For financial advisor Bill Staton, an epiphany overlooking a field in Italy set him on a path that’s led to him teaching a group of men in Charlotte who are recovering from addictions how to invest money.
Staton, who is 69 and a longtime financial advisor, but he said he’s equally excited every time he starts a new session. Recently, he’s been leading classes for Charlotte Rescue Mission’s Rebound program.
“I think when you plant a seed, and I think this is fertile soil, your like to get good, positive results,” he said. “It’s my personal way of giving back. When people are addicted or have a criminal record, it’s hard to get others to accept you could be a different person.”
We hope for residents to become financially stable, with a view to making choices that can help them grow their money for long-term stability.
Tony Marciano, executive director of the Charlotte Rescue Mission
Staton’s classes are based on simple, straightforward investing strategies that he’s learned and developed through his career, which includes his SouthPark-based company Staton Financial Advisors. He teaches people to directly invest in companies on their websites, bypassing stockbrokers and money managers who may decline to work with someone who has little money to invest.
“Classes such as this provide a view to a different relationship with finances than perhaps residents have had in the past,” said Tony Marciano, executive director of the Charlotte Rescue Mission.
After Rebound residents, who stay at Charlotte Rescue Mission for 90 or 120 days to build a solid foundation of skills for returning to the community, take Staton’s class, they take a money management class and focus on planning, budgeting and financial decision making.
“We hope for residents to become financially stable, with a view to making choices that can help them grow their money for long-term stability,” Marciano said. “Many of the residents have families, so financial skill building can also help support families.”
Staton, who lives off Carmel Road in South Charlotte, said that after that afternoon pondering life while looking over the Italian countryside in the mid 1980s, he decided to quit his job as an executive vice president at Interstate Securities Corp. “I thought, ‘I’m tired of what I’m doing,’” Staton said. “’I want to do something else.”
He loved to write, and he loved to pick stocks. When he returned home to Charlotte, he told his wife he was quitting his job and then started a stock-picking newsletter that required an annual subscription. The newsletter offered a money-back guarantee, which almost put him under financially after the stock market crash of 1987.
He talked to a mentor about how to handle the roiling market, and Staton said he learned that quality companies would outlast the ups and downs of the economy. He then created and sold a list of “America’s finest companies,” a group that had paid a higher cash dividend annually for at least ten years, annually for many years.
One day, he received a letter from a prisoner in California asking if Staton would mail him his financial investing guide.
Station sent the material, and that interaction resulted in him leading investment classes in prisons for both inmates and wardens, including in Mecklenburg County jails. He’s since had his investment guides mailed to prisons and jails around the country.
In Charlotte, he takes time out of his work schedule regularly to lead free, one-hour investment classes for prisoners and people in rehabilitation.
Investing in the future
Staton said his own past struggle with alcoholism, which he manages now with the help daily support group meetings at a South Charlotte church, help him relate to the people in his classes.
At a recent class at Charlotte Rescue Mission, a group of men sat at computers and read Staton’s online investing guide called “The $50 Millionaire.”
Staton explained to the class that they could invest directly in many big-name companies, which typically required several hundred dollars initially and then a $50 monthly investment for a set amount of time.
He explained that “companies love when you invest directly. It builds goodwill.” If you invest in Coca-Cola, for example, Staton told the class, you likely will choose to drink a Coca-Cola product over a competitor’s soda.
To find the companies, Staton suggested that the men think of successful companies they know wouldn’t go out of business, basic, boring businesses that “just grind it out.” Then, they should go to the companies’ websites and look for information about how to invest.
Most direct investments can be done with a few clicks, he said.
Staton’s class had plenty of questions, ranging from whether they could make money investing in a small company that saw quick success and how exactly money invested in a company would increase.
“Keep it simple,” Staton advised about investing. “This is so simple and so basic that it works.”
One immediate complication for Staton’s class is that they don’t have jobs. This group was in the final stage of the Rebound program, where they work on resume writing, computer proficiency, job searching and interview preparation.
Marciano said teaching residents about investment gives them the financial capabilities to participate in the economic system and reduce financial disparities. Some wonder, however, whether investment information applies to them and how they would be able to invest when they are “literally starting from zero,” he said.
Staton provides residents with ideas about how to trim budgets so residents can afford to save for an initial direct investment once they get a job.
“There is no reason why residents in the program cannot have hope to become investors, homeowners and business owners, especially considering their hard-won ability to overcome hardship and succeed despite immense challenges,” Marciano said. “Our hope and goal is for residents to complete the program as employees with a view to becoming business owners and renters with a view to becoming homeowners.
Marty Minchin is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.