are very fixable issues so let’s tackle these head on!

Excuses Are Like Belly-Buttons, Everyone Has One

First, you feel like you don’t have enough money…then I feel like you should start eating a few more bologna sandwiches and ramen noodles! Seriously, get over your feelings and figure it out. It’s your future we are talking about! Take control and ownership.

What can you do to get over your feelings? For starters, set up an automatic transfer to a savings account and automatic deductions from your paycheck into your employer 401(k) account. If you don’t see the money, you won’t miss the money. And you will adapt and learn to get by on less. It’s called living a frugal life. Check out my Four Frugal Life Lessons if you need more help.

Plus, remember that everyone has to start small. Everyone (except trust fund babies and lottery winners) starts at square one with $0 to their name. But starting early, as soon as you can with as much as you can, makes a huge difference.

Secondly, you don’t know how to invest in the stock market. I understand, it is complicated and there are a million different ways to go about investing and a million different things to invest in. It is complicated, especially if you don’t have a finance background.

But don’t let that be your crutch! Any action is better than inaction. Don’t let paralysis by analysis kick in. Start somewhere, try not to do anything too stupid, learn from mistakes, adapt to your objectives and changing circumstances and START BUILDING WEALTH!

When I first started working after college one of my co-workers taught me a new acronym, K.I.S.S., or Keep It Simple Stupid…I tried not to take offense to this and I hope you don’t either :). This acronym can be applied to almost anything, so why not with investing. To start out investing, let’s just keep it simple. I have two words for you, Index Funds. I’ll get into this more later.

Major Mistake!

Not investing in the stock market is a major, major mistake! I would chalk this up to not properly judging your risk. Don’t fret; many investors don’t judge risk correctly. But as millennials, with long investing time horizons before retirement, it is a failure to take on too little risk! Yes, you heard me right, now is the time to take on risk!

I know we all experienced the Great Recession which definitely had a negative impact on all our lives in one way or another (watching our parents investments crater, our investments crater, or our job prospects crater, etc.). And yes, you may be scared there will be another one coming around the corner. But like I said before, get over your emotions! Investing is not a place for your feelings, it is a place for sound and rational decision making.

Don’t believe me that the stock market is the place to put your money? For me, it is the only place to Invest to Win, an article in which I make a sound, rational and compelling argument for it (aren’t I such a braggart!). This is especially true for millennials with long investing horizons.

Ways to Invest

Is There an App for That?

We are the millennial generation so I might as well start by talking about some investing apps. They are out there (including Stash and Robinhood) and they are good for some folks. However, full transparency, I don’t recommend them and they aren’t for me!

Stash for example, allows you to start investing with as little as $5. That is great, but who invests just $5 at a time? I have a lot of issues with this idea, one of which is the $1 flat monthly fee Stash charges. This means if you invest only $5 to begin with that your money is gone in five months because of fees.

I could do a more robust review of these apps, but I’ll save that for another day. Bottom line, there are better options out there.

Like a Financial Advisor…?

Yes, maybe a financial advisor is a better option, but still not the best if you ask me. Just like many millennials, I get turned off the lack of fiduciary responsibility. Do they really look out for my best interests, or do they just want to sign me up and charge me fees? I’m not really sure so I have actually never used one.

The average age of a financial advisor is 55 and there are more financial advisors over 70 than under 30! No wonder 60% of millennial women say they think the typical investor is an “old white man” (per the poll mentioned above)!

Self-Directed 401(k) and IRA

The best option for me has been a self-direct 401(k) and IRA. We are millennials after all; strong, independent, go-getters and over-achievers! Just remember to K.I.S.S.

If available, start by opening a 401(k) plan through your employer and set an initial goal to contribute enough to maximize your employers match (free money they will contribute to your account!). Eventually, you should have a long-term goal to maximize your annual contribution ($18,000 in 2016).

The next thing I did was open an IRA brokerage account. My first IRA brokerage account was through Vanguard, not a bad option, but I quickly realized that they charge a $35 transaction fee every time I made a purchase. That’s steep! While they have good index funds, I’m not a huge fan of their brokerage platform. I eventually transferred my money out.

I’d strongly recommend a place like Firstrade to open an IRA brokerage account. And if Vanguard index funds are your thing, you can still buy their funds through a Firstrade account (along with most other fund families). Your first 100 trades are free and transaction fees thereafter are under $7! If you are like me who doesn’t actively “trade”, you’ll only make a few transactions per year. Plus, Firstrade offers free access to research reports from Morningstar and others as well as additional education resources.

While My Investment Portfolio is a bit over-complicated, it doesn’t need to be for most folks. Simple, low cost index funds such as VTSMX, VFINX, NAESX, and VGTSX can provide adequate diversification and keep your costs low. After opening an IRA with Firstrade, these funds can be purchased directly through your account. Low cost, low maintenance, low hassle.

While you may not find Vanguard index funds in your employer sponsored 401(k) plan, you can likely find similar index funds. As long as the index funds in your 401(k) track the same index (like the S&P 500), performance should track substantially similar to the comparable Vanguard index fund.


