Many Happy Returns

It helps to look at the world from a different perspective now and then. Here at BLACK ENTERPRISE we recently had that opportunity–and it sparked a revelation. Last winter, as the economy slid and markets tanked, two of our youngest staffers could often be overheard earnestly discussing plans to buy shares in many of the same companies whose historic low valuations were giving the rest of us heartburn. As anxiety filled the air, Editorial Assistant LaToya Smith, 24, and Interactive Reporter Renita Burns, 22, saw the obvious upside: This is the best time in recent memory to be getting started as an investor.

Smith and Burns were so excited by President Barack Obama’s economic recovery program they created a stimulus plan of their own. They formed a two-person investment club and began looking into companies that could benefit from the new administration’s infusion of federal dollars. These wise-beyond-their-years young women split research duties, compile data, and meet after church on the first Sunday of every month to map out investment goals. Their strategy? Identify stocks they can buy and hold for the long term. Their first foray into equities came when they both purchased shares of General Electric (GE) a few months ago. To round out their holdings, Smith and Burns are now studying exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that focus on the health and energy sectors.

Smith and Burns’ enthusiasm sparked the idea for this month’s cover story, “The Young & the Restless.” The two found other Generation Y investors and talked to them about what they’re investing in now–and why. It’s not all fun and games, warns Smith, who wrote the story. “Just because stocks are cheap doesn’t mean they’re a good investment,” she says. “Do your research.”

Burns, who assisted with reporting the piece, hopes it inspires more young people to save and invest. “It’s a myth that you need a lot of specialized knowledge–and a lot of money–to invest,” she points out. “I started with $200.”

That same sense of optimism is shared by a majority of our readers. In January and February, we conducted a Web survey to find out what financial adjustments consumers are making in reaction to the economic downturn. You’ll find the results in Moneywise, this issue. One of the surprising findings: Many of our readers are confident that the economy will rebound soon. Indeed, even in the midst of crisis, there are silver linings.