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How To Start Investing In 2016

How To Start Investing In 2016

Investing can be scary. The fear of the unknown always is. And the case for Millennials is worse, especially considering many of them graduated into a financial crisis and witnessed the stock market plummet nearly 40% in 2008. That kind of traumatic experience sticks with you, just as the Great Depression forced an entire generation of Americans to develop very frugal habits.

However, it’s important that young adults overcome their fears and start investing to secure their financial future. Waiting too long and starting too late can result in not having saved enough for retirement. After all, the stock market doesn’t plunge every other year and investing volatility is why experts always recommend you pick long-term investments, not short-term trades.

Below, we will discuss how to start investing in 2016, including the power of compounding interest, the average return of the stock market over the last 100 years, how to choose a brokerage account that is right for you, and finally, investment tips for beginners who may need some guidance.

Average Stock Market Returns

For starters, let me provide some basic background on expected average stock market returns. Between the beginning of 1900 and the end of 2015, the stock market returned an average 11.53%. To make sure that these dates were not cherry-picked, let’s remember what happened during this time period: two World Wars, the Great Depression, Vietnam War, Korean War, an oil embargo, multiple terrorist attacks, and a number of recessions caused by economic boom and bust cycles.

Even if you decide to solely focus on the most recent recession, including the roughly 37% drop in equities in 2008, the stock market has returned over 8.40% between 2007 and 2015. This is because the drop in the S&P 500 was closely followed by a slow recovery that ultimately helped investors recover their investments and then some. The point is, despite recessions and individual years with negative returns, the stock market averages a strong positive return over time.

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Time in the Market vs. Timing the Market

It is also important to point out that investors cannot time the market. In fact, research shows that a handful of days each year are actually responsible for the majority of the gains in that year.

The chart below, which reflects data compiled by JPMorgan Asset Management, demonstrates that an investor would have earned a 9.22% return if they were fully invested between 1993 and 2013. But if an investor were to have missed the top ten trading days out of ten years, the return would have decreased to 5.49%.

Investing - Time in the Market

    New investors should ask themselves: out of the more than 2,500 trading days in that 10 year period, would you have been able to pick the top 10 highest earning days?

    Start Early – The Power of Compounding

    Another reason why Millennials and young families should start investing as early as possible is the power of compounding. If you aren’t familiar with the concept of “compounding” returns, it is when you earn a gain on your principal the first year, and then begin to earn returns on your previous returns.

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    For example, if you invest $1,000 and earn an average 10% return annually, your investment will grow to $1,100 after the first year. After the second year, you won’t just earn another $100 but $110, for a total of $1,210. And the third year you will earn $121 for a total value of $1,331.

    On a small scale, this doesn’t seem like much, but assume you invest $1,000 per year for 30 years and average a conservative 8% return. Instead of having $30,000 in a checking account, you will have accumulated a little more than $132,000.

    Now let’s make this more realistic – assume you have a Roth IRA and you contribute the maximum (for your age) $5,500 per year for 30 years. At an average rate of return of 10% annually, you will have nearly $1.1 million dollars. But here’s why investing as early as possible is essential – if we change the number of years we’ve invested from 30 to 25, we only end up with $654,000 in retirement. Those final 5 years of investing on a large capital base comprise a significant amount in terms of gains and mean the difference between a comfortable retirement and a strained one.

    Compounding returns are critical to investors because they allow you to turn small principal contributions over a long period of time into large nest eggs. Keep in mind that Albert Einstein called compounding interest “the most powerful force in the universe.”

    How To Choose A Brokerage Account

    Once you’ve made the decision to start investing for your future, you must decide on your investment strategy and how to execute it. There are many brokerage houses or investing platforms available today – some of which have been around for decades, while others have leveraged new technology to offer consumers alternatives to traditional companies.

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    Traditional Investment Management

    A decade ago, investors had to choose between mutual fund managers such as Vanguard, Fidelity, and BlackRock (iShares) and discount brokerage firms such as TD Ameritrade, E*TRADE, and Scottrade.

    Mutual and index fund managers are ideal for passive investors. If you don’t know much about investing except for the basics, an index fund or ETF from Vanguard or Fidelity may be best – both securities use broad indexes as benchmarks and can be a way for investors to mimic returns from the S&P 500, Dow Jones Industrial Average, or NASDAQ.

