Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal or financial advice. You should consult with an attorney or other financial professional to determine what may be best for your individual needs.
Making your first investment can be a daunting task. You need to know where to start, what types of investments are available to you, and how to navigate the complex financial landscape.
This guide will give you some of the foundational information you need to start investing, from understanding different investment vehicles to picking the right broker for your needs.
Whether you’re a beginner investor or hoping to grow your portfolio, this article will be your beginner’s guide to getting started.
What is investing and why should you do it?
Investing is simply using your money to buy assets that have the potential to grow in value over time. That could mean buying stocks in solid companies, investing in real estate, or even lending money to a friend or family member starting a business.
The goal is always the same no matter what type of investing you do: To make your money grow so you can reach your financial goals.
Build your long-term wealth
There are many reasons why investing is attractive. For one, it’s an excellent way to make money and build wealth over the long term, which is why many include investments such as Roth IRAs in their retirement plans. Investing allows you to take advantage of compound growth, which means your money grows at an ever-increasing rate as it compounds upon itself.
Hit your financial goals faster
Another reason to invest is that it can help you reach your financial goals sooner than if you simply saved your money in a standard, low-interest savings account.
While saving is essential and should always have a place in your overall financial strategy, investing provides the potential for greater returns that can help speed up the timeline for achieving your desired outcome.
Essentially, investing can be a way to meet your financial goals by a sooner target-date.
Hedge against inflation
Last but not least, investing can also provide some protection against inflation. Over time, prices of goods and services tend to rise due to inflationary pressures in the economy.
That’s why it’s crucial to consider investments; otherwise, the purchasing power of your savings may steadily decline over time.
Certain investments have the potential to keep pace with or even outpace inflation, meaning they can help maintain the purchasing power of your invested funds.
Relatively stable investments, such as real estate and gold, can be a low-risk way to do this. Of course, you can find riskier securities on the stock market that can drastically outperform inflation; however, these can also drastically underperform inflation. Because this is the case, having a diversified portfolio with a reasonable proportion of low-risk assets can be a wise strategy.
All these factors combine to make investing an appealing proposition for many people. Investing can help you build wealth, achieve your financial goals, and protect from inflation when you approach it strategically.
How to get started with investing
Becoming an investor is intimidating for some beginners, but it doesn’t have to be. By researching and developing a sound investment plan, you can make significant strides toward securing your financial future as a beginning investor.
Know your aim
The first step is to understand your goals. Are you investing for retirement? To fund a child’s education? To generate additional disposable income? Once you know your goals, you can start researching different investment options.
Research investment vehicles
There are many types of investments, from stocks and bonds to real estate and mutual funds. Each has a particular risk level and potential return, so you’ll want to choose the right mix of investments for your needs.
Determine your risk tolerance
Some investments are more volatile, meaning they can experience more significant swings in value over time. Others might be more stable but offer lower returns, such as ETFs (exchange-traded funds), IRAs (individual retirement accounts), or index funds. Before investing, you’ll want to determine which investments best fit your risk tolerance and personal goals.
Pick a number
Once you’ve selected your investments, you’ll need to decide how much to allocate to each one. A general rule of thumb is to invest at most 10 percent of your total portfolio in any stock or bond.
Diversifying your portfolio allows you to minimize your risk and maximize your chances for success.
What are the different types of investments?
When investing your money, there are many different options. Stocks, bonds, and mutual funds are some of the most popular choices, but there are many others.
Here is a brief overview of some investment vehicles that tend to work well for beginners:
When you buy an individual stock, you buy a small piece of a company. Stocks can be bought and sold on the stock market, and their value can go up or down depending on the company’s performance.
Succeeding in stock investments generally means constantly staying up to date on stock prices and making sure to:
- Research the brokerage firm or company you plan to invest in.
- Monitor your investment accounts and stay up to date on market trends.
- Create a diversified portfolio by investing in multiple stocks.
A bond is a loan that you make to a government or corporation. They agree to pay you interest over time in return for borrowing your money. Bonds are relatively low-cost and generally considered less risky than stocks, but they also tend to provide lower investment returns.
A few ways to make suitable investments in bonds are to:
- Choose high-quality bonds with a good credit rating.
- Invest in different types of bonds to diversify your portfolio.
- Monitor the bond market for changes in interest rates and other factors.
3. Mutual funds
A mutual fund is a collection of different investments, including stocks, bonds, and other securities. Professional investors manage mutual funds, and they can be an excellent way to diversify your portfolio.
Here are five essential tips for investing in mutual funds as a beginner:
- Know your goals: Before investing in a mutual fund, ensure you understand your financial goals and the amount of risk you’re willing to take. Consider whether you want to hold investments for the long term or benefit from short-term capital gains.
