The Report: Can you give us a little background on your education and what got you into investing?
Nicole: I graduated in 2004 from the University of Florida. I was a biology major and now work in corporate communications. I got into investing as a kid when my parents opened a savings account and I realized that I could make more money by saving up and collecting the interest. What got me into more investing in stocks, though, was when I saw that the stock market had fallen so much and I thought that there could be an opportunity just like how people made lots of money in the boom after the 1980s recession.
The Report: So you had no formal education in finance or business and didn't work on Wall Street?
Nicole: I took a college math class that involved some finance, but that was all. I lived in Florida my entire life.
The Report: You made $30,000 in two years. How did you do it?
Nicole: People sold out of their stocks during the recession and I think the average person kept hearing on TV about the bad things the Wall Street bankers were doing and about how the economy was terrible. I felt like it might be a chance to make some money.
The Report: How did you know what stocks to buy?
Nicole: I felt like the successful companies would be ones that kept people buying during the recession. People cut back on travel and eating out so I avoided airlines and food companies. But I saw that iPods and iPhones were flying off the shelves. So I took around $5,000 and bought shares of Apple stock at around $100 in 2008. I also noticed people were getting more into being fit and exercising, and Lululemon was a company that fit into that boost and so I bought shares in 2009 for $8 a share. I sold off at $85. I've made some mistakes, though, and taken some losses, but overall I've made money.
The Report: You oct-tupled your money on a stock?!
Nicole: I did. I bought 250 shares at $8. That cost around $2,000 and then when it hit $85 I sold it and the profit there was $15,000. Apple I sold off at $200 a share, so I made $5,000 on it. I should have kept it, because I could be up over $10,000 that way.
The Report: Why do you think many Americans look at Wall Street as evil and blame economic problems on big banks?
Nicole: Investing can be scary. A couple months after buying Apple, the shares were down over 10%. I held onto the shares thinking it would go up later. Really, I should have bought even more. What Americans need to do is read into investing and learn what they can do. Watch CNBC and FOX Business Network. Read the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times. Look at the public reports companies file. Our government forces public companies to file reports and you can get them on the internet and learn about the company's finances. Wall Street bankers are making money while you're sitting back missing out, so instead of missing out get into investing.
The Report: Some say President Obama is weakening the dollar and that sends gold higher and stocks lower. Do you agree?
Nicole: I bought gold when we were seeing a price of $1,000 an ounce and I still have the gold investment. I could make a profit of over $400 an ounce right now. Barack Obama doesn't seem committed to stopping it. However, the economy is recovering and so my strategy is to have stocks and to have gold because I think both will go higher.
The Report: Many of the big Wall Street investors are able to buy thousands or millions of shares. How can an average American have an advantage without lots of money?
Nicole: One strategy that I started to use last June was options. You basically pay a fee to control 100 shares and have the arrangement to be able to buy the 100 shares in the future at an expiration date and a set price. A stock that costs $50 a share, 100 shares would be $5,000. But if you can pay 10 cents a share for the right to buy that stock at $51 in 3 months, and the stock goes up to $52, you'll make a 90 cent profit on the 100 shares. That's $90 in profit without having to put up the $5,000 for the stock. So using options lets you control a lot more in terms of shares with less money.
The Report: You suggested we title this post "bulls make money, bears make money." Why?
Nicole: One of the shows I watch is Mad Money with Jim Cramer. There was a phrase he says of "bulls make money, bears make money, pigs get slaughtered." It means that you can make money when the market goes up, make money when it goes down, but if you are greedy you'll lose.
The Report: Gordon Gekko tells us greed is good. But greed will make you lose money?
Nicole: It certainly can. A stock that you buy for $10 goes up to $15. You could sell it and profit $5. But if you get greedy thinking it'll go to $18 and you can make $3 more a share, you'll might end up a loser if the stock falls instead of going up. It's better to take a small profit than a small loss when you invest.
The Report: What do you say to those who claim that Wall Street is a sham, rigged so that the rich get richer. Have you heard of Michael Moore's war on Wall Street and capitalism?
Nicole: I don't listen to Michael Moore because I don't think he understands how the world works. Wall Street isn't a sham. It's just that people think it's too complicated or too elite for them when it's really not. You don't need millions or billions of dollars to make money.
The Report: What was your biggest loss in investing?
Nicole: I bought 300 shares of Borders for over $4 a share and the company went bankrupt. Had I realized book sales were shifting to online and e-readers, I would have bought Amazon stock.
The Report: What are your political leanings?
Nicole: I like a hands-off government. The American people are smart and resilient, we don't need people telling us how to run our own lives. I'm a big fan of the Tea Party movement's agenda of cutting back taxes. If people have more money due to paying less tax they can invest more into American business and make more money. In 2004 I voted for George W. Bush, but then in 2008 I voted for President Obama. I didn't think John McCain could represent younger voters as well. I'm registered as an independent.
The Report: We recently wrote about how President Obama is losing independent voter support and many who voted for him in 2008 regret it. Do you regret that vote?
Nicole: I don't. I think Barack Obama had a tough situation, but I don't agree with everything he has done. I would like to see good candidates run against him in 2012 and I will vote for whoever will be best for the nation.
The Report: Any final tips for our readers?
Nicole: Don't be afraid to invest your money. The possible gain is far more than what a savings account or savings bonds will give you. Start off small to build your confidence. That wasn't really something I did, but you can start off by buying your stocks in small lots. Something like Citigroup, 20 shares can be purchased for under $100, for example. The Wall Street bankers got rich because they weren't afraid to take risk and they invested their money into stocks while most Americans just put theirs in the bank with an interest rate so small that their money was losing value because of inflation.
The Report: Thank you for taking the time to chat with us.