    On the other hand, if your employer 401K is already held with one of those mutual fund managers, you may want your private investment portfolio to be at a brokerage house. Discount brokers offer a variety of services, but they are ideal for investing in specific securities or trading stock options.

    Nevertheless, most investors aren’t stock-pickers, and evidence confirms they shouldn’t be. Research shows that “actively managed funds lost out to their passive peers in nearly every asset class during the 10 years between 2004 and 2014…”

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    So why pay your financial advisor a costly fee if they are going to have you invested in passively-managed index funds? Enter the robo-advisor.

    What Are Robo-Advisors?

    The robo-advisor is technology’s response to high fees charged by useless financial advisors and planners. Robo-advisors, such as Wealthfront and Betterment, are online wealth managers that provide automated, virtual investment and portfolio management advice without the intervention of a physical human being.

    By asking you a handful of questions regarding your financial goals, risk tolerance, and personal financial circumstances (e.g. income, assets and age), algorithm-based robo-advisors are able to determine your ideal investment plan. Their programs then recommend a number of investment options and allocations, taking into account the need for diversification across different asset classes and geographies. The other benefit to investors is that, because robo-advisors don’t rely on individual advisors to manage clients, their fees are much lower.

    Although both alternative asset managers are cheaper than traditional financial advisors, both companies have pros and cons. If this investment style seems appealing to you, it is crucial investors research and compare Betterment vs Wealthfront to determine which one better fulfills your needs.

    Stock Market Investing Tips – Dos and Don’ts

    Finally, when you pick a platform and start investing, it is important to develop a basic investment philosophy. While each investor has a different risk tolerance and way of choosing his investments, here are a few stock market tips to help you understand the fundamentals.

    • Set long-term goals. Investing is not a get-rich quick opportunity, and taking on too much risk can easily result in financial ruin. Evaluate your age, risk tolerance, time horizon, and financial goals (e.g. income generation, wealth preservation, or growth).
    • Control your emotions. Hope, greed, fear, and passion are emotions that will cloud your judgement. Investing with objectivity will protect you from making costly mistakes.
    • Minimize risk and maximize reward. Don’t take on excessive risk for small gains. Ideally, take on little risk for huge potential gains.
    • Don’t worry about taxes. If you think a stock has overshot its true value, sell. It is better to take your gains and pay capital gains taxes than to lose money holding a stock too long.
    • Buy best-in-class companies. Unless a mediocre company is deeply misunderstood by other investors, always buy the best and strongest companies in an industry.
    • Don’t be afraid to hold cash when you don’t see any bargains in the marketplace.
    • Don’t believe the hype on Wall Street and always be skeptical of financial analysts. They have a vested interest in keeping you invested, especially when they have positions in the names they are advertising.
    • Don’t let a financial advisor convince you to make an investment you aren’t comfortable with. If the investment, company, or industry doesn’t make sense to you, why invest in it?
    • Life insurance is not an investment. Unethical financial advisors make exorbitant commissions selling whole life insurance, which they claim is an investment opportunity with guaranteed returns. The high premiums you pay outweigh any returns you may earn. Term life is the best life insurance you can buy, then take your savings and invest in an index fund.

    Final Word

    Starting anything new can be intimidating, but that’s no excuse to procrastinate and avoid securing your family’s financial future. To eventually reach financial independence, young adults and families need to start investing early to take advantage of time and compounding returns. If you are skeptical or fearful, starting small is an option. Ultimately, successful investing is all about taking simple steps and executing on fundamental principles on a regular basis. Let 2016 be the year you begin your journey to financial freedom!

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    Gary Dekmezian

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    Published on November 3, 2020

    How to Start Investing Without Taking Major Risks

    How to Start Investing Without Taking Major Risks

    No one loves risk. This is the uncontested truth about us human beings. We love gaining but never losing. This is not abnormal in any way because human beings exist to increase. Any form of loss is strongly resisted by our brains. This article will teach you how to start investing as a risk-averse individual and get optimal results.

    All forms of investing are risky. The only thing we can do is minimize the risk, not eliminate it. This is why every investor needs to tolerate some level of risk. People who do not have any risk tolerance end up not investing at all.