Investing in the stock market may not be for everyone, but I would argue it should be a major part of every millennials’ investment portfolio. While I am disappointed that more millennials are not actively invested in the stock market, I can understand their concerns and I hope that I have addressed some of those today.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Do you invest in the stock market? Why, or why not? What is keeping you from investing in the stock market? Are you not an “old white man”…?

Thanks for taking a look!

The Green Swan

Work Harder, Work Smarter, Retire Earlier and Find Your Beach


Disclaimer: Please reference my Disclosures page. This post is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as financial advice. If you need help with investing or financial decisions, please consult a financial professional.





share on:


  1. As another millennial, I can’t believe the amount of people who aren’t investing in the stock market. Over a long time horizon, which we have, cost averaging and low fee index funds, the opportunity to grow wealth is huge! I mean compounding is going to be your first friend after all!

    1. Absolutely, I think it’s a shame and a regrettable decision for millennials not be in the stock market. Thanks for chiming in Elliot!

    2. A millennial myself, I can totally understand how some people are not investing yet. I’ve tried a long time ago, going through an “advisor” who had their personal gain as a goal, not mine, and I got badly burnt. It’s very easy after a first bad experience to think everyone is out there to get your money. I had huge trust issues with financial institutions until I got back on track with low cost ETFs. Nobody teaches you anything about that in school.

      You know it’s a bad situation when most of us get better financial advice from anonymous blogs than from our parents, family, friends, or banker.

      1. Yeah I understand the mistrust with financial advisors. I think it can be hard to find a good one which is why I’ve stayed away from them.

        I agree and think it’s a total shame that basic personal finance should be taught in schools. I think it would help many folks. Fortunately there are a lot of other free resources available online, including blogs. Even if the blogs are written by bankers like myself 🙂

        Thanks for the comment Stockbeard.

  2. I was lucky enough to start automatic deductions to my 403b when I first started teaching (when I really didn’t know what I was doing). They sat on autopilot for years and were managed by an expensive insurance company and they were not in low cost index funds. I don’t even know what options I had and can’t even think about what I might have lost. If I had taken control and learned about the stock market when I was younger, I would have been FI years ago. Keep bugging your friends…

  3. I guess it depends on what you consider old. We invest regularly. It’s also something we talk with our three teenage children about. We have talked to them about compound interest and the rule of 72. We want them to have a good understanding of the power of saving and investing from an early age.

  4. Awesome post! For anyone out there, this is a motivator and some great advice on starting to invest. I do invest but do not “actively” trade. I typically make less than five trades per year. I have my 401k which is where all of my indexing takes place, and the rest of my individual portfolio are single investments in companies. For the beginning investor, this may seem foolish or risky, but by using a value investment philosophy I reduce my risk. These are companies that are priced at significant discounts to their underlying business value and are low risk (meaning low risk of permanent loss of capital, not volatility). They provide adequate returns over a long period of time and let me sleep well! For those who do not have time to do the research to invest in individual companies, I agree with you whole heartedly that they should invest in index funds, which will provide the diversification and adequate returns needed. Thanks again for the post!

    1. Thanks Chris! Sounds like you have a great investing strategy. I wish I had more time for research and actively invest in individual companies for a small piece of my portfolio, maybe someday. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Awesome post JW! It’s unfortunate not as many millennials have taken some time to research and make an informed decision to enter the investing game. I’d say you’re doing your part to help them take the leap!

  6. You’re so right and starting with index funds and staying the course is the best way to not get too disappointed. When I started buying index funds 3 years ago, I had no idea what I was doing but I figured it was probably 80% right and I’ll figure out the 20% later.
    Turns out that 3 years later I still haven’t figured out the remaining 20% but I’m glad I had that invested already. Buy VTSMX and forget it. The sooner the better!

  7. I started by opening a target date fund with Fidelity through my IRA. That took a lot of the guesswork out of everything and just got me moving. Now I also have a few individual stocks and index funds outside my IRA. Like anything else, it all becomes a lot clearer with some research and a little trial and error (hopefully tiny, learning sized errors – not wipe out your life savings errors).

  8. I’m about to start up with Vanguard. Apart from that I have be playing around with company stocks…. Some are better than others… It’s a roller coaster and time consuming. Thats why I’m looking forward to index funds.

    1. I’m a proponent of vanguard funds obviously, but not a huge fan of their brokerage platform. Thanks for sharing Ray Ray.

  9. As a middle-aged white woman, I have to say two words to get millennials over their fear of stocks: “Inflation Risk.”

    We’ve had low inflation for a long time. (I suspect part of that is that we use a system that underreports it, because I know many of the things I buy are more expensive than they used to be a decade ago by more than the 2-3% official rate.) Most millennials don’t remember times of high inflation, but it’s scary when what you used to buy costs 25% more than it did two or three years earlier.

