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by Lauren Silverman
I've been ducking and dodging the unfamiliar economic terms since the first financial bailout was announced, hoping phrases like "credit default swaps" and "short selling" might disappear. Well, they haven't; in fact, those pesky financial terms are showing up everywhere from Vanity Fair to Star Magazine (although Star chose to talk not about lost assets, but lost "cashola").
I can't escape the terms, so I decided to stand up and make an interception. I started my financial self-education this way: typing questions into Google. Surprisingly, this proved fairly successful--I learned that a hedge fund is basically an exclusive mutual fund, and that short-selling is essentially borrowing stocks and selling them in the hopes that you will be able to rebuy them when their price goes down. And to commit these terms to memory, I made flash cards on things like price to earnings ratios.
Then I took the next step in my game plan and registered for a free online trading account at www.up-down.com. The site gives players a million dollars to virtually invest and practice trading techniques.
Despite the fact that it’s not real money, I find myself being extremely cautious buying just 20 shares at a time. So far, I’ve only invested 15 thousand dollars - mostly in things like alternative energy hoping to cash in on the promises of President Barack Obama. But the last time I checked my daily digest, I saw a lot of red and I know that’s a bad sign. The only stock that was up was a solar company. I keep trying to think of innovative investment ideas – things other people may overlook – like manufacturers of insulation and double paned windows. But many of those companies are either private, or behemoths that cut across sectors. So I’m sticking with predictable companies, and getting trounced like everyone else.
I also signed up for a free 30-day practice account with Advanced Currency Markets, a foreign exchange dealer, and got a call from one of their representatives ten hours later to "follow up with my interest." I'm guessing they don't have too many people signing up for their services right now. Which scared me enough to tell them to take me off their list.
Months ago, I hardly knew what NASDAQ was; today, I'm a bit stock-market obsessed.
The financial crisis has been disastrous for the majority of Americans, and there's no doubt that it has slimmed down my wallet. My regular babysitting gigs have dried up now that parents are choosing Netflix over the theater.
On the plus side, the meltdown has fattened up my stock-market knowledge. Hopefully, the time I have invested in educating myself and playing online stock trading games will pay off--even if only with virtual money. You don't actually think I'm crazy enough to put one penny into the REAL stock market??