    It is important to note that not investing is very risky. This is the greatest risk you can take on your financial future. Being a financial consultant and advisor for years, I have realized that successful people avoid losing possible returns while average people avoid losing investment capital.

    This means that successful people work hard to gain what they do not have while average people work hard not to lose what they have. As they say in sports, the best form of defense is offense. As successful people go for what they want, they find it easy to protect their investment.

    How to Start Investing Without Taking Much Risk

    As I have pointed out, you cannot eliminate the risk, you can only mitigate it. These 5 tips will help you secure the returns while taking minimal risks. It is possible.

    1. Get Investment Intelligence

    Investment intelligence refers to a set of information that helps you make prudent investment decisions. This is what the greatest investors like Warren Buffet and George Soros have. They can judge different opportunities from an information point of view. With that, they avoid making mistakes that could potentially cost them billions.

    As Robert Kiyosaki points out in his book, Rich Dad’s Cashflow Quadrant, investors can be placed in 5 levels:

    • The “zero financial intelligence” level
    • The “savers are losers” level
    • The “I am too busy” level
    • The “I am a professional” level
    • The capitalist level

    The first 3 levels, which consist of 90% of all investors, do not have sufficient information to make prudent investment decisions. Many would rather not invest, others will rather put their cash in a bank account, and the rest will choose to delegate the responsibility to someone else and entrust them to multiply their money.

    The last two levels of investors have some investment knowledge. They end up becoming the most successful people in the world. As I usually say, making money is not the problem, multiplying it is.

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    Therefore, knowing how to start investing without much risk starts with self-education. Read books and blog posts to learn how to reduce the risk involved while still getting acceptable returns. The more you learn, the more you earn. Getting more knowledge will help you look at the numbers and the facts as presented by the numbers.

    2. Start Small

    It is almost guaranteed that as a new investor, your first investment capital will be lost. This is because you do not have the right information and skills to make a return.

    Even though you may have some basics, it takes practical experience and skills to become a successful investor. Therefore, it is prudent to start small. As you make returns and learn, you can increase your investment capital over time.

    Do not borrow millions to make an initial investment. This is a grave error many people make. When the investment goes down, they are left heavily in bad debt. First, invest your savings and test your principles of investment. After you have gotten returns, you can now consider risking more and more capital.

    3. Diversify

    Diversification is usually the first answer given by all financial advisors when asked how to start investing by risk-averse people. This answer is correct. Diversification of your investment portfolio means investing in different asset classes to spread the risk.

    There are 2 types of diversification:

    • Inter-asset diversification: This is where you invest in assets from different industries. For example, you can invest in stocks and real estate. These are different asset classes.
    • Intra- asset diversification: This is where you invest in the same asset class. For example, investing in stocks of different companies falls in this category.

    Inter-asset diversification is more effective in mitigating risk because it cautions your finances from systemic risks that affect different individual industries. For example, some situations affect the real estate market only. Therefore, if all your assets are in this market, you will be highly affected. If you have diversified to stocks, businesses, precious metals, bonds, etc. you will not suffer major losses.

    Diversification aims to have some assets bringing returns even if others make losses. This is a key secret when it comes to how to start investing while minimizing risk.

    4. Do Your Due Diligence

    Due diligence is different from getting investment intelligence. Getting investment intelligence entails understanding the general principles of investment. Doing your due diligence, on the other hand, entails understanding the facts behind a certain investment opportunity.

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    When someone tells you of an investment opportunity somewhere, go after the facts. The facts will tell you whether it is a good opportunity or not. Never focus on people’s opinions when judging different investment options. The best thing is to do your research and justify the claims by the facts. Facts will never mislead.

    The best approach is to study the past and project the future. This is called forecasting. Similarly, you can follow what is called scenario planning. This is where you try to understand the future and make appropriate decisions today.

    For example, you might foresee that electric cars are going to take over in the future. This way, you will decide to invest long term in car companies that are focused on that area. This is due diligence.

    5. Avoid Making Emotional Investment Decisions

    Emotional decisions lack logic and rationale. They are not supported by the facts. Emotional decisions are therefore risky. When it comes to making investment decisions, always use logic. This is using your brain rather than your heart.

    For example, a friend you love and respect may tell you of an investment idea and ask you to invest. The natural tendency is to comply with their demand. When you bring your emotions here, it will be impossible to resist even though the deal does not favor your financial future.

