We all know that we should not only save money, but invest it every month. There’s more to building wealth than collecting a paycheck and spending it wisely. Still, barely half of Americans trade in the stock market — why are so many people working hard for their money, but not making their money work hard for them in return? It’s a safe bet they are buying into one of the following misconceptions (just like I did, before I started investing):
1. I Don’t Have Anything to Invest
Americans are living from paycheck to paycheck. Over the last decade, salaries haven’t kept up with inflation, and people at every income level feel the pinch. As a result, they tend to think short-term about finances—they just want to make it to the next check without falling behind. But imagine this: you are 75 years old, and the decisions you made at age 35 mean you are still limping from one payday to another. Now, however, the “payday” consists of a social security payment, not enough to cover even your basic expenses. Forget about luxuries, altogether.
Sounds grim, doesn’t it? But this scenario is exactly where short-term financial thinking leads. For those of us who will not inherit fortunes, long-term planning is the only way to have a comfortable, enjoyable retirement. That means not only saving, but investing, now. Start small by saving a small percentage of your monthly salary for one year. At the end of the year, use that savings to open an investment account. That’s all it takes to begin building a secure future.
2. It’s Gambling
One of the biggest myths about the stock market is that it’s really just gambling. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Gambling is a game of chance, one in which you have little or no hope of winning, and in which no amount of knowledge can help you. Investing in stocks, however, means investing in companies you have good reason to believe will be successful. It takes research, to be sure, but the more you learn about different industries and the factors involved in their success, the more likely you are to select long-term winners. While there is risk involved, any reasonably intelligent investor who is paying attention can earn nice profits, over time.
3. It’s Confusing
It doesn’t have to be confusing. True, the stock trade has its own jargon, and over time, the amount of jargon has grown immense. To a beginner, the unintelligible slang and acronyms may seem baffling and discouraging. Luckily, the web includes some rich resources. For example, Nasdaq.com provides a free online glossary that defines over 8,000 investment terms. All it takes is a little bit of research to cut through the clutter and you’ll be comfortable with the terms being used in no time at all.
4. It Costs Just to Play
Historically, it did cost quite a bit to research and track stocks and to make trades. Subscriptions for research and tracking tools cost professionals up to $24,000.00, annually. Those professionals pass their costs on to everyday investors through a bewildering schedule of trade and account maintenance fees. But those days are in the past. Today, everyday investors can research and track their stocks for free with online tools like INDX.guru and trade for free with apps like Robinhood (disclaimer: I work with INDX.guru). With today’s online resources you don’t have to spend a cent beyond the money you are actually investing.
There really is no reason for anyone to avoid the stock market. Making your money work for you is the key to long term security. With so many free resources out there, the barrier to entry to investing in stocks is lower than ever.