2

I am a young graduate who is 3-4 years into his job, and has just started to make enough savings from my job that I am debt free now, and hence having to look into stock market trading/investing so that my wealth doesn't lose its value over time. So I have been doing some reading and watching personal finance videos over the last 3-4 months. But then, I have this question lingering at the back of my mind - why is society made in such a way that in order to "succeed", you need to invest your money?

The thing is, I am not at all interested intrinsically in finance. But now, not only do you have to read up on finance strategies apart from your normal day job and hobbies and what not, you also need to learn the nitty gritties of the mechanism of HOW exactly to invest money. Like:

  • you need to make a demat account
  • you need to make a brokerage account
  • you need to research about brokerage firms, like Robinhood vs Interactive Brokers - each have their long list of pros and cons
  • you need to research on different laws of different countries - whether your country has any capital gains tax, and if yes, how much
  • market orders vs limit orders, long vs short, options vs stocks
  • etc etc

Some brokerages even charge you fees if you don't make enough trades every month or don't keep enough money in your account (for example, Interactive Brokers charges a "commission" of US$ 10 every month if you haven't done enough trades - I am yet to figure out how many trades is enough for them - or don't have a minimum of US$ 100,000 in your account).

The point is, you need to spend time and energy to study about all this when you aren't even interested in this stuff. I just don't like this system where you need to spend so much effort, and possibly engage in gambling (because most people do not know about value investing, they will pick stocks based on tips from friends or online influencers), to maintain the value of your money. For those who want to take risk and make more money, sure, go ahead. But the system itself, in my opinion, is awful for people who don't want to have anything to do with finance and just want to not lose the value of their money.

It's like somebody tells you, you have to dance - the better you dance, the more your money will grow; and if you don't dance, your money will keep losing its value. What does your job have anything to do with dancing? Nothing. Same with finance for me. My job or life or things I am interested in don't have anything to do with finance. You can say, don't do it if you don't want to. But that's the thing - if I don't do investing, the value of my money decreases over time due to inflation. So, I have no choice but to engage in this stuff, willingly or unwillingly, which is why our governments have mandated our employers to take 5-10% of our salary every month and put them in mutual funds, in case we don't invest more from our side, so that we don't risk becoming burdens on society later in life when we're older and not contributing to society with our services anymore.

Is this fair? Why is the system designed in such a way where everybody HAS to engage in finance and investing? I don't think there's any other thing that everyone HAS to do. The closest I can think of is having computer programming skills - engineers, biologists, physicists, etc need some programming skills, but its still not everybody (writers, builders, lawyers, etc don't need any programming knowledge to succeed in life).

Cherry on top, no school even teaches this stuff! If personal finance was going to be so important and ubiquitous in all of our lives, why did we not have classes in high school about this stuff? We had plenty of classes on things most of us never use in our day-to-day lives.

22
  • 6
    I don't think this is on-topic for this site. If you were interested in knowing easy ways to invest without having to learn much it would be answerable, but as-is it's more of a rant/critique of society that can't really be answered. As for the notion that no school even teaches this stuff, some certainly do, but I agree personal finance education is lacking. It boggles my mind how few parents think to discuss the topic with their children. – Hart CO Mar 3 at 7:06
  • 4
    There is no need to learn all the intricacies of the stock market. It is sufficient to know the basics (open a bank + brokerage account) and you can defer the remaining work to a fund manager. Just like you need to lear how to drive a car yourself and maybe learn how to change tires, but most people will not switch their transmission themselves when it is broken and get it done by a professional – Manziel Mar 3 at 7:40
  • 2
    And yes, your point about school not preparing people very well for this is definitely valid and has often been critizised. Unfortunately there are some political aspects to this: left-wing politicials tend to strongly reject the stock market, converatives often favor leaving this to professioals and banks/funds/investment corporations will advocate for paying professionals anyways in their own interest – Manziel Mar 3 at 7:43
  • 2
    Reference to demat accounts and Interactive Brokers indicates that you need to add a country code. – RonJohn Mar 3 at 8:02
  • 5
    I’m voting to close this question because "why is society made in such a way", "is this fair", and "why is the system designed in such a way" do not make for an on-topic question for this site. – AakashM Mar 3 at 10:51
12

People "need" to know about finance for the same reason they "need" to know about medicine and law. These are complex issues that directly affect everyone, and individual circumstances vary, so there is no perfect one-size-fits-all solution.

Governments in advanced societies generally try to arrange things so that most people can "get by" most of the time without deep expertise, but there will always be a payoff to taking a more sophisticated, customized approach. If enough is at stake in any of these areas, consulting a professional (financial adviser, doctor, lawyer) is advisable.

If you don't bother learning about money and investing -- just as if you don't bother learning about good health habits or the laws of your country -- you probably will still do okay thanks to intuition, human decency, and societal "guardrails" like public health and welfare programs. But your life will likely not be as full and productive as it could be, and you have an increased chance of making big mistakes.

