Financial services consultant Brayden Cooke.
Financial services consultant Brayden Cooke.

How 28-year-old turned $500 into $2.2 million

JUST after Brayden Cooke turned 18, he made his first CommSec trade with the purchase of $500 worth of Santos shares.

Today the 28-year-old has a total share portfolio worth around $2.2 million - and like the Aussie billionaire founders of tech firm Atlassian, he sees "way more" opportunity in America.

The Gold Coast-based financial services consultant started trading on the US market in 2017 and since then his portfolio has "increased about 140 per cent". In some stocks like Shopify and Alteryx he has more than tripled his cash.

"I recently just sold out of my last positions here in Australia," Mr Cooke said.

"I invest heavily in tech but I just feel like there are no opportunities here for start-ups like there are in the US, there's no incentive to leave your job and start your own business. Even the Atlassian guys decided to float in the US."

Mr Cooke has been a keen investor ever since his mum put $2000 into the Myer IPO on his behalf when he was 17.

"Obviously that didn't do well over time but it got me (into) investing, it's been my passion ever since," he said.

After making his first trade he would check his CommSec account every day, saving up as much as he could to pump into his share portfolio. An early statement shows a balance of $1217, with a total profit of $58.05.

"It's crazy to think I've grown from that to where I am," he said.

While a portion of his multimillion-dollar portfolio is from his mother's superannuation after she died, it has ballooned through clever trades - he bought into now-collapsed tech firm 1-Page at 35 cents and sold out just before its peak at $5.69.

Mr Cooke has a share portfolio worth millions
Mr Cooke has a share portfolio worth millions

And unlike other young people, he's not betting big on cryptocurrency. While he sees "huge potential" in blockchain technology, he "knew bitcoin was a bubble".

"Eventually it did collapse," he said. "I shorted it and made some money on the way down."

Matthew Wolstenholme, 25, has "no real background at all" in finance, but similarly has a passion for investing in US shares. Over the past 18 months he has roughly doubled his portfolio to about $75,000.

Mr Wolstenholme is a fan of volatile stocks like Tesla and AMD. As an electrical engineer, he saw AMD's new chip manufacturing technology would give it an edge over rival Intel - that investment returned 50 per cent in 10 months.

"Longer-term I'd like to look into genetically modified seed manufacturers, GMO-based food," he said. "I think it's the only way we're going to be able to sustain population growth, so that will be a huge area in the next 10 years or so."

Both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite closed at record highs on Friday, spurred by expectations the Federal Reserve will cut rates this week, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed just off its July 15 record.

The Dow is up 17 per cent since the start of the year, the S&P is up more than 20 per cent and the Nasdaq is up 25 per cent.

Electrical engineer Matthew Wolstenholme.
Electrical engineer Matthew Wolstenholme.

Trading app Stake founder Matt Leibowitz said just as some people sell jewellery on eBay or invest in property, share trading was emerging as "a bit of a new side hustle" for young professionals looking for a second income stream.

He estimates that users on his platform - an online broker which allows Australian investors to access US equities with much lower fees than the major banks - have made around $US15 million ($21.7 million) in the past 12 months.

"You don't read the newspapers about a guy working nine-to-five who buys a house in Point Piper," Mr Leibowitz said. "A lot of wealth in this country and all over the world is made in the stock market."

The difference now is the ease of access to the US market and all the headline-making companies that Aussies read about every day like Apple and Tesla. Stake now has more than 40,500 users.

"Australians want to access it, they read the paper, they see what's happening in oil prices," he said. "We're seeing a massive shift, 77 per cent of our customers have bought and sold shares directly before but three quarters of them are trading US shares for the first time."

While stock picking is practically blasphemy to a new generation of Warren Buffett-inspired, "Financial Independence, Retire Early" millennials who advocate for the slow and steady returns of index funds, many young people still enjoy the challenge.

"Ultimately you're taking risk to make more money, so you've got to be aware of that," said Mr Leibowitz. "(The advice is) always start small and see how you go. Every expert was once a novice. It's not for everyone, but you'll find out pretty quickly whether it is or not."

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