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Getting started as a first-time investor can be overwhelming. There’s a plethora of investments you can buy, and each of them has infinite potential investment strategies.
While it can all be a lot to think about, don’t let it stop you from getting started. Instead, decide what your strategy will be and stick to it. You can always tweak things later.
But for now, the best thing to do is to simply get started. If you still feel you are a little over your head, don’t worry — these top tips for first-time investors will put you on the right path.
1. Set a clear goal
When you start investing, it’s important to have a clear goal in mind. It’s not enough to say you want to make money. For example, here are some possible investment goals:
- Investing for retirement
- Saving for a down payment on a house
- Saving for a child’s education
- Saving for a wedding
- Saving for a new vehicle
These are just a few of the most common investment goals. However, it’s important to aim for one (or more) of these goals because the amount is quantifiable. Granted, knowing the exact dollar amount you will need can be difficult. For example, the cost of college can increase, and weddings can have a lot of small expenses that add up. Still, you can at least estimate each cost, allowing you to decide how much to save and invest each money to meet your goal.
2. Educate yourself
One of the best things about the digital age is that information is so accessible. There are books, podcasts, forums, and any format you can imagine for finding the information you need. Of course, not every book or every podcast is created equal, so look for those the investor community recommends.
3. Start small
As the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” These days, you don’t need a lot of money to start investing. Many online brokers today let you start investing with small amounts of money — for instance, you could invest $50 per month in your two or three index funds. You might decide to increase your contributions later, but just getting started is the most important step.
One of the simplest ways to invest is to buy stock in a company. However, buying stock in just one company can be a recipe for disaster as stock prices can vary widely. Fortunately, you can easily diversify your portfolio with index funds. A simple way to do this is to invest in a stock fund, a bond fund, and if you prefer, an international stock fund. This approach allows you to invest in hundreds or even thousands of companies, which gives you easy diversification and can improve your long-term performance. Just watch the fees, as some funds can be costly.
5. Have a long-term plan
When you start investing, it’s important to have a long-term plan. This relates to the first point about setting a clear goal because you must follow through on that goal over the long term. This is important for several reasons, but the most obvious is that financial goals generally require a lot of money. Hence, a long-term commitment is necessary. For instance, retiring comfortably may require saving hundreds of thousands of dollars.
A long-term plan has other benefits, such as better investment performance. This comes in two forms: compounding and overcoming volatility. When you invest, you can re-invest the money you earn, allowing you to earn even more. In addition, returns can be volatile in the short term, but you can overcome that volatility somewhat by investing longer.
6. Consider a financial advisor
Lastly, it’s always a good idea to meet with a financial advisor. While these points will help you start thinking about investing the right way, you must now take the next step. But if you have gone through these steps, you already know your investment goals and a financial advisor will use that to help you develop a personalized plan. Use Bankrate’s free financial advisor matching tool to find an advisor in your area. Now, you are ready to get started and build a better financial future.