Updated: Oct 1, 2020
My dad taught me how to mow my lawn the summer after seventh grade. 2 months later, I had my first grass cutting customer and I mowed his lawn every week for the rest of the summer. Just before turning 14 I had started my first business and got a taste of being my own boss. I quickly realized entrepreneurship was for me.
I learned a lot more than how to keep a lawn looking good that summer. I received rudimentary lessons on how to acquire customers, negotiate, and have a strong work ethic. I got my first customer after one of my neighbors moved in and I quickly knocked on their door asking if they would like their lawn mowed. They surprisingly told then 13 years old me "yes", and I used my parents' mower to get to business. After I was finished, my neighbor came out to me with $30 in cash and I was amazed to see they were paying me that much for an hour of work.
When I went back home my dad mentioned that he had just paid for the gas used to mow the neighbor's lawn. 13-year-old Ben had not considered startup costs, and I was worried that I would have to buy my own mower... with very little money... Luckily, my dad proposed a deal: I would continue mowing our own lawn every week for free, and he would cover gas costs and allow me to continue using the family mower for my business. I figured that was a fair deal (I wasn't being paid to mow my own lawn anyways) and I continued to mow lawns and acquire more customers.
Throughout high school, I continued mowing my neighbors' lawns for $30-40 each and it was great money for a teenager. Being that I was not paying for living expenses, I really only had to spend money when I was hanging out with my friends (and gas money when I was older). My parents helped me set up a savings account in my local bank and I began depositing cash every week. I loved waiting for my account statement every month and watching my account grow. After a few years, I had a few thousand dollars saved up and it really was more than I knew what to do with.
A turning point for me was my freshman year of high school when I watched the movie, Wolf of Wall Street. As any 14-year-old boy would, I loved that movie and decided I needed to start investing in stocks. I first went to my mother and she pointed me towards E*Trade and helped me set up a custodial account (meaning it was really under her name, but I had the power to make trades). She then got me a book, The Motley Fool's Investment Guide for Teens: 8 Steps to Having More Money than Your Parents Ever Dreamed Of by David Gardner and Tom Gardner. It is an amazingly informative book and I strongly recommend it to anyone looking to get started investing regardless of your age. It gave me my first real insight into the investing and stock-picking world and taught me to invest in companies that I knew about and used their products. I then looked over at my PS3 and bought my first few shares of Sony trading at $17 apiece. (Clearly, an investing wiz from day 1). The book also introduced me to index fund investing, but unfortunately, I did not give that the respect it deserves until a few years later.
I was fortunate enough to learn about investing from an early age compared to the majority of people who wait until they begin their careers. This has given me a huge leg up on the average American and I hope that the readers of this blog decide to get started ASAP. I hope to provide you with the knowledge that I have gained over the last couple of years from hundreds of books and articles so that you may get started early as well. This is how you can become financially free early on and enjoy the best years of your life rather than spend them in a claustrophobic cubicle.
P.S. If 14 year old me can get invested in the stock market, I promise that you can too.