It is a legitimate criticism that better "default" financial instruments should be available -- e.g., for retirement savings -- so that most people's needs can be better met without placing as much research burden on the individual. But again, there is no one-size-fits-all solution: Different people have different tolerance for taking risk in hopes of higher return (an inherent, inescapable tradeoff).

You can reach a perfectly adequate level of financial competence just by following a few rules that fit on an index card. Optimizing beyond that (with complications like the ones you mention) is for those who enjoy it, or have enough assets to be worth hiring a professional.

1
  • 4
    +1 because it actually takes the question seriously instead of attacking the OP. – R.K. Mar 3 at 10:26
4

I'm inclined to vote to close this question because, like most "why" questions, the answer is irrelevant. But, since I disagree with the necessity of most of the issues you assert in your question, here we go...

Yes, you need to choose a bank. You chose the bank(s) you already use, was that some horrible undue burden? All you need to know is fees; in this day and age there are plenty of no fee brokerages, Fidelity, Vanguard, Schwab, TD Ameritrade, E-Trade etc. I'd steer clear of the "fin-tech" startups like Robinhood, you don't need anything they're selling. You can call one of the big brokers and talk to a staff investment advisor if you want, for free, and that beats the hell out of some AI service chat-bot.

You don't care about trading because you're just going to put your money in to a low cost mutual fund or ETF like SPY, VOO, SWPPX or the like. You don't care about options, you don't care about short positions, you don't care about volatility, you don't care about EBITDA, you don't care about daily volume. You don't need to care what Japan's tax laws are unless you live there, you only care about your country's tax laws.

You're going to open an account at Schwab for free, you're going to transfer money for free, and you're going to buy shares of SCHB for free. SCHB charges you a completely trivial $3 per year per $10,000 invested in expenses. If this utterly trivial amount of money is too much to bear, you can go to Fidelity and buy a mutual fund like FZROX with a zero percent expense ratio. This is the investing advice of Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, buy a low cost broad market index fund.

You don't need YouTube investment gurus telling you to hold the line on gamestonk or some penny stock they bought in one of their many play money account TD Ameritrade accounts to brag about gaining +1,000% today. You don't even need to pay attention to the markets.

Thank the politicians and supply side fiscal stimulus for near and sub zero interest rates which are completely decoupled from risk and force everyone in to equity markets.

I'm not going to learn how to dance or play the guitar, but I do agree that high-school kids should learn about compound interest before they sign student loans. Almost all of your question is irrelevant to a successful retirement. You don't need to watch 4 months of investing videos on YouTube to go to Vanguard, open a free account and buy shares of VOO for free.

Whether or not you should be putting money in the market is a personal decision, maybe you're better off in a politician suppressed 0.5% savings account if you're saving for a house. But once you've decided you can invest some money for the long term, like retirement, it's pretty easy to go to a big national discount broker and buy a low cost index fund that they all advertise. Additionally, if you're in the US and your employer offers a 401(k), they're required to offer access to an investment advisor, talk to that person.

Almost everyone has to learn how to drive and cook too. I'm never going to be a chef but I learned how to feed myself.

10
  • 2
    You're making a mountain out of a mole hill. How? Fidelity, and all the rest, have a phone number with people standing by to walk you through everything. I literally didn't use the word safe. You're just asking a new question now. There are plenty of people who can't stomach constant asset repricing and don't invest in stocks, you wouldn't be alone in not participating. But if you had been investing $1,000 each month since 2007 you would have a very large pile of wealth right now including the various selloffs. – quid Mar 3 at 7:49
  • 2
    @Kristada673 "doesn't mean that that's the best way to do things" as I suspected, yours is an ideological question. "if I don't learn driving myself, I don't lose anything". That all depends on where you live; in 99% of the US (excluding only New York City, and maybe Chicago), it's a serious penalty. – RonJohn Mar 3 at 8:18
  • 1
    @Kristada673 >>>As someone who's not interested in finance, and has worked hard to earn my money, I don't want to see it decrease even for a minute. I am not interested in gambling.<<< Unfortunately this is not possible. If you stuff all your money under a matress it will not decrease in amount but in value due to inflation, so you are losing money. If you put it in a bank account you may even get some interest on it but - again - not as much as the inflation rate. The only way to outperform inflation is taking risk, whether you like it or not – Manziel Mar 3 at 8:55
  • 3
    What alternative do you propose? Inflation is a fact of life. Everybody likes to get a pay raise and companies have to increase their prices to keep their margin. Simple as that. And life is inherently risky. You can get run over by a car, get infected by a deadly virus, fall down the stairs, you name it. Why should finance be different to life? – Manziel Mar 3 at 9:23
  • 2
    @Kristada673 I can appreciate not being thrilled about inflation eating away at nominal savings, but I doubt you'd be thrilled with an indefinite zero-inflation environment either. You're entitled to your perspective, but society isn't exactly "forcing" inflation to happen (country dependent, to some extent) and so isn't "forcing" you to deal with finance; it's more like society providing options to deal with inflation which happens anyways. Society doesn't force you to live under a roof, but if you want to stay dry in the rain you may prefer to even if roofs aren't zero-effort affairs. – Upper_Case Mar 3 at 15:48
2

you need to make a demat account

Only in some countries.

