I was really hoping to live and die without witnessing the Eagles win a Super Bowl, but in the silver linings playbook was their Meek Mill rap anthem. The players celebrated to it in the locker room, muscular black men bouncing and flexing to a beat. I found the scene platonically arousing and looked up the song.
Since then, I’ve listened to “Dreams and Nightmares” hundreds of times on loop. This is more of an estimation than exaggeration. Something about the crescendoing sound and sporadic words I can decipher helps me focus while banging out tedious emails at work or even a good chunk of this blog.
So I loop it and sink into a productive rhythm. Forty straight minutes of this 4-minute song in my earbuds is not uncommon. One or two sessions a day, call it 10 per week, and that’s 100 loops right there.
It’s a surprising volume of repetition, considering I can’t even rap along to it because almost every line contains the n-word or f-bomb, and I refuse to sully a vocabulary that hasn’t eroded much since its SAT studying peak. Why would I say those words? It’s like I tell my wife when daring her to cheat: Why would you go out for Taco Bell when you have filet mignon at home?
Not so surprisingly, I discovered the album was released 6 years ago. That’s right in line with my average lag time when it comes to pop culture. I got really into the Goo Goo Dolls in my 20s and only started Game of Thrones last year.
I came into work wearing a sick Nautica shirt on a casual Friday and was legitimately bullied over it. People were derisively pondering the last time they saw anyone wearing the brand. Since when did it stop being cool? I always thought of Nautica as preppy but active, elegant but populist, something like the Chipotle of apparel.
Whatever. I have a more interesting and consequential extension of pop culture in mind. Jay-Z recently invested in a stock trading app called Robinhood. It launched in 2013, but I don’t hear peers mention it much.
I feel ahead of the curve on this one. My wife and I played around with the app a while back, although I only downloaded it for myself this month.
My work spouse, a former Deloitte consultant who’s sat next to me for 4 years in three offices, inspired me to take a serious look at Robinhood. The two of us really are married between the hours of 9 and 6. We walked into HR with a question about the company 401(k) and kept finishing each other’s sentences to the point where I felt the need to clarify we have separate accounts.
However, the work spouse seems less than enthused about my hybrid trading-investing thesis with Robinhood. I think he just cares about me and doesn’t want me to lose money. My strategy does sound unusual, I’ll admit:
Sell stocks for more than you paid for them.
I’m fairly confident you will come out ahead doing this, but of course the question is how. I propose picking safe stocks that fluctuate daily while rising in the medium and long term, like Amazon and Google. Go with a Vanguard ETF if you want to be more diversified, although there will be less action.
Set buy and sell limits within a reasonable range, and stay patient enough to catch the bounces. Put in the limit order and then forget about it, so you’re not tempted to panic or chase. I imagine it’s how the volume shooters play Tinder. Make the offer and then assume nothing is going to happen until it does.
This is kind of like day trading but with a flexible time horizon and no leverage. It might be hours or days before my limit orders go through. I don’t care. I lack the time, expertise and interest to react to every swing anyway. As long as I set attainable targets and give them time to be hit, gains will accumulate.
As a scalable proof of concept, I peeled off a five-figure sum from my savings account that currently is masquerading as a down payment fund in a housing market where a million dollars might get you 1200 square feet in need of renovation. After only five trading days, I was up $1500, fully liquid in cash, waiting to buy into Alibaba at a lower entry point.
Now, that $1500 isn’t life-changing and will probably be taxed like Skittles at a fat camp. But had I left the same amount in my savings account, the return would have been half as much over a full year. The bank compensates me with a rounding error while doing who knows what with my life savings, probably starting the next recession with that stunning combination of avarice and incompetence.
What I’m really enamored with, beyond the better use of my principal, is the better principle of Robinhood. The app doesn’t exactly steal from the rich and give to the poor or level the playing field by any stretch of the most fanciful imagination. But it does democratize access a bit.
Although I often lean toward smaller government and taxes, wealth inequality in this country is obscene by any measure. Think about how the rich get richer. They’re not counting down the days to every other Friday for the next paycheck. The gap grows because they own stuff that magically adds value, namely stocks and real estate.
Robinhood lets the little people have a taste. Its salient feature from my perspective is zero-commission trades, rather than taking $5-10 every time you buy and sell.
The platform is significantly more limited than the big brokerages in terms of tools, features, options and information. But all that weight is paralyzing for small-scale investors like me. A dumbed-down version is more practical than an experience too cumbersome to start.
Trading account minimums for a minimalist user interface, Robinhood removes barriers to entry. It might be too simplistic for a power player, but it makes an intimidating thing simple for everyone else.
To some extent, Robinhood demystifies the stock market. I just want to buy and sell, bro. Reminiscent of Uber and PayPal, my new favorite app feels like a power shift to the consumer with its transparency, pricing and frictionless transactions.
I sound like a brochure, but all I really want to advertise is how hip I am with this Jay-Z app about to blow up. Maybe next time you make fun of my Nautica boot cut jeans, I won’t be able to hear you over Meek’s rhymes blaring in my new car:
When I bought the Rolls Royce they thought it was leased
Then I bought that new Ferrari, hater rest in peace
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