Investing is more than just saving for the future. It’s about creating a wealth-building strategy to truly make your nest egg grow. That’s because investing typically earns you a higher interest rate than if you put all of your money in a traditional savings account.
While historically low rates are great for when you need to borrow money, they’re pretty dismal when you’re ready to start saving. Investing does come with a higher risk, but you can generally mitigate it with diversified holdings and long-term positions. Plus, it’s easier than ever.
You’re not limited to working with an expensive brokerage or saving a huge amount to reach a minimum investment threshold. Now you can even invest by using an app on your smartphone with the leftover change from your checking account.
Ready to learn how to invest? We’ve got you covered with everything you need to know.
What is investing, and why is it important?
Investing is the act of putting money into financial instruments, such as stocks, bonds, or mutual funds, with the expectation of earning a profit. It allows individuals to save and grow their wealth over time, and can provide a financial cushion for the future, such as during retirement.
The Benefits of Investing
The reason money grows so aggressively through investing is that it’s powered by compound returns. Investments are typically meant for a long-term strategy, rather than taking out money every few months.
When you leave your money untouched in an investment vehicle that offers greater returns than a savings account, your gains continue to compound.
No matter what age you are, it’s a good time to start investing. If you’re younger, you can create a strong foundation to truly accumulate wealth over the coming years.
Even if you’re older, you may be able to catch up faster because of those higher returns. Don’t worry about getting started — even if you can only contribute a small amount each month, you’ll set up the infrastructure and challenge yourself to contribute more as you begin to earn more.
How to Reduce Your Risks in Investing
When investing long-term, you can’t think about your everyday gains and losses; instead, think about how your allocations are performing in the long run. You do want to review your investment choices as you reach different stages in your life; in particular, becoming less aggressive as you get older.
In fact, most investors don’t partake in volatile day trading. They spread their money over diversified investment types to help reduce risk and maximize returns over time.
There will always be economic cycles with highs and lows. But even downturns can be mitigated in your investment portfolio by spacing out your money over different product categories as well as different economic sectors. This can go a long way in protecting your money over time.
If you do want to try out some riskier investments, make sure you view that money as discretionary risk capital, meaning your livelihood and well-being won’t be impacted if you lose it all.
How to Invest Your Money
Diversification is essential, as is setting reminders to review the performance of your picks, such as a quarterly review. It also helps you adjust your asset allocation based on your own financial goals. Are you trying to retire earlier than you initially planned? Are you able to contribute more each month?
With these strategies in mind, here is a comprehensive review of different investment vehicles you can take advantage of to accumulate wealth over time.
Retirement accounts are probably the most common and accessible types of investment accounts. You may be able to open a retirement account through your employer or open one on your own. Each type comes with a different tax treatment, so review the details carefully.
A traditional IRA is a tax-advantaged account that allows you to deduct your contributions each year. Once you start making retirement withdrawals, you’ll pay the IRS based on the tax bracket you’re in at that time.
They do have annual contribution limits. For 2024, it’s $7,000 unless you’re 50 years or older, in which case you can contribute up to $8,000.
If you want to take a distribution before you reach the age of 59 ½, you’ll have to pay a 10% penalty on top of your taxes. There are a few exceptions to the penalty, such as when you use the funds for a down payment on a house or qualified college expenses.
Another plus is that there is no income limit for qualifying, unlike other IRA options.
A Roth IRA is another tax-advantaged retirement account. However, it comes with a few key differences compared to a traditional IRA. You don’t get a tax deduction when you make your contributions, but you do get to deduct your withdrawals once you reach retirement age.
If you think you’ll be in a higher tax bracket once you hit retirement, this could be a useful tool to save on your taxes later in life. For Roth IRAs, the contribution limit is between $7,000 and $8,000, depending on your age.
However, there’s another qualification you’ll have to meet: the income limit.
The more you earn, the less you’re able to contribute. Your contribution limit is reduced when you earn more than $230,000 for those married filing jointly and more than $146,000 for those filing single or as head of household.
A rollover IRA is one way to transfer an existing 401(k) from your employer once you decide to leave the company. Sometimes an employer lets you leave it there or transfer your funds to a retirement plan at your new place of work. Whether those two scenarios don’t apply to you or you prefer the flexibility of an IRA, a rollover may be a suitable option for you.
Both traditional and Roth IRAs generally allow you to bring in transfer retirement accounts. Just be sure to check your eligibility for either type, as well as any relevant fees you may incur during the transfer process.
This type of IRA is designed specifically for self-employed individuals. While traditional and Roth IRAs are often used to supplement retirement savings accrued through employer plans, a SEP IRA allows for higher contribution limits when you work for yourself. The contribution is the lesser of either 25% of your income or $69,000.
Its tax treatment is the same as traditional IRAs. If you have employees, however, you must provide each one with their own SEP IRA and contribute the same salary percentage as you contribute to your own. Still, this can be a strong option to speed up your retirement investments, particularly if you don’t have employees or only have a few.
