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When it comes to Americans’ financial goals, about 1 in 5 say theirs is either saving more for retirement or investing more money, according to a recent survey from Bankrate. In total, nearly 18 percent of survey respondents declared that boosting their retirement savings or investing more was their top goal, the second most popular answer, right behind paying down debt at 20 percent.
And it doesn’t seem to matter very much what your age is — Generation Z (ages 18-24), millennials (ages 25-40) and Generation X (ages 41-56) all reported similar levels of interest in wanting to boost their portfolios at 20 to 21 percent. Only baby boomers (ages 57-75) had numbers that differed substantially. Just 15 percent of them listed saving and investing more as a top priority. That’s not surprising, since some of that demographic is already spending down their nest egg in retirement.
But regardless of which generation you belong to, there are some simple strategies to grow your account balance and make good on that financial goal, starting today. Here’s how to get more money through investing.
5 ways to grow your investing account
1. Start today – time costs you money
Many people want to invest more but decide to wait until later to do it, for any number of reasons. But time is your biggest ally in investing because it allows you to compound gains. Your money can make money, allowing you to amass much more wealth in time.
The stock market (as defined by the S&P 500 index) has returned about 10 percent annually over time. So, the cost of time might not seem that high. If you delay investing for a year and would have invested $5,000, it seems to cost you (on average) only $500 in gains next year.
While that’s true, the real cost occurs much later. If you retire with a $200,000 portfolio, that extra year of delay now could cost you $20,000 or more in the future. Give yourself five additional years to invest and that $200,000 could be $300,000 — not counting any money you could add to it.
That’s why it is important to get started right away and not delay. Time is your biggest ally.
2. Get aggressive
Over time, the best returns come from a well-diversified portfolio of stocks or stock funds. But in the short term, a portfolio of stocks can be quite volatile, rising or falling 30 percent or more in a single year is not that uncommon. That’s a big reason why it is essential for investors to balance this risk with the potential return.
If you’re a Gen Z investor just starting to invest, you have potentially decades until you need the money for retirement. That allows you to be aggressive, even going “all in” on stocks. You have time to ride out the ups and downs of the market and get attractive long-term returns. Even those Gen Xers and younger boomers with a decade or so before needing to access the funds can be quite aggressive and earn attractive returns
Those with less than a few years until retirement, however, need to ratchet down their exposure to stocks, shifting to bonds, so that they have those assets when they need them the most. That said, even retirees and near-retirees don’t want to get too conservative and need at least some growth from stocks in their portfolio, lest they run out of income in their later years.
3. Take advantage of the Roth IRA
Many experts agree that the Roth IRA is the best retirement account around, and it’s a great tool to help you amass wealth. That’s because it offers one of the best perks — the ability to grow your money tax-free and then withdraw it tax-free in retirement, after age 59½. Combine the power of the Roth IRA with decades to compound and you could roll up a pile of tax-free earnings.
The Roth IRA offers other advantages, too, but you’ll only be able to put $6,000 a year (in 2022) in the account, though those age 50 and older can add an extra $1,000 annually. With the strict limits on your contributions, it’s even more of a reason to get started investing today.
4. Play catch-up if you’re older
If you’re aiming to invest for retirement you have two major options: the IRA and the 401(k). Both accounts offer the ability to invest for retirement with some tax advantages, helping you reach your financial goals sooner. But they also strictly limit how much you can invest each year, though older savers, those age 50 and above, can sock away extra money for their golden years.
Besides the maximum annual IRA contribution of $6,000, the 401(k) ordinarily allows workers to invest up to $20,500 (in 2022). If you’re at least 50 years old, however, you’ll be able to make catch-up contributions: a further $1,000 in the IRA and an extra $6,500 in the 401(k) each year. Even better, many employers offer some free match money for contributions to your 401(k).
Workers can contribute to both retirement accounts simultaneously. Even if you don’t have a retirement plan at work, you can always use the IRA, as long as you have earned income. So, playing catch-up can help you turbocharge your accounts if you’re older and need it.
If you get started early enough — we keep stressing this point because it’s so important — you may not even need the catch-up contributions because you’ll be so far ahead of the game.
5. Don’t get shaken by volatility
The stock market can build long-term wealth for you — but only if you’re invested. And this is a place where many investors get tripped up. They sell when the market gets volatile, trying to avoid further losses. Then they buy back in only after stocks have risen again, so they end up selling low and buying high — the opposite of what they should be doing. Instead of preventing loss, they only end up hurting their future wealth, and they repeat the pattern over and over.
The recent volatility in stock markets — after a strong 2020 and 2021 — is giving some traders pause. Stocks have entered correction territory, down more than 10 percent from recent highs, as the market factored in potential increases in interest rates from the Federal Reserve.
But it’s important to keep things in perspective: Though stocks have declined due to higher rates, rates are rising precisely because the fundamental economy is robust and growing even stronger. That situation is ultimately good for companies and for their stocks longer term.
Though a decline may create fear with short-term traders now, long-term investors take notice when stocks decline. If business fundamentals are improving, then it could be the time to buy stocks at a discount, in anticipation of a recovery later this year or next, rather than bailing out.
That’s why it’s so vital to stick to your long-term investing plan and do your best to avoid the day-to-day noise and volatility in the market. If you’re investing for the long term, today’s downturn will be inconsequential to your wealth and may even be an opportunity to invest at a discount.
And again, that’s the reason having time to ride out the market’s roller coaster ride is so important.
If you’re part of the nearly 18 percent of U.S. adults who are looking to save and invest more this year, you have a number of steps that can grow your wealth now and into the future. The stock market may be the province of high-powered traders and slick financiers, but individual investors can still invest in a way that creates a brighter financial future for themselves.
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Editorial Disclaimer: All investors are advised to conduct their own independent research into investment strategies before making an investment decision. In addition, investors are advised that past investment product performance is no guarantee of future price appreciation.