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‘I couldn’t buy a house, so I invested in shares’

‘I couldn’t buy a house, so I invested in shares’

Rather than taking on an eye-watering mortgage, Madden Burns started investing with online share-trading platform Stake.

29 August 2022

We tend to think that stress is always a negative force in our lives – but a little stress can prompt us to make positive changes.

When Madden Burns was feeling left behind as her friends all bought houses, she used that stress as motivation.

She started putting money into the share market, teaching herself about investing and setting herself up for a more secure financial future.

In 2020, when she was 28, Madden and her partner realised that the property market was out of reach. They live in Sydney, where the median house price is now over A$1.5 million (NZ$1.6 million).

“We’d been saving for a deposit for a long time, and we had a big chunk of money. But we weren’t going to be able to crack the property market and buy anything we really wanted.

“A lot of my friends were buying houses with eye-watering mortgages. I think home ownership is just culturally ingrained – taking on a debt that big would really scare me.”

With a decent sum of money saved and a growing acceptance that she would be renting for the foreseeable future, Madden knew she needed to change her strategy.

Term deposits weren’t keeping up with inflation, and she wanted to make her money work harder. She started thinking that perhaps her retirement fund could come from investing in shares rather than into a mortgage.

Cutting the fees

“When Covid hit, I started to look into it. I looked at the fees and I realised I could lessen those if I did it myself.

“So, I decided to jump in and start slow. Stake has no brokerage fee on trades and the ability to buy fractional shares, so I was able to get a feel for it, buy little amounts of companies I knew, and hone my skills.”

She began by investing in Uber, Atlassian and a company specialising in solar power.

“I just had a go, and it paid off, but that was good timing, it wasn’t necessarily my expertise.”

Encouraged by this early success, she did more research and learned about the benefits of exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

She still owns her early investments, and continues to do a bit of stock-picking with individual US stocks, but puts most of her savings into ETFs.

“I’m funnelling money into ETFs religiously now with every pay packet,” she says.

“It helps me spread my risk and gives me a bit more safety for my retirement plan. I do still put money into my early shares, and I recently bought into Square and Salesforce.”

Passion for tech firms

Madden works in consulting, often with clients in the tech sector, so she’s biased towards investing in tech companies.

She mainly invests using the platform, tracking her investments using Sharesight – although it’s a struggle not to look at her balance too often.

“When the market goes through a correction it can be alarming, but I trust my long-term strategy, my research, and the fundamentals on which I’ve selected my portfolio.

“I’m just trying to be really logical and less emotional about my money.

“It doesn’t make sense from a financial perspective to buy a house; it makes much more sense to buy shares, but you have to wrap your head around it.”

When she first started investing in shares, Madden was feeling anxious about her financial future.

Always a worrier

She’s still a little worried, because the worrying is part of who she is, but she does feel more confident that she’ll be able to retire in comfort, even if she never buys a house.

“The most powerful thing about investing is it gives you control of your financial future. Getting started is the hardest part, then you are on your way to a better future.

“I’m confident I still have plenty of time on my side to not have to worry about things in 30 to 40 years’ time.”

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