Learn basic investing terms: Whether you plan to manage your investments on your own or want help from an advisor, stock market news can be mind-boggling. If you’re working with a financial advisor, don’t be afraid to ask questions about how the financial markets and your portfolio are working. If you’re reading up on stock market news, look up terms you come across and commit them to memory.
If you want more help with your investing, there is a variety of ways to find financial advice: if you want someone who helps you in a non-sales environment, you can find an advisor in your area at one of the following sites: letsmakeaplan.org, www.napfa.org, and garrettplanningnetwork.com. You can also go to your local bank or financial institution. Many of these charge higher fees, however, and may require a large opening investment.
Mutual funds. A mutual fund is a basket that contains a bunch of different investments — often mostly stocks — that all have something in common, be it companies that together make up a market index (see the box for more about the joys of index funds), a particular asset class (bonds, international stocks) or a specific sector (companies in the energy industry, technology stocks). There are even mutual funds that invest solely in companies that adhere to certain ethical or environmental principles (aka socially responsible funds).
Dollar cost averaging is the process of buying into your investment positions gradually, rather than all at once. For example, rather than investing $5,000 in a single index fund, you can make periodic contributions of say, $100 per month into the fund. By doing this, you remove the possibility of buying at the top of the market. Rather, you’re buying into the fund at all different times and on a continuous basis. This also removes the “when” question, as in when to invest in a given security or fund.
You can even invest with your spare change. Link your credit and debit cards to Acorns and they'll round up each of your purchases to the nearest dollar. A computer-run investment program invests the change in a diversified portfolio. There's no charge to start an account, but you'll need a $5 minimum balance before they'll start investing for you. Acorns offers a low cost investment vehicle. They charge $1 per month for accounts worth less than $5,000. To start now, visit Acorns.
Stock market returns have annualized 10% before inflation and 7% after inflation for over 100 years, but can be extremely variable from year to year. From 2000-2015, for example, the compound annual growth rate of the S&P 500 was 4.2%. Don't count on 10% return, if you are investing for a short time frame, or if you are also invested in bonds and alternative investments, which have lower expected returns. Furthermore, remember that past performance does not guarantee future returns.
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Most online brokerage firms charge between $7 and $10 per trade. Though this does not sound like much, commissions can have a big impact on small accounts. For example, say you have $1,000 to invest in a single stock. Your buy and sell orders will each cost you $10, resulting in a transaction cost of $20. This equates to a 2% reduction in your actual returns. Once you start factoring in the costs, your profit may very well not justify the risk of trying to pick an individual stock, if you are investing a small amount in a taxable account.
Futures were originally used as a "hedging" technique by farmers. Here's a simple example of how it works: Farmer Joe grows avocados. The price of avocados, however, is typically volatile, meaning that it goes up and down a lot. At the beginning of the season, the wholesale price of avocados is $4 per bushel. If Farmer Joe has a bumper crop of avocados but the price of avocados drops to $2 per bushel in April at harvest, Farmer Joe may lose a lot of money.
Because ETFs are traded like a stock, brokers often charge a commission to buy or sell them. But many brokers, including the ones on this list of the best ETF brokers, have a selection of commission-free ETFs. If you plan to regularly invest in an ETF — as many investors do, by making automatic investments each month or week — you should choose a commission-free ETF so you aren’t paying a commission each time. (Here’s some background about commissions and other investment fees.)
The types of publicly traded stocks you own may differ based on a number of factors. For example, if you are the type of person that likes companies that are stable and gush cash flow for owners, you are probably going to be drawn to blue-chip stocks, and may even have an affinity for dividend investing, dividend growth investing, and value investing.
"This book provides a good foundation for the beginning investor who is setting out to venture in the stock market. It tells you in plain English about the fundamentals of stock market and investment strategies to deepen your investing literacy. If you're looking for good advice on which stock to buy and when to sell it, you can find it in this book."—Best Ways to Invest Money Blog
There are a few other risks that come with bonds. Because their rates are fixed, they fail to take inflation into account. Additionally, if interest rates increase, existing bonds’ prices will fall. Although you technically won’t lose value if you buy the bond before the drop, having money in a bond with a lower rate means your missing out on better fixed-income investments. The World's Worst Stock Investment Advice