    Still, if you have savings accounts and safe investments, the rate paid is so low that you are losing buying power each year. You have to take some risks just to maintain your savings’ spending power, and stock investing (especially in index funds) is easy. Unlike owning a business or rental properties, it doesn’t take a lot of extra resources to get started or maintain (like time or extra capital).

    1. Very true Emily, great point. I’m a believer that the only way grow investments and beat inflation is through stock investing. We will be coming out of this low inflation period at some point making stock investing all the more important. Thanks for the comment!

  10. It’s pretty thought provoking that 4 out of 5 millennials are not invested in stocks. From what I can gather on the Internet 2 out of 3 millennials are under some kind of debt, which I think makes the case that at least half of our generation are not invested for the right reasons.

    I suggest people pay down all debt before investing because I just don’t see people making average returns higher than the interest rates on the debt.

    I think the only exception to that would be for Roth IRA contributions and 401k contributions up to the max. Time is the most important factor for investing and I think if you don’t get in early you’re cheating yourself.

    I relate to the fear of investing even when you do have the money. That’s been a consistent excuse for me, but the truth is if you’re in your 20s and you buy stocks now you essentially don’t care what the market does until you’re ready to use the money. Thanks for the article Green Swan!

    1. I think it depends on the kind of debt and interest rate. But yes, starting to invest early will give you a lot of time and assurance you’ll achieve good growth. Thanks for the comment, Elsie.

  11. Straightforward advise is often the best kind of advice, especially when it comes to investing. If more millennials followed your approach, they would be millionaires in no time, GS. Great post!

  12. Totally agree. Investing in the stock market when you’re young is huge. When you start working, not only are you used to living cheap, and can therefore put much of your new salary into the market, but if you have a 401(k) plan, you get tax benefits and maybe even a company match.

    As you get older, it gets harder to save. You have kids and you start buying stuff.

    And by starting early, especially with tax-deferred accounts, you get the benefit of long-term compounding.

  13. We are in a great time because investing has never been easier. With the rise of robo-advisors, anyone can start investing, even if they don’t have a great understanding of how it works. Yes, there can be some extra fees, but I think it is worth it if it helps get people started!

  14. I’ve been getting more accustomed to the idea that how you get into the stock market matters less than the fact that you actually get involved. Especially with index funds as you mentioned, it has gotten simpler to get involved. I am worried with the valuation but not selling just yet or anytime soon. I’m banking on the average return over the long term to be positive.

    1. Absolutely true!

      Yeah I wouldn’t sell now and try timing the market. The outcome is usually regrettable.

      Thanks for the comment.

  15. Absolutely agree! I’m a millennial and see too many friends with the “analysis paralysis” problem. One of my friends in particular is worried to contribute more to his 401k just because it’s more money he won’t have right now. Crazy!

  16. But but investing is scary and is gambling?!? Millennials have so much information today we do not know what to do, who to believe and it can be a daunting task. Index funds are a great place to start and if you are adventurous going into individual stocks with a specific strategy can be fun and rewarding. Hopefully we get over this fear as this industry is rapidly changing.

  17. You’re completely preaching to the converted with us JW, we know that the best way to win financially in our lives is to invest and I hope you see many more years of that on our blog.


  18. It is unfortunate that millennial are ignoring the stock market, JW. There is simply no excuse for this. Maybe fear of loss is the main psychological driver. I will write about this in my blog soon.

  19. Hey JW,

    I am a young 21 year old with a decent amount of money to invest. I wanted to buy into some Vanguard index funds for their extremely low MER, but they’ve recently taken a huge step up (especially their S&P 500 fund). Should I buy it now, while it’s on a high, predicting it’ll only go up from there within the next 20 years, or keep waiting for a drop before buying in?

    1. My philosophy has always been to invest it right away based on the long term investing horizon as well as the possibility of missing out on a continued climb.

      What I’ve been told in the past is that time in the market is more important than timing the market.

      Thanks for the question, Dan!

      1. Thanks for the answer.

        What you’re saying makes sense, but I do feel like if I buy in now I am buying them for a hefty premium. Should I dollar cost average at least? The broker I’m with doesn’t charge me commission when buying ETFs; so maybe that’s a good idea?

        1. Thank you for the question and engaging in discussion.

          If it is a large dollar amount and it gives you some comfort, you can definitely break it up and contribute it over a few trades over the next month or so. I’ve only done this on a few occasions. For example, when I sold a significant amount from my taxable brokerage account to invest in a small business, I sold index funds in a few lump sums over 6 or so weeks.

          But for most all occasions, I’ve always been a fan of making one lump contribution rather than dollar cost averaging.

          If you want to discuss any of this in more thoroughly, I’d also be open to connecting over the phone. You can reach out through the Contact page.

          Thanks so much, Dan.

  20. Thanks for your answer!

    Another quick question : I am in Canada, so Vanguard has two TSX listed S&P 500 ETF; one unhedged and one hedged. Many people seem to dislike the hedged version; do you understand why?

    1. No I’ve never heard of that before, I’ll have to look into it. I’ve always give the route of index funds instead of ETFs.

Leave a Reply