BY VERCHIE TOTANES
It was out of chance that I discovered the stock market.
I was 17 and had just finished high school. College was still a few months away and I had nothing much to do.
I passed the time by reading a book where some Canadian kids raised money through something called the “stock exchange”. Though we highly don’t recommend raising school project funds through stocks, it was exciting for me to think that such a thing called the “stock exchange” even existed. I asked my older brother if there was a stock exchange in the Philippines and I was delighted when he told me there was. I started asking him a LOT of questions and, through my enthusiasm, was eventually introduced to one of his friends – Aya Laraya.
I asked him the usual questions about Aya:
“How do you know her?”
“What does she do?”
My brother told me, “LALAKI si Aya!”
It was the start of the Asian Financial Crisis and was a sad and dull time for stockbrokers like Aya. At that time there were only a few active investors in the stock market due to the gloom and doom claimed by all the newspaper headlines.
Of course, I didn’t allow gloom and doom to stop me! I bravely invested my small investing budget. And watched the value of my stocks go down…down…down…
For a time, life became sad and dull for me too. Thankfully I didn’t have to go through it alone.
I visited Aya in his Ortigas office everyday during the early weeks of summer, bombarding him with questions. Strangely, he patiently entertained and answered all my questions.
“What is a stock?”
“Why did the market go down/up today?”
He just loved to teach, even ignorant kids like me who had no “real” money to invest.
There was no online trading then so I would receive hard copies of my stock transactions which showed a breakdown of the taxes, fees, and commission of the broker (Aya). I remember thinking how Aya made a living earning from the less than P100 commission he got from my transactions.
It took years for me to realize that he actually had OTHER clients with transactions worth MILLIONS per day. My transactions were less than P5000. I realized that he was just being nice to me. I still cringe with embarrassment when I recall the times I may have been so demanding!
I discovered the market when I was 17, and looking back now, that was the best time for me to lose money. I was still young and only had myself to take care of. Though I lost 80% of my investment at that time of crisis, I didn’t have much to lose.
I realized that the best time to fail is while you’re young.
I was very fortunate to have an expert like Aya guiding me through the basics. Although I was impatient at times, I am grateful for all that I’ve learned, and I’m grateful that I learned them all the hard way.
Flash forward to today, I still lose money in the stock market now, but I do a bit better and make some money too.
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