Knowing your risk tolerance will help you decide how to invest your money. Conservative investors may not be comfortable with investing much money in the stock market because of its volatility. Lower volatility means lower potential returns, so a conservative investor will have to save a higher percentage of his income to be on track to meet his financial goals.
Investors have to manage their investments considering twin risks: the risk that their investments lose principal and the risk that their investments lose purchasing power. Conservative investors can protect principal by investing in certificates of deposit insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., but the FDIC doesn't protect the purchasing power of those deposits. Keep an eye on your purchasing power, too.
Review and rebalance your portfolio
Calendar rebalancing is one approach to adjusting how you've invested. Others include target rebalancing and tactical rebalancing. Calendar rebalancing has you adjust your portfolio on a regular basis. Target rebalancing waits until an asset allocation is above (or below) the maximum (or minimum) target asset allocation. Tactical asset allocation has you reducing or increasing the allocation to an asset class based on your outlook for that asset class.
An active management portfolio strategy that rebalances the percentage of assets held in various categories in order to take advantage of market pricing anomalies or strong market sectors.
Investment allocations in financial securities are typically split between stocks, bonds and cash. The investment allocation that's right for you will depend on your risk tolerance, investment goals and market outlook. You may decide that an allocation of 50 percent stocks, 30 percent bonds and 20 percent cash is right for you. If this year's stock performance brought your stock allocation up to 60 percent, then rebalancing the portfolio will get you back to your target allocation.
Tax and other considerations like estate planning can influence your desire and ability to rebalance your portfolio.
Establish an emergency fund
Establishing an emergency fund is where most consumers should start investing.
Starting out, it's best for the money to be invested in liquid and safe investments like a money market account or a money market mutual fund.
Financial planners typically suggest the fund hold three to six months' worth in living expenses. The more risk you face in the workplace, the more you should have available. The Bankrate feature, "Creating an emergency fund," will help.
Counting on cash advances from your credit cards or loans from your 401(k) plan are not viable financial backstops because the credit card companies can raise the interest rates to obscene percentages and a plan loan won't help you if your financial emergency is getting laid off from your job since a 401(k) loan comes due when you leave an employer.