One of the problems that many people run into when it comes to investing is analysis paralysis. Investing is one of those things that seems to come with a lot of information and baggage, and it’s difficult to feel confident in the decisions that you make.
Many people aren’t sure how to start investing, and, as a result, end up missing out on the opportunity to build a great deal of wealth over time.
The good news is that it isn’t hard to start investing.
Start with a Company Retirement Plan
You might be surprised to discover that you are already investing. If you are contributing to your company’s retirement plan (usually a 401(k), but it might be something else), then you have already started investing.
If you aren’t contributing to your company’s retirement plan, it’s one of the easiest ways to start. If you want to know how to start investing, head to your company’s HR department and ask about the company plan. If there is a company match, try to invest the maximum amount you can in order to receive the maximum match.
Even if you aren’t receiving a match, there is a good chance that you can find a low-cost all-market fund to start with. Put your money in the fund with the lowest fees and go from there.
Open a Low-Cost Brokerage Account
If your employer doesn’t offer a retirement plan, or if the retirement plan is awful, you might need to branch out on your own. The good news is that this doesn’t have to be a daunting task, either. There are a number of options when it comes to opening a low-cost brokerage account.
Choose a low-cost brokerage that offers you the ability to open an IRA. While the contribution limit isn’t as high as it is with your company’s retirement plan, you can still get started. And, in most cases, the funds offered in low-cost brokerages are very inexpensive. It will save you a lot in fees, and keep your real returns at a higher rate.
Don’t forget about robo advisors. There are a number of low-cost robo advisors, including Betterment and Acorns, that provide you with the opportunity to invest a small amount of money at a time. This can boost your ability to earn over time, and makes it easy to get started.
Start with Index Funds and Index ETFs
One of the biggest stumbling blocks for those who are trying to figure out how to start investing is the idea of stock picking. For some reason, we have it in our heads that the way to invest is to choose winning stocks. Unfortunately, the reality is that is the short road to failure.
Instead of trying to pick stocks, invest in the market. Start with index funds and index ETFs. These are investments that offer you the opportunity to be exposed to entire swaths of the market. If you choose an all-market index fund or ETF, then basically you are investing in the market as a whole. Yes, individual stocks will go down and trade with volatility. However, the market as a whole has yet to lose out in any given 25-year period. So if you are investing for the long haul, you are more likely to be successful if you invest in index funds and ETFs.
If you want a little more diversity, you can still use index funds or ETFs to accomplish your goals. There are index funds and ETFs that use bond indexes as their guides. If you want to diversify outside the United States, it’s possible to invest in an all-world index fund or ETF.
The benefit to starting in this way is that you can start for a relatively small amount, and as long as you invest consistently each month (using a dollar-cost averaging strategy), you are off to a good start with your portfolio.
Over time, you will likely need to increase the amount you set aside, but it makes a good start, and the important thing is that you start as early as possible to earn compound interest through investing.
Once you are more comfortable with investing, you can branch out more. However, it makes sense to keep, at the core of your long-term plan, your stock/bond index funds or ETF investments. You might dabble in other areas as you gain more knowledge and confidence, but the essential thing is to get started, and do it as easily as possible.