When I climbed into the backseat of my Uber, mask uncomfortably affixed to my face, I buckled my seatbelt and relaxed in for what I expected to be a short ride with perhaps some idle chit chat about the weather or traffic. Instead, I got a 15-minute Investing 101 course.
The advice he presented was full of potholes and stops signs that he just blew on past. Luckily, the actual drive-through DFW traffic was much smoother.
How the conversation started
I hopped into the back of his white sedan as he was finishing up a phone call. He must have had a headset on because I could only hear his side of the conversation. A few minutes later, he was off the call and already quizzing me about the apartment complex I live in.
“Are these apartments?” Like many people, he initially assumed they were townhomes or condos. I explained to him that while once upon a time, they were, in fact, townhomes, they are now traditional apartments.
“How much is the rent, if you don’t mind me asking?”
Now perhaps I am paranoid, but I was leary of disclosing my actual rent payment. Is this guy fishing for info on if I would be a good burglary target? So I gave him a vague number that rent starts out at for the smallest apartment. Perhaps he is just pricing apartments in the area or trying to figure out which neighborhoods might hold the most promising tips.
As we exited the complex, the conversation evolved, and we somehow moved from talking about rent values in the DFW area to Covid’s impact on the local job market. And a mile or so down the road, the conversation shifted to the stock market.
“Have you heard about the AMC stock?”
Inside I groaned a little. Yes, I have heard about it. People won't stop talking about it. Frankly, I wouldn’t mind hearing a little less about it. “Yes,” I replied, nodding my head with a smile plastered on my face.
“I had bad timing on that,” he admitted, “If I had gotten in on that when it started, I would have made thousands.”
Ah yes, the hindsight view of potential wealth. We’ve all been there. If only I had done XYZ differently, I would be so much better off now. This was the first red flag in the conversation that made me doubt his upcoming investment advice.
To commiserate with the idea of fortunes lost, I shared with him my story of making a bad stock decision; buying Carnival right before Covid hit. Going from over $50 a share to under $10 in a few short weeks hurt a lot. But this was only a small part of my retirement portfolio, so I was not (and still am not) too worried about it.
Apparently, my admission of watching and buying a stock opened up the flood gates.
“You should take up day trading.”
He said this with enthusiasm like he was sharing his best-kept secret. It turns out my Uber driver was an aspiring day trader himself, balancing driving seven days a week with dabbling in the stock market every morning.
He went on to advise me to take $25k and put it all in one stock and then turn around and sell it later that day. Did my earlier quote on the starting rent at my apartment complex lead him to believe that I have this kind of money laying around? There was no discussion of personal finances, about only day trading with money you are willing to lose. This was red flag number two for me.
As his advice seemed a bit risky to me, I commented, “I don’t know; there is so much about the stock market that I’d have to learn.”
“Not really,” he replied, “if you just kind of follow the stock market, that is really all you need to know.”
Wait, what! I don’t know anything about the stock market; that’s okay. Just jump right into day trading with a huge chunk of money anyways. Umm, that sounds kind of insane.
To put it in a different perspective, let’s say I went out and bought a motorcycle just because I’ve seen them on the road, even though I have no idea how to even start one? Want to hop on the back and take a ride with me? I’m guessing no. Now are you with me on how insane his advice sounds? Red flag number three.
From here, he launched into a discussion of his day trading activities, about watching premarket activity about how a person could make money. Funnily enough, he never actually stated that he has made money doing this. And really, by this point, I was seriously questioning his investment advice—too many red flags.
Taking financial advice from strangers
Have you heard the saying “Never take candy from a stranger” (also a movie)? Well, there should probably be one about never taking investing advice from a stranger.
That’s not saying that you shouldn’t seek interesting or diverse perspectives, just that you should never make investment decisions or any financial decision based on the advice of a singular person.
Do your own research first. What works for one person and their investment portfolio/style may not work for Taking investment advice from strangers can have pretty dire consequences. Heck, taking financial advice from friends and relatives can be just as bad, if not worse. Think about everybody who got talked into real estate investment leading up to the 2008-2009 housing crash. Poor souls.
The only upside about this Uber driver’s advice is the general idea that he was encouraging me to invest. This I think is good advice. There is no point in letting money sit around gathering dust in your bank account. Better to make money on your money.
My Uber ride home was more an exploration of the top songs on the local pop music station, my driver treating me to a concert of tapping fingers on the steering wheel and lyrics mumbled through a mask. Basically, what I usually expect from an Uber ride.
That’s what made my earlier conversation so interesting and unexpected. I was genuinely curious about this Uber Driver/Aspiring Day Trader. He was clearly enjoying his foray into the stock market, spending all of his free time following the latest finance world news. While also driving for Uber 7 days a week. The hustle is real for this guy, and I wish him all the success in the world. And before you ask, yes, I left him a tip.
That said, his investment advice was sketchy at best. He provided me few if any facts, built up zero trust in his competence as a day trader, and encouraged a course of action that went beyond risky and into the realm of financial ruin.
I always take unsolicited financial advice with a grain of salt. While I do admittedly need to invest in the stock market more, I will be doing my research first. And finding a path forward that is the right one for me.
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