- Do your research: It’s essential to research the performance of different funds and ensure the fund you select is an ideal fit for your portfolio. Pay special attention to fees, expenses, and past returns. Also, know the account minimums you should expect to meet and the compound interest you can expect to collect.
- Rebalance your portfolio: Experts recommend rebalancing mutual funds periodically to maintain your desired asset allocation. Diversification is vital, and rebalancing helps you to hold to your original investment strategy and can prevent you from taking on too much risk.
- Invest regularly: It’s essential to invest regularly to get the most out of your mutual fund investments. You can set up regular contributions from your bank account to take advantage of dollar-cost averaging and benefit from compounding returns.
- Stay informed: As an investor, do your best to stay informed about the markets and your funds. Monitor your accounts daily or weekly, make informed investment choices, and be prepared to act if needed.
4. Real estate
Investing in real estate is an alternative to investing in stocks or bonds. This can involve buying a property outright or investing in a real estate investment trust (REIT).
Real estate can be a more stable investment than stocks or bonds, but it also comes with risks, such as fluctuating property values and tenant problems.
To get the most from your real estate investments, consider the following:
- Researching the local housing market.
- Working with a reputable real estate agent or broker.
- Finding ways to add value to your property (through remodeling or adding amenities).
- Being familiar with the local laws and regulations.
- Keeping track of your finances and investments.
No matter the investment vehicle you choose, it’s critical for you to research and understand the risks involved. The goal is to plan and strategize to make your money work for you and secure your financial future.
What to do when things go wrong
There’s no doubt that things can go wrong when investing in the stock market. But that doesn’t mean you have to lose everything you’ve put into your portfolio. You can do a few things to protect your investments and minimize the damage if things go wrong.
Diversify your portfolio
You’ve seen this phrase a couple of times now, and if you didn’t know what it meant before, it basically means investing in various asset classes, such as stocks, bonds, and cash. If one asset class goes down, you still have other investments to rely on.
While diversifying your investment portfolio can help minimize risk, finding the right mix of assets to achieve the desired stability and growth can also be challenging. Balancing risk and return is a delicate task, and you must remember that no portfolio is perfect for everyone.
Keep some cash on hand
If the stock market takes a sudden dip, having cash available will allow you to buy shares at a lower price. This is known as “buying on the dip,” and it can help you maximize your profits in the long run.
The challenge of building an emergency fund is that the money in a savings account may earn less interest than it would if invested elsewhere. But the liquidity of cash reserves can provide peace of mind during market volatility.
You’ll want to remember that the stock market is notoriously volatile and that dips are inevitable. Being diversified and having some cash available can help you weather the storm.
Overall, try to keep calm, and try to avoid making rash decisions.
How to research which investments are best for you
When it comes to investing, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Your best investments will depend on your individual financial goals and risk tolerance. Some general tips can help you research which investments suit your goals and circumstances.
Start by evaluating your current financial situation and identifying your short and long-term goals. Once you have a clear idea of your goals, you can begin researching different types of investments.
If you’re a beginner, you may want to start with more conservative options like bonds or mutual funds. Consider stocks or real estate if you’re willing to take on more risk.
Once you’ve narrowed down your options, do your research to learn about each investment’s potential risks and rewards.
Start your research by looking into the following:
Financial publications: Reading books, magazines, or articles related to investing can help you stay up-to-date on trends and best practices.
You can also consult a financial advisor to get professional advice tailored to your unique needs. Ideally, you’ll learn as much as possible on your own so that your financial planning goes more smoothly with your advisor.
Tips for long-term success in investing
As mentioned, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to investing. But there are a few general tips to consider that have worked for many new investors before.
First and foremost, you need a clear investment strategy and a deep understanding of your goals, risk tolerance, and time horizon. Once you understand your financial situation well, you can begin exploring different investments that fit your needs.
It’s also important to stay disciplined with your investments. Continually research, devise a strategy that considers your needs and resources, and stick to that chosen strategy. Staying true to your goals and strategy — instead of winging it with impulsive investment decisions — will keep you on course even in difficult times.
Investing is a long game, requiring you to make sound decisions about whether the economy is thriving or struggling. And remember that you won’t do everything perfectly; have grace with yourself and manage your expectations along the way.
Ready to invest?
When it comes to investing, slow and steady wins the race. Don’t try to do everything at once; start with one or two types of investments, and learn as much as you can about them before adding anything else.
Above all, remember that proper research is critical — never invest in something without knowing what you’re getting into. You can set yourself up for long-term success by investing with effort and perseverance.
Looking for more informational articles on finance? Explore Entrepreneur’s Money & Finance posts here.