Meet Alia: 2nd Generation Afghan-American, Wahed client
When did you start investing?
It was the Fall of 2019, a few months right before COVID. I wanted to do something aside from just the traditional way of saving money with savings accounts. In our community, we’re raised to buy whatever we can afford with cash. We’re told ‘don’t use too much credit’. Nobody even looks into any other types of investments besides if somebody buys real estate for home purposes. That’s as far as it goes. So I didn’t know much about investments. You can say that you want to invest moderately, or you’re conservative, or you’re a risk-taker — then it does everything for you!
So up until that point, you hadn’t been doing any kind of investing of your own?
I opened an IRA account because Susie Orman always says open a Roth IRA. I did that because I wanted to become financially stable. I wanted financial freedom and didn’t want to live a paycheck to paycheck type of lifestyle. I also wanted to make sure that my daughter didn’t have to worry about college. So there was a lot on my mind and there was a lot that I had to think about in terms of my life and how my finances were. I had a feeling that just saving money in a savings account was not enough. You have to do more.
You mentioned supporting your daughter. Was that a catalyst in starting to invest?
So it’s just me and my daughter. I became a single parent around spring of 2019, and it really hit me that I was the only one responsible for her from now on.
“It became more than just me. I wanted to make sure that I got myself in a place in life where I can do anything that my daughter needs me to do, especially in the future for college.”
Also, one of my biggest goals was to buy a house where she could have her own room so she could decorate it and take her on vacations. Things like that. I just wanted to give her a life that I felt that every child deserves. Every parent, they want to give their children a certain kind of life that they will remember fondly when they grow up, all the happy memories.
For me, investing was not about money. It’s just about stability. My whole thing of going into investing, the motive wasn’t greed or to become rich. It was to give my daughter stability, to have a firmer footing in my life. And that’s how it started was just to have security and peace of mind, because if you have those things, it makes it so much easier. There’s less stress. You can have time. If you have less stress with finances, you have time to do things, to create memories and things like that.
When you started looking into ways to invest, was ethical investing in a way that was true to your values a priority?
Yes, I wanted to make sure any kind of investing I take part in is ethical. I knew that I had to be careful when it came to investing because I didn’t want to invest in a way that was not ethical. Then I started researching Sharia-compliant investing myself on the side, to learn what it’s about and things like that.
What was your family’s attitude towards investing?
Well, my dad has a typical immigrant story of coming here from Afghanistan with literally nothing. We were living in Newark, New Jersey, and he worked hard and saved. I saw how he and my mom did it. They just worked their jobs and saved cash. And then they got a business, and after they got a company, they generated enough money to buy a house.
My dad had the motto of buying everything in cash. If he wanted a car, if he could afford it in cash, he would buy it. If not, he wouldn’t buy it. He didn’t believe in putting himself in debt. So he was very against debt. And so that’s how he raised us, to be against debt and buy what you can afford and things like that. So aside from his business and purchasing a home for us, he didn’t invest. He didn’t invest in anything. He didn’t know anything about investing. And I think he saw it as gambling. I think he saw investing like gambling, and he wasn’t willing to risk that.
Can you walk us through the steps of getting set up with an investment account and portfolio?
At the time, I didn’t have much money, but I was interviewing for jobs. When I got a job and made okay money, I decided, ‘okay, let me start investing’. I decided to start with a tiny bit of money because I was so scared of losing any of my money. I didn’t know what I was doing, and I didn’t want to lose anything.
The setup was straightforward. But shortly after COVID hit and people were telling me, ‘If you have investments, you need to get out now before you lose it because you’re going to lose a lot’. And then I got scared and thought, ‘Okay, I need to close this and take my money out. I can’t afford to lose anything right now’. So then I frantically reached out to customer service. They were happy to close the account out if I wanted, but they also took the time to explain what was transpiring in the market and how long-term investing works.
Since then, have you taken more of a long term view on your investments?
Yes, that’s what happened. And then I started really trying to understand how investing works. So I started really getting into it and I started researching and I started learning, and I started educating myself and I started diversifying my investing as well.
What are your plans for investing moving forward?
I’m going to convert my investment account into my daughter’s account. And I think I’m going to have it set where a certain amount of money is getting pulled out of my account regularly until she’s ready to use it when she goes to college.
Starting to invest in a proactive way was significantly life-changing for me. I am now in a position where I can buy a house, and this just happened in a year and a half, which is surreal. I’m just amazed at how much you can accomplish in just a year and a half.
“You can quickly improve your financial literacy and learn to invest the proper way. Because if I continued only saving cash to buy a home, I don’t know how many years it would have taken to purchase a house.”
Have you recommended an ethical type of investing to your friends or family?
I have. I’ve recommended it to my family, and they’ve asked me if I’ve made money. I say yes, but the amount depends on your risk level. If you do conservative, you’re probably not going to make as much as a moderate, and risk-takers will probably make a lot more. But it’s more about hitting your long-term financial goals.
But also, my friends and I have been educating each other about investing during the pandemic. One friend was telling me about Boeing. She was like, ‘It’s down. You should invest. It’s going to go up’. And I said, ‘No, I don’t want to do that’. And she said, ‘Why?’ And I went into how Boeing has a lot of military contracts, and I don’t want to invest in anything that could be harmful to people, to the environment, to humans. So then she started thinking about it and said, ‘Wow, I never thought about it like that’. Because she saw it as just investing and not looking at investing as a way to influence what is occurring in the world.
Disclaimer: Alia is a client of Wahed in the U.S and this article is not a paid promotion.