Lauren Simmons got a crash course on the financial world when she became the youngest full-time female trader at the New York Stock Exchange in 2017, at 22 years old.
Simmons, now 27, left Wall Street after two years to become an entrepreneur. She earned $650,000 last year and is on track to bring in $1 million in 2022 through projects like speaking engagements, brand partnerships, book and movie deals, and a hosting gig with the streaming show "Going Public."
But despite her roughly two years on the trading floor, "I didn't start investing until the crash of March 2020, and I don't regret it," Simmons tells CNBC Make It.
Simmons says she heard from a lot of the other traders on the NYSE floor that they didn't personally invest in the stock market. "A lot of the men on the trading floor have now been through at least three or four recessions, and they believe that you can't beat the market," she says.
And while Simmons herself worked at the NYSE, she was earning just $12,000 a year and saving 85% of her income by living with family and not going out. Using her money on anything other than a subway card, let alone investing, wasn't exactly her priority.
That changed in the spring of 2020 when Simmons opened a brokerage account with around $300. As of February, it holds around $6,000.
When it comes to investing, Simmons lives by two principles: One, she wanted to make sure she was in good financial standing and able to cover her basic expenses before she began investing. Two, she wanted to do a lot of research in companies and funds where she felt her money could grow.
"I'm very cautious," she says. "I have to have the statistics, data and information that help me make an informed decision before I invest."
That mindset also means she stays away from cryptocurrency.
"I refuse to spend money on crypto," Simmons says. "I do believe a digital currency will be permanent and it will stay within our infrastructure. But right now it is highly speculative for me."
Simmons believes cryptocurrency will become centralized eventually, but she doesn't think it will be bitcoin or ether. "I think it'll be a new one entirely," at which point, "yes, of course I will put my money into that new digital currency."
Financial experts say cryptocurrency is a risky and speculative investment and that you should only put in what you can afford to lose.
Beyond the market, Simmons invests in several women- and Black-owned start-ups in tech and beauty. When backing a business, she looks for a good product, of course — but even more so, she's looking for a strong founder. She likens it to the way people pay attention to Tesla because they believe in Elon Musk: "They are investing in his vision," Simmons says.
"I have the same mindset. Do I believe in the potential of this person to be able to grow their company where they say they're going to go, as well as believe in the product?"
Simmons is especially passionate about backing women- and minority-led founders who don't have the same access to capital as white men. In doing so, Simmons hopes to "pay it forward" for underrepresented individuals who are "going to be history-makers in the future."