20 September 2021

FMA investor profile - Carren Stuart

This month, rest home caregiver and FMA Facebook community member Carren Stuart describes her transition from a burnt 1980s share buyer into an empowered 2020s DIY investing platform user.

Carren Stuart is living proof that investing isn’t just for the young and wealthy.

At 61, the part-time rest home caregiver lives in her caravan in a South Island holiday park – a decision to “live the simple life” that’s allowed her to build an investment portfolio now worth over $22,000.

“I’ve achieved more in the last two years than ever before in my life,” Carren says. And that’s after a rather wobbly start.

Like many older Kiwis, Carren’s investing journey began during the 1980s sharemarket boom.

“I knew nothing about investing or the sharemarket, and literally had no clue what I was doing.”

Then came the 1987 Crash: “Lesson learned – no more shares for me. Or so I thought at the time.”

It wasn’t for another 29 years – 2016 – that Carren started thinking about investing again.

“By then I was divorced and my kids had all ‘flown the nest’. I’d given up my full-time job and was working part-time as a rest home caregiver. I’d been unable to get back into property after my divorce, so was stuck in the rent trap and getting nowhere financially.”

So in 2018, she made a decision to “live the simple life”. And it’s this decision, she says, that’s allowed her to build an investment portfolio that’s now worth over $22,000.

She bought 1000 shares in a NZ listed investment company, and nothing more for two years.

The game-changer was the advent of online investing platforms.

“My low income at the time, combined with high brokerage fees, made it impossible for me to expand my investing further. But in May 2019 I discovered Sharesies, which has made it possible for someone like me to get back to investing, with low fees and the ability to make very small, regular investments.”

Carren’s first purchase was $50 of units in an exchange traded fund (ETF).

“Since then, I’ve added five companies to my portfolio, which has grown from around $2,000 to just over $22,000 today. I’m currently investing $150 a fortnight into five holdings.”

“I look to invest in solid companies that will still be around in 10, 20 years. I’m not interested in trying to time the market, or day trading. I’m not looking to sell any of my current holdings either (providing they continue to meet my investment requirements), and have no plans to add any further holdings right now.”

“They provide me with good global and sector diversification. Most pay dividends and offer DRP [Dividend Reinvestment Plans], and three also provide the opportunity to take advantage of regular warrants issues.”

Carren says whereas her first two bouts of share-buying were based solely on friends’ recommendations, these days she does her homework: investing forums, company websites, investment newsletters.

“I prefer to invest in companies that provide a product or service that I am personally interested in, and can understand… I do my homework, follow my gut, make a decision and don’t second guess myself.”

“If I ever have any ‘extra’ income, such as a tax return, I generally invest at least a portion of that into my portfolio. I reinvest all dividends.”

Carren also has KiwiSaver, in a balanced fund, and has recently started investing for her five grandchildren, who range in age from seven months to 11 years.

“I’m putting a small amount in each fortnight. I sat down with the older three children and explained what I am doing and the basics of investing. They are excited and eager, and happy for me to buy shares for them in lieu of birthday and Christmas gifts. At the end of each month, I print a screenshot of their portfolios and send it to them, so they can see how their money is growing, bit by bit.”

Despite her success to date, Carren still considers herself “a beginner who still has much to learn.”

“I will never be rich, and to be honest, I have no desire to be. All I’m trying to achieve is additional financial security for my retirement. My money is now working for me, rather than languishing in the bank.”

“I was very late to the investing 'party' but the one thing I have learned over the past two years is that it is never too late to start.”

“This would be my number one piece of advice to anyone considering investing: Just start.”

*The views and opinions expressed above are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views or official position of the FMA.

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