This article is from the second issue of CommBank's magazine, Brighter.
What did you learn about money growing up?
I understood the value of financial independence quite early. Part of that came from my parents being new to Australia and running their own businesses. I was aware that you couldn’t spend more money than you had – this is a reflection of life in the ’70s and ’80s when credit was hard fought for. I also didn’t like to ask my parents for money so I was out mowing lawns, doing a paper run and working in a ski hire store.
When did you become interested in investing?
That came a little bit later for me. Enjoying financial freedom was something I took to the nth degree when I was younger. I was really focused on seeing the world while I was young.
How much risk should people take with their investments?
Create a shock absorber for yourself by working towards a nest egg of investments. I tend to be a little conservative when it comes to risk. I will occasionally set aside money to invest in something that sounds interesting and might have more volatility but I only do that because I have a solid foundation built over many years.
What are people often surprised to learn about investing?
Time is the greatest asset when it comes to investing. That’s why young people have a distinct advantage – because they have time on their side. My tip is to get started early. And get your children involved, too. I don’t think any sum is too small when you’re starting out.
What’s your best tip for investing?
For me, have patience. There’s great value in investing with a longer view. Over time, you might average eight or nine per cent as a return, without really doing anything.
What intimidates people about investing?
The language that investors use can make it sound so confusing. But look at [US business magnate] Warren Buffett. He’s universally recognised as one of the world’s most successful investors and he talks about investing in such simple terms. He recently said he doesn’t really understand iPhones but he does understand consumer behaviour, brand loyalty and the utility that iPhones have for individuals. That’s why he’s invested heavily in Apple. He sees trends and follows them.
So, you don’t need to be an expert on the companies you’re investing in?
The stock market is simply a way that you can buy a tiny slice of a big thing. You might not understand how the companies you invest in operate but you probably know their purpose out in the world. That’s why people often start with shares in companies that are established providers they trust and understand.
What can give investors an advantage?
One of the most valuable things to understand when it comes to investing is what we call inflection points or moments of change. We are right in the middle of some big turning points at the moment. For instance, we’re moving away from how the world has been powered and finding new energy sources. Artificial intelligence is something else we’re becoming a lot more familiar with. Good investors watch these trends and the companies moving in the same direction.
How much time should people put into investing?
The foundation of building wealth this way is really that you invest and leave it. Rather than worrying about how your shares are doing week by week, it’s over many years that you’ll really see the value of your investments change. Let time work in your favour. And if you opt for a dividend reinvestment plan, that saves you even more time.
And the most important first step?
You have to know why you’re investing. I always have a plan – usually looking about five years ahead – and I invest with certain goals in mind. That and just get going. Start with something small and go from there.
Got 10 minutes? Tune into Tom and fellow CommSec economists as they share their thoughts as the market opens and closes every day on CommSec Market Update. Listen wherever you get your podcasts.
Investing is risky. It’s possible you’ll lose your money. Consider if appropriate for you. For more information, go to commsec.com.au. Commonwealth Securities Limited ABN 60 067 254 399 AFSL 238814 (CommSec) is a wholly owned but non-guaranteed subsidiary of the bank.
Story by Brooke Le Poer Trench. Photography by Julie Adams.
Read more articles from Brighter magazine.