    However, it is better to do what is emotionally incorrect to safeguard your financial interests. Demystify the options and make an informed logical decision.

    Low-Risk Financial Instruments

    Knowing how to start investing without taking much risk requires looking at different low-risk investment options.

    Here are some financial instruments that a risk-averse individual may consider investing in.

    1. Treasury Securities

    Government financial instruments are less risky. This is because the government can print money to repay its investors. Therefore, the possibility of default is considerably low.

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    It is, however, important to understand that these securities yield below-average returns. If you are in your prime age, only invest in them as a diversification tool and not as the main income-generating instruments. Therefore, consider your financial position and make an informed decision.

    2. Dividend-Paying Stocks

    Dividend-paying stocks are less risky compared to those that do not. Even if the stocks decrease in value, the dividends you get over the years will caution you against actual financial loss.

    Therefore, analyze the company in whose stocks you want to invest in carefully. If they do not have a dividend policy that suits your financial needs, move on. Fortunately, many companies pay dividends to their shareholders year in year out. You just need to do your due diligence.

    3. Preferred Stocks

    Preferred stocks are given priority over ordinary stocks. They are paid after bondholders are sorted. Therefore, in case the company is pushed out of business, preferred stockholders will be paid before ordinary shareholders upon liquidation of the company’s assets.

    4. Fixed Annuities

    A fixed annuity is an insurance contract that pays the holder a guaranteed interest rate on their contribution. The opposite is called variable annuities.

    The great thing about fixed annuities is that they are simple and predictable. There’s no need for you to learn about the stock market changes since you know what to expect based on your agreement.[1] Fixed annuities are guaranteed. They are paid as long as the company is in a position to do so.

    5. Money Market Accounts

    These are interest-bearing accounts provided by financial institutions. They pay a higher interest rate than the normal savings accounts. These accounts have insurance protection and are therefore less risky.

    6. Corporate Bonds

    This is a financial debt security that is issued by a firm and sold to investors. Bondholders receive a fixed or variable interest on their investment and receive their investment capital upon maturity. These are low-risk instruments especially if the issuer is an established firm in the market.

    7. Certificates of Deposits (CDs)

    This is a type of product offered by many deposit-taking institutions. They offer premium interest rates on deposits as long as the customer agrees to leave the money untouched for a certain period.

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    8. Value Funds

    Value funds follow the value investing strategy used by famous investors like Warren Buffet and Benjamin Graham. It involves identifying shares that are undervalued and putting money in them.

    Value funds are low risk because they are sold at a discount. They later bring returns when the market undergoes an auto-correction. However, it takes skilled managers to identify undervalued stocks.

    Word of Caution

    So far, we have looked at how to start investing without taking major risks and the instruments to invest in. It is also important to give a word of caution on the same.

    1. Let the ROI Outdo the Inflation Rate

    Inflation is a persistent increase in the prices of commodities. It serves as a measure of the changes in the prices of commodities and services over a period of time. Inflation impacts the cost of living and eats into the purchasing power of money.[2] If your return on investment (ROI) is less than the inflation rate, you have lost economic value.

    2. Consider Opportunity Cost

    Opportunity cost is the value of the foregone alternative. If you have different investment options, calculate the ROI, and invest in the option with the least opportunity cost.

    3. Consider Your Financial Position

    Where you are in terms of finance should determine the kind of investment option you choose. People who are just starting should seek both returns and security. If your investment is wiped out, you will have little left to lean on.

    People who are established financially can afford to take major risks. After all, when they lose the investment capital, they have enough to fall back on.

    4. Consider Your Financial Goals

    People have different financial goals. Some want to be very wealthy, while others just want to live a comfortable life. Choose your investment options carefully based on your goals. People who want to be super successful should seek to maximize ROI.

    Final Thoughts

    As we have seen, it is impossible to eliminate risks. The best you can do is to mitigate them. Therefore, tolerate a certain amount of risk to guarantee better returns. By following the tips in this article, you will learn how to start investing while significantly reducing the risks involves as you focus on the reward.

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    Featured photo credit: Chris Liverani via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Annuity.org: Fixed Annuity
    [2] Financial Express: What is Inflation?

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