LearnVestIn "How I Turned a $45 Stock Into a $65,000 Nest Egg," Victoria O'Hara told the story of how she parlayed a relative's gift of one share of stock into a sizable portfolio -- all by investing in a few shares at a time, on a postal worker's salary. O'Hara, who never went to college, has spent nearly 20 years teaching herself about investing. Here are her top lessons for any novice investors hoping to emulate her success.

1. Get a Financial Plan. Your investments should be just part of your big picture. I've always managed my own portfolio, but when it came to my finances, I consulted a Certified Financial Planner I found at LearnVest. Knowing I have a plan helps me sleep better at night.

2. A Little Goes a Long Way: Make regular investments -- monthly works for most people. And stay the course: You're investing for the long-term, so do not panic when the markets fluctuate. I built my portfolio $10 or $15 at a time.

3. Put Your Future Self First:
Your biggest financial priority should be saving for retirement, and you have to start now because most places don't offer a pension. I tell my coworkers all the time, "Put your paycheck in your retirement fund," and they say, "Oh, we're gonna go on a nice cruise!"

4. Do What Works for You: For most people, individual stocks may not be the way to go. They take patience and lots of research. I read all available company info, and I research the products and/or services before buying. I also watch the stock for about one year before I buy.

5. Buy What You Believe In: If I believe in the company and I use their products or services, then I decide whether to purchase the stock. This isn't just about making money for me, I am a conscientious investor. I have no ExxonMobil in my portfolio, because of the Exxon Valdez spill. I won't buy Walmart because they don't pay their workers enough to live. I won't buy stock in any company where I don't spend my money.

6. Invest for the Long Haul: I was really broke after 9/11 because my portfolio plummeted, and my first big investment after that was like a leap of faith. But I just let the money sit and shrink, and it grew back up on its own. The first time it went back up to over $15,000, I thought it was a mistake!

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ITATI Stocks

Hello Victoria, great tips. You mention that you are in the stock market for the long haul. A question for you: for an individual investment (be it stock, ETF, etc.), how do you determine your exit point?
Aneshia Y. Smith

July 18 2012 at 11:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply