Everybody invests. Whether you’re buying a bike, a candy bar, or a house, you are using resources judiciously. You’re exchanging one owned good for another, one that you believe will serve you better than the liquid finances at your disposal. So everybody is comfortable with investment, at least on the small scale. It’s when you get into investments that are either risky, highly valued, or somewhat complex that people start to tune out. The unknown is too scary, or there’s too much to lose. It is for reasons like these that more than 50% of Americans never invest a penny in the stock market, settling instead for smaller investments with much smaller returns. With a majority of Americans reaching retirement with much less money than they need, this strategy (if you can call it that) is clearly not working.
People invest in that which they understand. Knowledge makes the scary specter of the future something that seems attainable, something that can be mastered. Even though investment is never without risk, by understanding the basics, this risk can be mitigated greatly. With diversification and planning, investment can be within the grasp of almost anybody. And it should be taken advantage of by more people who already have access to it, for their future, their lifestyle options, and their independence. Let this be the year you start investing, no matter how old you are or whatever bad experiences you’ve had in the past. Here are three ways to begin.
- Learn. There are many investment education platforms that’ll help you learn the ropes, like Trading Pursuits. While these programs will have strong learning opportunities, with providing a friendly community element, other people will get just as much out of hitting the books. Read the Boglehead’s forum and investment book. Or spend a few minutes a day reading through Investopedia. Ask yourself specific questions and then go find the answers. You’ll be surprised what you can learn this way. Investment isn’t for the very intelligent. It’s just for people willing to learn. But don’t stop at learning…
- Actually Do Something. Once you know a little, your first investment can be a good one. You’ve got to make it count, because if you succeed in your first investment, it’ll make others easier. I would recommend making three investments right out of the gate, all at once, or in no particular order. A) Set up an emergency fund, enough to live on for 3-6 months if something unexpected happens to you, your family, your house, etc; 2) get an IRA. This is a government issued, tax-protected investment platform, so normal people like you and me can build wealth without having to pay taxes on what we’re earning. Fill your IRA with low cost mutual funds, which have a lot of longterm growth potential; 3) Buy a house. Because all funds you pay on your mortgage are kept in the form of equity, as well as houses’ tendency to increase in value every year, this is one of the most powerful wealth building options out there.
If you work hard on these two points, you will invariably gain more control over your life. You’ll be able to get out of debt and better manage your future. Don’t let another year go by without becoming an investor.