By Je’Don Holloway Talley
For The Birmingham Times
Investing for LaToya Irby is simple: make your money work for you, not the other way around.
“That could mean investing in stocks or other assets that increase in price over time,” Irby said. “Or it could mean investing in a stock or business that pays you dividends, [the distribution of some of a company’s earnings to a class of its shareholders]. Basically, you earn the money, then put it into something that can generate more money. … Reinvesting your earnings helps you grow your money even faster.”
Irby and others have noticed that millennials are paying more attention to financial markets, and they credit social media platforms for bringing investing mainstream, “especially [via] Instagram and TikTok,” said Irby. “Young adults are talking about it more, showing the value, and showing how easy it is to get started.”
Plainly put, investing is simply making your money work for you by putting your money into investments that either appreciate (increase in value) or generate passive income (require minimal labor to earn and maintain).
Irby is a finance guru who regularly talks about finance, credit, business, and money management on her social media platforms, as well as those of her clients. She also is the marketing director for HealPay, a payment processing software company located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and a contract content creator for several businesses.
The University of Alabama (UA) alum, 38, said stocks of almost every major company are attainable by the everyday investor.
“Some platforms even allow people to purchase fractional shares. So, if you want to invest in a stock that’s priced at $400 but have only $100, you can purchase one fourth of a share. Actual returns vary depending on the company and the economy,” she explained, pointing out some blue chip stocks, in particular, have doubled this year over last.
Blue-chip stocks are typically [those of] established, stable businesses that might not be setting growth records but are financially sound. Blue-chip stocks are favorites of low-risk investors—individuals who may want to participate in some stock market gains, but not risk the farm to do so. These companies often pay dividends, too.
Irby, who currently lives in Homewood, Alabama, got started in the stock industry in 2006 with a $100 investment that she “doubled and earned an average of 9 percent per year before selling her shares 11 years later.”
She added, “I knew the benefits of investing, how it helps you grow your money and reach your retirement goals faster.”
In 2017, Irby started investing in the stock market monthly through the Robinhood app, which makes investing easier, fun, and more accessible with commission-free trades from a smartphone.
“That is what really got me committed,” Irby said. “Plus, that moment was a time in my life where I got really serious about my life goals in general.”
Poor Money Management
Irby said she wanted to learn from her history of poor money management. After graduating from UA, she was denied approval for an apartment.
“They told me I had a charge-off on my credit report, so [they couldn’t] approve me,” she recalled. “That really had me floored because I had no idea that that was a thing. I was thinking that my salary should have counted for something.”
This setback set her on path to understanding credit scoring and debt-to-income ratio, as well as developing positive financial behaviors. Irby, then 22, was a systems analyst for a Fortune 25 company, so finding errors was her forte, and discovering the source of her financial troubles was easy—she was the problem.
“I was running out of money all of the time,” Irby said. “I’m thinking, ‘I have this great salary, so there’s no reason I shouldn’t have more money than I have.’ That made me take a detailed look at how I was spending my money.”
Irby then pulled her bank summary and credit report. “I copied and pasted [my bank summary] into an Excel spreadsheet and created categories. I added up all the categories and saw that I was spending so much money on food, clothes, and dining out,” she said. “That really highlighted what my spending habits were and the importance of setting a budget. Before that, I didn’t know anything about budgeting. I was making too much money to not have money, and I [felt like] I needed to do something about it.”
Irby realized that a rash decision to quit a part-time job during her last semester of college had lasting consequences.
“I fell behind on some credit card payments and, [at the time], had no idea about credit, credit reporting, and credit scoring,” she said. “I had no idea that any of that existed until I got denied for that apartment.”
Irby’s research inspired her to become more knowledgeable about credit, how it works, and the impact it can have. She learned by making mistakes and reading lots of books.
“I did a lot of research on the internet, reading the laws on credit, credit agreements, loan agreements, and lending to understand what protections we had as consumers,” she said. “[I wanted to] understand how different financial products worked.”
That led Irby to write extensively about credit for several years, authoring articles and content on credit scoring and personal finance for outlets like MyFico.com and TheBalance.com. She also has been a guest on talk radio from Arizona to Florida.
While helping others get their finances in order, Irby monitors her investments frequently.
“I enjoy reading business, finance, and economic news, and overall staying on top of what’s going on so I can make better investment decisions,” she said.
Irby explained that there are several ways to invest and trade—and now it’s easier than ever to get started via platforms like Robinhood, Webull, E-Trade, TD Ameritrade, Vanguard, Stash, and Acorns.
“They all have different benefits, services, and account types available,” she said. “When you’re choosing a platform, you want to consider whether you need certain tax-advantaged retirement accounts and if you want access to an advisor, for instance.”
DISCLAIMER — The Birmingham Times does not offer financial advice. The content in these articles is for informational and educational purposes only and merely cites the opinions of the sources quoted herein. In order to make the best financial decision that suits your own needs, you must conduct your own research and seek the advice of a licensed financial advisor if necessary. All investments involve some form of risk and there is no guarantee that you will be successful in making, saving, or investing money, nor is there any guarantee that you will not experience any loss when investing.