- Ramona Persaud had planned on a career in engineering, when a part-time investment banking job led her to stumble onto her love of markets and investing.
- While new investors may initially feel intimidated, Persaud encourages them to remember that stepping outside your comfort zone often leads to personal growth.
- Putting your money to work with investing can help build self-reliance, Persaud says, which can then allow you to give back to the people around you.
Ramona Persaud's parents always dreamed of her becoming a scientist. Her father, an engineer, wanted her to follow in his footsteps. But while pursuing a degree in research science and engineering at New York University, Persaud stumbled upon her true passion: investing.
"I happened to be working part-time at an investment bank," to help pay for books while she was studying for her degree, she says. "Once I got exposed to the markets, I was done with engineering."
With investing, Persaud found a way to marry her love of research with a more fast-paced environment. She appreciated that her investing colleagues were open to trying new things and letting her run with her ideas. And she felt drawn to the investing world's practice of calculated risk-taking.
"This is a profession that rewards thoughtful risk-taking, that rewards comfort with uncertainty," she says. "Success is dependent on having an appetite for risk and uncertainty."
That formative experience launched Persaud into a career in investing. She earned an MBA from The Wharton School and worked for several years as an analyst before becoming a portfolio manager. Today, she manages portfolios of US and global stocks for Fidelity, and in 2021 was named one of the top female portfolio managers in the US by Citywire, an investing industry publication.*
Navigating family values
While Persaud felt no hesitation about rethinking her career path, her parents—first-generation immigrants to the US—were, at least initially, less enthusiastic.
"Typically, immigrant parents want you to do good for others and be financially stable," she says, but hers weren't convinced that working with money was the right path. And her parents may have felt a stigma that working with money was not "honorable," she says.
But Persaud was steadfast—both in her commitment to her new career, and to her belief that she could make a positive impact with a career in investing.
"I unequivocally disagreed," with her parents' point of view, she says. "In my mind, if you can help people achieve financial wellness, that is absolutely doing good for others."
Gaining the confidence to invest
Getting started with investing can seem intimidating and risky, Persaud says, especially to people from traditionally marginalized groups, like women and immigrants. "A lot of people think that to be good at it you have to have early exposure," she adds. "I'm here to say that's not true—there are so many different ways to be successful in investing."
To beat the intimidation factor, Persaud says, reflect on other times in your life when you've stepped outside your comfort zone.
"Try to access the times in your life when you did something that initially was uncomfortable, but then you pushed through and you accomplished it," she says. "That's kind of what personal growth is all about."
Persaud sees defying her parents' expectations by choosing a new career path as one such moment—her first true act of informed risk-taking, and a skill that would later become crucial in her investment career. Ironically, Persaud says, it's a skill she learned from her parents, who took a huge risk by emigrating in their 30s.
"They started from scratch, completely against expectations," she says. "I think I got that courage because I'd always seen them take very thoughtful risks."
Empowerment through financial wellness
Persaud feels investing can be critical to helping people build financial self-reliance, which can be particularly important for young people and traditionally marginalized groups.
"What personal investing has revealed to me is that it can allow you to live life way more on your own terms," she says. "All of a sudden, you're not just dependent. You're not just at the mercy of the job market or at the mercy of your work environment. You've got multiple ways to win."
She also feels it's an important tool in making sure your money keeps pace with inflation—a risk that many people may underestimate when they stash all their savings in a bank account.
"Investing is just a fancy word for making your money work for you," Persaud says.
But more than just helping yourself, Persaud feels investing can be critical to giving you the wherewithal to help others. "If you're dealing with scarcity every day, do you really have the mental capacity to go and do big things in the world?"
Once you're standing on your own strong financial foundation, you may be in a better position to help lift others up.
"When financial freedom is more accessible to more people, you get this virtuous cycle of people making the world a better place," Persaud says. "People naturally want to help each other. They don't just reinvest all in themselves—they turn around and reinvest in the world."