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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 July 4, 2019

    25 Killer Sites For Free Online Education

    25 Killer Sites For Free Online Education

    Whether you’re five or ninety five, the internet has a lot to offer. Particularly when the topic is education, the resources on the internet are endless.

    Best of all, many high quality sites are completely free. From history to coding, excellent free online education awaits on the following 25 sites.

    1. Coursera

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      Coursera is a website that partners with universities and organizations around the world. This brings a wide variety of topics and perspectives to one searchable database.

      Coursera is a powerful tool for free online education, and includes courses from many top universities, museums and trusts. This gives the site an extremely wide range of in-depth courses.

      Coursera is extremely useful if you’re looking to study many different topics, or want courses from different schools and groups.

      2. Khan Academy

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        Partnering with many post secondary schools, Khan Academy offers a useable, well organized interface. Also curating many courses from around the web, Khan Academy offers impressive depth on many different subjects.

        Among the more well known educational sites, Khan Academy is also incredibly useable, which may make it easier to keep learning goals.

        3. Open Culture Online Courses

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          If you are struggling to find exactly the material you are looking for, try Open Culture’s listing of free online education courses. The page highlights 1000 lectures, videos and podcasts from universities around the world. The site features a lot of material found only on universities private sites, all in easy to browse categories. This means you can find hundreds of university courses, without having to visit and search each university’s own site.

          Open Culture’s list features courses from England, Australia, Wales and many state universities around the United States. A very helpful resource for finding many courses in one area of study.

          4. Udemy 

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            Udemy’s free courses are similar in concept to Coursera’s but additionally allows users to build custom courses from lessons.

            Working with many top professors and schools, the site mixes the customizable platform of other sites with a heavy emphasis on top quality content. This is another site however, that mixes free and paid content.

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            5. Academic Earth

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              Another site with courses from many different schools is Academic Earth. Much like the three sites above, Academic Earth brings together top notch courses from many different sources, and focuses on offering a wide variety of subjects.

              Academic Earth lists courses by subject and school, so it might be easier to find what you’re looking for.

              6. edX

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                Another great option for free online education is edX. Also bringing together courses from many different schools, the site has impressive, quality information for everyone. edX covers a great range of topics.

                7. Alison

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                  Unlike the previous sites on this lists, Alison is a free education site offering certification in some areas. Alison offers courses mainly in business, technology, and health, but also includes language learning courses.

                  It’s a great option if users need certification for their learning as Alison also offers school curriculum courses.

                  8. iTunesU Free Courses

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                    A very convenient place for free online education is iTunesU, because it integrates seamlessly with your iPod, or any app-ready Apple mobile device. On iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch, users download the iTunesU app.

                    Desktop users can access  iTunesU on the upper right hand corner of the iTunes Store. iTunesU is also convenient because the store is categorized much like iTunes.

                    Users can search learning materials in many different ways, including genre and topic. However, courses are often a mix of free podcasts or videos, and paid content.

                    ITunesU does include courses on a pretty wide scope of topics, but does not integrate with Android, Google or Windows mobile devices.

                    9. Stanford Online

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                      Your hub for all the online offerings from Stanford University, Stanford Online offers self-paced and session based courses. While Coursera features some courses from Stanford, many classes are only available via other hosts. Some courses require iTunes, but most are completed in your web browser.

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                      Stanford Online is a great site for high quality courses, though the topics are somewhat limited compared to sites partnered with more than one school.

                      10. Harvard Extension

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                        Like Stanford Online, Harvard Extension features free online education courses from Harvard only. This is another excellent source for top notch course material, though the course variety is less rich than multi-school sites.

                        Additionally, Harvard Extension allows you to search for courses by professional certificate. This makes it much easier if your online education goal includes certification.

                        11. Open Yale Courses

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                          Open Yale Courses echoes Harvard Extension and Stanford Online, in that it offers only courses from Yale. While the site is similarly limited to topics taught at the school, Open Yale Courses offers a lot of videos of actual campus lectures. The availability of videos makes the site a great option if you’re looking for quality courses, but learn better by watching than by reading.

                          12. UC Berkeley Class Central

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                            Much like the other schools on this list, UC Berkeley has a variety of free online education options. The school has slightly fewer courses than the schools above, but includes some supplementary lectures, webcasts and RSS Feeds, making it easy to keep up with the topics you choose.

