investing

How you can become a proactive investor

Don TaylorDear Dr. Don,
I just invested in Class A mutual fund shares. I'm a 26-year-old investor with long-term financial goals. The problem is, I don't have the slightest clue about investing. One of the issues I wonder about is how I should watch the market. When is a good time to ask questions? I also wonder how I can be proactive in my investments. What tips can you provide that will allow my money to work for me?

Thanks,
-- Floyd Portfolio

Dear Floyd,
The questions you ask are good ones, particularly for someone just beginning to chart his long-term financial path. The best time to ask questions is before you commit the funds to the investment. For example, you let me know the name of the mutual fund family you purchased shares in and where you bought the shares, but not which mutual fund you purchased. Do you own a bond fund, a stock fund, or a hybrid that owns both stocks and bonds?

If buying Class A shares in a mutual fund, one is likely paying an initial sales fee of 5.75 percent. That's just one way of compensating your financial professional for advice. The mutual fund's investment manager gets paid separately out of the fund's annual expense ratio.

An investor shouldn't watch the market on a daily basis. Since you say you are a long-term investor, take a long-term perspective with your investments. That is not to suggest you ignore investment performance. Just remember you're an investor, not a trader. But you should check your monthly statements, for example.

You have to decide whether you want to be a do-it-yourself investor or whether you'd rather have a trusted financial adviser help you. You are already paying a financial professional to help you make investment decisions. That's fine as long as you understand how they're compensated, and are assured this person is working toward your long-term financial goals.

I'd suggest that a financial professional working for you be held to a "fiduciary standard." That requires your interests come first in making investment recommendations. Ask this professional if he or she is acting as a fiduciary.

There are many places to learn about investing, including here on Bankrate. Another I recommend is the Morningstar Investing Classroom, available free online. By educating yourself, you'll take a big first step toward proactive investing.

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