As a three-time Olympic gold medalist, Ryan Murphy's main focus has always been swimming. But growing up, investing was a common dinner table topic as well. His mother has a master's degree in math, his father was a CPA, and his grandfather has a Ph.D. in math.
"When we get together for the family holidays, it's definitely a nerdy crowd," he says. "The stock talk was definitely a big topic of conversation."
From a young age, Murphy would walk by the "adult" table and hear his parents and grandparents talking about stocks. At the time, he thought it was "stupid" and "boring." But as he got older, his interest in investing grew. "You kind of become what your parents are and what your influences push you towards, and so I really got into investing," he says.
Murphy credits growing up around "stock talk" with helping him shake some of the nerves around investing and start building a portfolio his senior year of college. Here are his three tips for how to invest successfully.
"I do really go back to those holiday talks with my dad and grandpa. My grandpa specifically," he says. "I think I was like 12 years old and I was like, 'You know what, I'm gonna sit down at the big boys' table and I'm gonna listen to their finance talks and and see what I can learn.'"
It's from his grandfather that Murphy learned to pick stocks by looking at a company's balance sheets and publicly accessible data like quarterly and annual reports. It's a technique value investors like Warren Buffett use to find investments to buy and hold.
"You look at their financial statements, you read that through, and if it's a strong balance sheet and you like a company and where everything's heading, then you hold it, don't look at it for a couple months," he says.
Athletic training requires the creation of long-term plans to be successful. "I sit down with my coaches at the beginning of the season and say, 'OK, one year from now, we want to be here,'" he says.
The same principle applies to investing, Murphy points out. You consider your goal and work backward: "How do we get there? Where do we invest?"
Planning for a goal months or years out helps you break it down into more manageable pieces. Over a career, for example, saving as little as $95 per paycheck could make you a 401(k) millionaire by retirement.
Video by Courtney Stith
Adopting a long-term mindset, as Murphy does, can also help you create a plan you can stick with even when the market gets rough. It's also import to understand that while the stock market does experience up and downs, that doesn't mean you need to pull your money out.
Mark La Spisa, a certified financial planner and president of Vermillion Financial Advisors in South Barrington, Illinois, told Grow he likes to show first-time investors something called the Ibbotson chart. This chart shows the hypothetical value of a dollar invested in the market since 1926. Investors can see bumps and drops, along with subsequent market recoveries — and a steady upward trend.
"They will usually find that the market over the last 90 to 100 years has performed in a negative way 25% of the time and positive 75% of the time," he said.
Murphy likens market fluctuations to training: Just because he has a couple bad days doesn't mean he quits. "The ups and downs of the market are similar to the ups and downs in the pool," he says. "For me, I got great practices and I got terrible practices, but I keep on coming back because I feel like, overall, the average is steadily improving."
If you do your research, create a long-term plan, and ride out the market's rough patches, investing can be the key to building wealth.
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