                            13. MIT OpenCourseWare

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                              Similarly, MIT offers a variety of free courses. The school has a comparable number of courses to the schools above, plus includes very in-depth course materials on the subjects available. MIT also offers free RSS feeds, a convenient way to continue learning.

                              14. Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative

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                                Carnegie Mellon’s free online education site is comparable with the other school’s on this list, however, Open Learning Initiative also covers a smaller range of topics. But for the topics that are covered impressive, in-depth material is available.

                                15. Codecademy

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                                  Codecademy is a website dedicated specifically to teaching coding. Where other coding sites follow an example/practice session workflow, Codecademy includes a live practice window. This means you can practice coding while still viewing the lesson material.

                                  The courses at Codecademy are well written and easy to follow and the website is organized very nicely. Codecademy features a centralized dashboard where you can monitor your progress, plus organizes lessons into complete modules. This lets you learn an entire language without needing to pick the next course manually.

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                                  16. Code

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                                    Code is another website focused on coding and app writing. A site with high quality courses, Code also features learning options for kids.

                                    In addition to kid friendly courses, Code offers free online education classes on a wide variety of technology topics. These classes include app writing, robotics and Javascript.

                                    Most of the courses are also geared in a such a way that they can be useful in a classroom setting. This makes Code a great resource for harder to find coding topics, as well as various learning settings.

                                    17. University of London Podcasts

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                                      The podcast page on the University of London website is another great source for free education. While the courses are limited to podcasts, the site features podcasts from it’s own campus, as well as eleven universities in and around London. This gives learners a wide base of topics and lectures, but still ensures in-depth material.

                                      18. University of Oxford Podcasts

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                                        Similar to the University of London, the University of Oxford features many different podcasts. Most are public lecture series or lectures from visiting professors, with several different recordings available.

                                        The advantage to this particular site is that podcasts are organized into series, making it easy to subscribe to multiple lectures on one topic. Another good site for thoroughly in-depth lectures.

                                        19. BBC Podcasts

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                                          For the more casual learner, the BBC offers a wide variety of podcasts on many different topics. Most podcasts are updated weekly, and focus on everything from finance, to sports, to current events.

                                          Through the World Service line of podcasts, there are also many in different languages. The focus of these podcasts are less in-depth and theory based, which may be more accessible to the average person.

                                          20. TED-Ed

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                                            Another great destination for more general learning is TED-Ed. From the same people that brought you the all encompassing, motivational web series, comes a site chocked full of educational videos. Most include impressive animation, and all are ten minutes long or less.

                                            Not only is TED-Ed an excellent site for the curious, it also includes supplemental materials and quizzes on the videos. This makes the site extremely useful in formal education settings, as well as in entertaining ways to brush up on new discoveries and topics.

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                                            21. LessonPaths

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                                              LessonPaths is another great tool for those looking for a more usable and convenient way to access learning material. On this site, users create link playlists of their favorite learning materials from other sites. Users then rank these collections, making it easy to find many different high quality, accessible sources on a given topic.

                                              22. Memrise

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                                                Another impressive free online education site offering ease of use and convenience is Memrise. Available both on desktop and as an app, Memrise is a particularly powerful tool if you are studying a language. The site encompasses many other topics as well, though some of the course material is user generated content.

                                                Part of what makes Memrise special is their integration of games into the learning materials, mixing learning with entertainment.

                                                23. National Geographic Kids

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                                                  The kids site for National Geographic is another site that makes free online education applicable for younger users. For those looking for kid friendly education, a large variety of games, puzzles, videos and photos keeps kids interested on this site.

                                                  National Geographic Kids doesn’t organize learning into courses, making materials available by topic and medium instead. This makes National Geographic Kids a good option for those looking for a more casual learning environment.

                                                  24. Fun Brain

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                                                    Fun Brain is another good option for kids who want to learn online, but focuses on games and fun puzzles. Particularly focused on math and reading, Fun Brain’s game based approach can be valuable if the child in question struggles to pay attention.

                                                    Fun Brain offers rewards and challenges as well, and is another site aimed at a casual learning experience for kids K-8.

                                                    25. Whyville

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                                                      Similar to the sites for kids free online education is Whyville a destination for preteen online learning. The site includes a variety of social features, with a focus on learning materials geared for young teens.

                                                      Whyville also mixes in educational games, to make the site a well rounded option for kids too old for simple games, but too young for heavy reading based material.

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                                                      Featured photo credit: Dai KE via unsplash.com

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