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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

    Entrepreneur

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    Last Updated on January 2, 2019

    How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

    How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

    Do you know what mental health experts point to as the biggest cause of stress in the United States today? If you said “money,” then ding, ding, we have a winner!

    Three out of four adults today report feeling stressed out about money at least part of the time. People are either worried about not having enough money or whether they’re putting the money they do have to use in the best possible way.

    Your money is either in charge of you or you’re in charge of it, there’s no middle ground. Using some type of personal finance software can help alleviate some of that money stress and better allow you to manage your money effectively. Without it, you may just be setting yourself up for constant financial worry. Life is already tough enough and there’s no need to make it more difficult by simply hoping your money issues will all work out in your favor. Hint: they won’t.

    This guide will help you to understand how personal finance software can better assist with both accomplishing long term financial goals and managing day-to-day aspects of life.

    Whether it’s tracking the savings plan for your child’s college fund or making sure you won’t be in the red with the month’s grocery budget, personal finance software keeps all this information in one convenient place.

    What Exactly is Personal Finance Software?

    Think of it like the dashboard in your car. You have a speedometer to tell you how fast you’re going, an odometer to tell you how far you’ve traveled, and then other gauges to tell you things like how much gas is in the tank and your engine temperature. Personal finance software is essentially the same thing for your money.

    When you install this software on your computer, tablet, or smartphone, it helps to track your money — how much is going in, how much is going out, and its growth. Most personal finance software programs will display your budget, spending, investments, bills, savings accounts, and even retirement plans, levels of debt, and credit score.

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    How It Leads to Financial Improvement

    It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but people who regularly monitor their finances end up wealthier than those who don’t. When you were a kid, keeping track of all of your money in a porcelain piggy bank was pretty easy. As we get older, though, our money becomes spread out across things like car payments, mortgages, retirement funds, taxes, and other investments and debts. All of these things make keeping track of our money a lot more complicated.

    Some types of personal finance software can help make things a little less complicated, setting you up to meet financial goals and taking away some of the stress associated with money.

    Even if you already have a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) some type of personal finance software can be of great benefit. Whereas CFPs focus on the big picture of your money, they don’t handle the day-to-day aspects that determine your overall financial health.

    It’s also not nearly as complicated as you might think and can take out a lot of the tedium that comes with doing everything on an Excel spreadsheet or with a pad and pencil.

    Types of Personal Finance Software

    When it comes to personal finance software, it generally fits into two categories: tax preparation and money management.

    Tax preparation software such as Turbo Tax and H&R Block’s software can help with everything from filing income taxes to IRS rules and regulations and even estate plans. Plus, there’s the benefit of filing online and getting your refund check a lot faster than if you were to mail off your forms after waiting in line at the post office.

    For the purpose of this article, however, will be focusing more on the personal finance software that aids with money management.

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    Money management personal finance software will help you to see the health of your cash flow, pay down debt, forecast for expenses and savings, track investments, pay bills, and do a host of other things that 30 years ago would have practically required a team of accountants.

    When to Use Personal Finance Software

    So far we’ve gone over what exactly personal finance software is and how it can be a benefit to your money. The next logical step in this whole equation is determining when it should be used and how is the best way to go about getting started using it.

    Below are four of the most common and practical ways to use personal finance software. If all or any of these apply to you and your money, then downloading some type of personal finance software is going to be a smart move.

    1. You Have Multiple Accounts

    There’s a good chance that when it comes to your money, it’s in more than one place. Sure, you probably have a checking account, but you may also have a savings account, money market account, and retirement accounts such as an IRA or 401k.

    If you’re like the average American, you probably have two to three credit cards as well. Fifty percent of Americans also don’t have loyalty to just one bank and spread their money across multiple banks.

    Rather than spending hours typing in every detail of every account you have into a spreadsheet, many programs allow you to easily import your account information. This will help to eliminate any mistakes and give you a bird’s eye view of everything at once.

    2. You Want to Automate Some or All of Your Payments

    Please don’t say that you’re still writing out paper checks and dropping each bill in the mailbox. While it’s noble that you’re doing your part to keep postal workers employed, we’re 18 years into the 21st century and you can literally pay every bill online now.

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    There’s no need to log into every account you have and type in your routing number either.

    With personal finance software you can schedule automatic payments and transfers between all of your imported accounts. Automatic transfers will help to make sure you have the necessary funds in the right account to ensure all bills are paid on the appropriate date. Late fees are annoying and do nothing but cost you money. It’s time that you said goodbye to them once and for all.

    3. You Need to Streamline Your Budget

    Perhaps the best feature of personal finance software is that it allows you track everything going in and out of your virtual wallet.

    Nearly every brand of personal finance software out there has easy-to-read graphs and charts that allow you track every cent you spend or earn, should you choose. You might be pretty amazed when you see just how much you spent on eating out last month or if you splurged a little more than you should have on Christmas gifts last year.

    Every successful business on the planet has a budget and using personal finance software can help you trim the fat on your spending in ways that affect your everyday life.

    4. You Have Specific Goals to Meet

    Maybe it’s paying off debt or saving for up something like a European vacation. Whatever your financial goal is, whether it’s long-term or short-term, personal finance software programs are one of the savviest ways to go about reaching those goals.

    You can do everything from set spending alerts to notify you when you’re over budget to automating what percentage of your paycheck goes to things like retirement investments. The personal finance software that you choose should show you exactly how close you are to hitting those goals at any given time.

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    How to Get Started

    From AceMoney to Mint and Quicken, there ’s no shortage of personal finance software apps out there. Many of these programs are free to download and will allow you to pay bills, invest, monitor your net worth and credit profile, and even get a loan with the swipe of a finger.

    Other programs may only offer you limited services and will require a one-time fee or subscription to unlock all that they offer. These fees can often vary from as little as two dollars to 50 bucks a month.

    It’s best to start off with the free version and then gauge whether you’re able to accomplish everything you’d like or if it’s worth exploring one of the paid options. Often times the subscription programs come with assistance from financial planning and investment experts — so that can be a real benefit.

    When deciding which personal finance software program to use, it’s also important to look at how many accounts you wish to monitor. Certain programs limit the number of accounts you can add. Be sure that if you have checking, credit card, and investment accounts to monitor, that you choose a service that can monitor them all.

    Finally, when looking around for the right personal finance software that meets your needs, make sure that you’re comfortable with the program’s interface. It shouldn’t be expected that you recognize every single feature instantly, but if the features don’t seem readable and manageable to you, then you’re not as likely to use it and get the full benefits.

    Final Thoughts

    Personal finance software can go a long way in helping you to take control of your money and meeting your financial goals. It’s important to note, however, that some focus more on budgeting and expense tracking while others prioritize investing portfolios and income taxes. Explore several different programs and read reviews to find the one that’s right for you.

    In this day and age, managing one’s personal finances in a secure manner that allows the user to have a real-time visual representation of their money is easier than ever before. With the numerous applications that are out there — both free and subscription-based — there’s no reason that every person can’t take control of their money and ensure they’re making smart money moves.

    Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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