Alanya Kolberg

Alanya Kolberg

Founder

The (Long) Birth of Bottom Up Wealth

The idea of investing for my future was planted when I was a single mother. My oldest son was not quite 1. To say we were struggling is a gross understatement. I was having trouble finding reliable transportation to get to my job, which was 40 minutes away. I had recently filed bankruptcy, so financing a vehicle was not an option for me. Every day was a hustle. I was on public assistance and still wasn’t making ends meet. I remember watching a segment on the Today show about how anyone can invest and how everyone should. I made a note to look into it, but the way my life was set up, I needed every dollar to feed and care for my child. Investing quickly took a backseat to just “just trying to make it to payday”.

Later, I was a young wife and mother. I specifically remember when it hit me. I was feeding the baby, listening to my oldest, then 3 years old, build Lego towers and feign horror as he used his plastic dinosaurs to stomp through and destroy them. The E*Trade commercial came on, the one with the babies. Do you remember those? The overall message was “Hey, I can’t even use the toilet, and I’m over here buying stocks.” I remembered thinking, Wait, people actually do their own investing?

 

Like many Americans, I was financially illiterate.

 

I had no idea how money worked. Despite that Today show segment, until then I had assumed that only professionals were allowed to buy investments like that, and if you wanted to buy stocks you had to make a $200 appointment with a broker and plunk down ten thousand dollars at once just to have him, more likely than not, gamble your money away. We were in no position for huge risks with that kind of money, if we had even had that much. (Which we didn’t. Not even coming in close.) I was intrigued at the idea of teaching myself, though. People do this, I realized. People learn and they’re successful. Not anyone I know…but regular people actually invest and make money. I bet I could do it. If there’s anything about me that I’m sure of (and my husband will vouch), it’s that I am unable to walk away from an idea once it’s taken root.

 

Such is my personality, I became obsessed. I was reading The Motley Fool and Investopedia on my breaks at work. I devoured Rich Dad, Poor Dad, The Millionaire Next Door, The Intelligent Investor, One Up On Wall Street, Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits, and The Automatic Millionaire, and more, several times over. I spent my time reading every post and each comment on Seeking Alpha and The Street. I subscribed to “the greats” and read every word they wrote that I could find. This is it? I thought. These aren’t secrets.

 

This isn’t all that complicated.

 

I understood why people were intimidated and relented themselves to a life of living paycheck to paycheck. They just didn’t know enough. It seemed impossible to just make ends meet; saving and investing was a “someday, when things are easier” thought. But after I dove in and filled my head these new concepts of money and what it meant to be wealthy, I couldn’t wrap my head around why people didn’t know these things and why no one was teaching them (myself included). Why do we require high school students to take trigonometry but we don’t teach them to live within their means and make smart financial decisions? I felt both confident that this was something I could do, and confused as to why nobody was doing it.

 

I started talking to people. It was a whole new world and I was excited.

 

People’s eyes glazed over. “I don’t get it,” they’d say. “That stuff is risky.” I’d tell them what to read, how to open accounts, how to automate it all, why they couldn’t afford not to learn it. They still didn’t get it, or they didn’t want to, or they were scared. I’d watch my own growing accounts and feel so triumphant and want everyone to feel empowered the way I did (and still do. Nothing besides my family gives me the warm fuzzies the way snagging some shares of a fantastic company at a crazy low price or a secure message from my brokerage that says “DIVIDEND PAID” does. Not even kittens). Unfortunately, everyone I knew was totally disinterested, including my amazing husband. To his credit, he tried, and I’d show him the returns we were getting and he’d be impressed, however lengthy discussions about the magic of reinvested dividends just don’t make his heart pitter-patter the way it does mine.

 

I started an unsuccessful mom/financial blog. I started a Facebook group that I intended to be for financial advice and ended up being more about where a member saw ground beef on sale for $1.99 a pound (which is part of financial health too, don’t get me wrong, but not exactly what I was aiming for). People would ask me questions about what accounts to open, how to optimize their taxes, what investments to choose, how to save and where to even start and I’d point them in the right direction, but when I checked back they hadn’t done any of it. They got overwhelmed and abandoned ship. Over and over I’d hear, “I wish I could just hire you to do this stuff for me.”

 

I‘m kind of reaching for this climactic moment. It was not actually that simple. I looked into becoming a financial planner several times. I knew the investment business was heavily regulated and I’d need to take a whole lot of exams and get some licenses. It sounded frightening and like a minefield of complicated rules (it is, by the way. The crooks of Wall Street have made it so the entire industry is under a microscope.) I felt overwhelmed and nervous. Too risky, I thought. I’m too honest. I talk too much. What if I say the wrong thing? Instead, I opened a real estate investment firm.

 

I was passionate and enjoyed it, and was successful.

 

I worked with homeowners facing foreclosure and renters who didn’t know how they were going to pay their landlord. I just wanted to sit down with these people and show them how to get their finances in order, the way I learned to do myself years prior, but that wasn’t my job. My job was to either buy their house for change on the dollar, or evict them and find a tenant who could pay rent. While I still enjoy and continue to dabble in real estate, I couldn’t help but feel like instead of encouraging and empowering others, I was aiding in their demise (although that wasn’t true either, because if I wasn’t there to offer them something for their house, the bank would throw them out and they’d have nothing.)

 

After having my 3rd son and homeschooling my oldest for a period of time, I helped a few friends try to get started with their portfolios. Being unlicensed, there was only so much help I could offer them. “No one is interested in helping regular people!” I exploded, to my husband, my best friend, my 20 month old, everyone. “The whole financial industry only wants to help people who already have money. There’s no one out here teaching people how to build and maintain wealth that anyone can even afford!”

 

It was decided. There was no stopping it. I knew it. My husband knew it. Anyone who’s ever had a single conversation with me since that E*Trade commercial years ago probably knew it before I did.

 

Bottom Up Wealth was born.

 

I set out to become an investment advisor. I studied for my exam. Once I started talking to people, however, I realized that the last thing people need is another middle man standing between them and financial freedom.

 

They want information. They want to understand. They want someone to guide them to build the future they want.

If this is you, you’re in the right place.

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