you need to make a brokerage account

It's not that hard. Honest.

you need to research about brokerage firms, like Robinhood vs Interactive Brokers - each have their long list of pros and cons

How much do you research before making large, important purchases?

you need to research on different laws of different countries - whether your country has any capital gains tax, and if yes, how much

I sure haven't researched the tax laws of any country other than my own. And Google makes it trivial to research my own country's rules regarding capital gains tax.

market orders vs limit orders, long vs short, options vs stocks

Mutual funds were developed to solve this exact problem.

The point is, you need to spend time and energy to study about all this when you aren't even interested in this stuff.

Again, this is why mutual funds were developed.

Bottom line: your question is little more than an ill-informed rant about not being able to magically make your money grow without effort.

7
  • Again, wrong. My question is not about "being able to magically make your money grow without effort". In fact, I expressly wrote that I am not interested in growing my money. All I am interested in is that my money should not lose value - if I have $100 today, it should be worth $100 after 10 minutes, or tomorrow, or 10 years from now, or 100 years from now. – Kristada673 Mar 3 at 8:18
  • 1
    @Kristada673 then ask Economics.SE why banks don't pay interest which keeps up with inflation, instead of what you did ask us. – RonJohn Mar 3 at 8:20
  • 2
    @Kristada673 or ask Economics.SE "why inflation" at all, and ask Politics.SE why we can't all be happy Socialists in a command economy which has no inflation because the government says so. – RonJohn Mar 3 at 8:22
  • Hmmm, you seem to be the kind of person who, if you were in the 1800s and someone asked you, "isn't slavery bad?", you'd reply, "go ask the govt why they allow it then". Again, just because something is the way it is, doesn't make it clear to us beginners why that's the way it should be. And instead of explaining, if you can only come up with rude retorts, maybe you can choose to just ignore this post and move on to other posts? – Kristada673 Mar 3 at 8:27
  • 2
    @Kristada673 if what you really want to know is, "my money should not lose value - if I have $100 today, it should be worth $100 after 10 minutes, or tomorrow, or 10 years from now, or 100 years from now" (which is a perfectly valid question), then money.stackexchange.com/q/137217/22266 is the wrong question to ask. You need to ask Economics.SE "why inflation?" – RonJohn Mar 3 at 8:30
2

One could argue that you have already answered the question yourself:

You can say, don't do it if you don't want to. But that's the thing - if I don't do investing, the value of my money decreases over time due to inflation. So, I have no choice but to engage in this stuff, willingly or unwillingly [...]

You say the fact that there is inflation "leaves you no choice" other than to "engage in this stuff". This indicates that for you, the reason to get involved in investing is that the price you pay otherwise due to inflation is too high. This is a very subjective perception which cannot be fully objectively justified. The only situation in which virtually everyone would agree with you is a hyperinflation.

In most western countries inflation rates are low - in fact, many (even wealthy) people do leave their savings on bank accounts where they are subject to inflation. For them, the (perceived) cost resulting from that slow devaluation is not so high that they feel forced to think about investing, in contrast to you.

The question whether inflation as such is required for the (global) economy to work is rather scientific and hence much less subjective - it has already been discussed several times in this forum (use the search field).

1

There is of course an ideological aspect to this. People who are critical of some of the excesses of capitalism see the stock market as a casino where the rich gamble with the livelihoods of the common working people. If you make the stock market seem like something that is accessible and beneficial to the common person, then you defuse this criticism.

But there's no need to buy into this if you don't want to. If you're not interested in finance, invest in something else, like real estate. By a small flat and turn it into an air-bnb. Move into larger accomodation and rent it out partially. Buy, renovate and sell a house in your spare time. Choose something that sounds like a fun project to you.

Or invest in things you know and care about. If you're an amateur guitar player, look at the market for vintage and rare guitars and amps, and buy stuff that will be fun to use, and will gain value over time. Turn a hobby into something that is also an investment.

Or invest your money in education that will make your career more lucrative and fullfilling in the long run. You don't have to take the narrow view that "investing" means trading financial products. Invest in your future. Invest in your quality of life.

2
  • The same people would probably have an ideological problem with investing in real estate in the current market. It's not gambling, it's closer to extortion, which is even worse. (unless you buy it for the purpose of living in it) – user253751 Mar 3 at 17:00
  • (If you can come up with an actual business that generates something useful that people pay for, that's probably the most ethical way to invest, but also the most difficult) – user253751 Mar 3 at 17:01

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.