Investing in stocks is typically best for active investors, and ideally, someone who already has experience in the stock market. If you’re just getting started, consider your stock investments as play money rather than something you need to rely on to meet your future financial goals. Because individual stocks are riskier, be sure to diversify the ones you choose to invest in.
Buying and selling stocks can result in hefty commission fees. Consider a buy-and-hold approach to avoid accumulating too many expenses, especially when you’re first getting started.
While you no longer need an established broker to execute trades, you can instead create a brokerage account with one of the larger brokerage firms. Your best bet is to compare fees as well as available research to help you make informed trading decisions.
Mutual funds combine your money with other investors to purchase securities for the entire group. The portfolio is professionally overseen by a manager, who then selects different types of stocks, bonds, and other securities on your behalf.
You can gauge the performance of a particular mutual fund by comparing it to its chosen benchmark, such as the S&P 500. If it regularly performs better over the course of a three to five-year period, then it could be a good investment choice.
Mutual funds are a popular choice because you generally don’t need a lot of money to get started. You can often choose one within your retirement account to get around any minimum requirements, or even set up a recurring investment amount.
Plus, mutual funds are extremely diversified, often holding as much as 100 securities in each one. This helps to minimize your risk as well as the amount of time you spend managing your portfolio.
An index fund is a popular type of mutual fund that follows a predetermined investment methodology rather than having a portfolio manager pick the included securities.
For example, you could choose a Dow Jones Industrial Average index fund, which includes 30 powerhouse companies in the U.S. Whiles that’s a large-scale example, different investment firms create their own index funds for investors to conveniently choose from.
Another benefit of investing in an index fund is that transaction costs are often lower, as are their mutual fund expense ratios. Many index funds are also geared toward investors with lower balances. While some firms have high minimum opening balances of $100,000 or more, you can get started with much less when you pick an index fund.
Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs)
An exchange-traded fund, or ETF, trades the same way a stock does while tracking a certain basket of assets. There are countless types of ETFs to choose from based on your investment goals.
Common options include market, bond, commodity, foreign market, and alternative investment ETFs. They’re bought and sold like stocks throughout the day, but a major difference is that ETFs can issue and redeem their shares at any point.
There are many benefits that go along with an ETF. For starters, you have more control over when you pay your capital gains tax. There are also lower fees, although you’ll still pay brokerage commissions. Finally, while mutual funds can only be settled after the stock market closes for the day, an ETF allows you to trade at any time.
Bonds are a good tool to have in your investment portfolio because they are a low-risk option. Different types of bonds include corporate, municipal, and Treasury bonds. Bonds are fixed-income investments, so you know exactly what to expect when those payout dates come throughout the year. Such predictability does come with a few downsides, though.
First, bonds come with a fixed investment period. If you invest in a longer-term bond, then you’re stuck with it until it matures — unless you decide to sell. But there’s a bit of risk involved there, involving the interest.
Bond rates aren’t locked in, so yours could be devalued if the same issuer bumps up the interest rate at a later time. So if new investors get a better interest rate than you did, you’re still locked into your lower rate. In general, bonds generally come with lower growth than other investments, but that’s considered the trade-off for a lower-risk vehicle.
People always need a place to live, so real estate investing can be an attractive option for investors. There are several ways to do this that account for your desired risk tolerance as well as your desired level of involvement.
If you feel the drive to own property, an investment property is one way to make a real estate investment. Depending on how you choose to manage your property, this can amount to a steady stream of passive income.
Over time, you could also benefit from market appreciation, although that’s not necessarily guaranteed. There are risks involved with investment properties. Unlike investing in a stock or fund, a physical property involves expenses, such as upkeep, marketing, and a management firm if you want a hands-off experience.
You’ll also need some cash to get started, since most investment property loans require at least a 25% down payment. Moreover, the mortgage is considered part of your debt-to-income ratio, which could affect your future financing opportunities.
If you ever want to cash out on your investment, you’ll be subject to the market value of that moment. Plus, it’s a cumbersome, illiquid way to invest money. Still, the returns can be much greater than traditional investments, making investment properties an attractive option to some people.
If you would like to invest in real estate without the hassle of acting as a landlord, consider a real estate investment trust, or REIT. These are traded on the stock exchange and can also be offered in the form of a mutual fund or ETF.
Returns can increase as property values rise and generally focus on a portfolio of commercial properties. Shareholders also benefit because REITs don’t pay corporate tax, which helps boost returns as well.
You can pick what sector you want to invest in, such as healthcare, residential, hotel, or industrial REITs. Each comes with separate risks that should be weighed thoughtfully. REIT shares can be purchased through a broker, and each one will have its own fee structure to review as well.
Real estate crowdfunding is a type of peer-to-peer lending that is growing traction among investors of all levels. New fintech companies are popping up to compete with REITs, claiming better returns. So, what’s the difference between REITs and real estate crowdfunding sites?
The most significant difference is that instead of choosing a portfolio of properties within a certain asset class, you can choose specific commercial properties in which to invest. While individual investors traditionally wouldn’t be able to invest directly in projects like these, crowdfunding lets you enter these markets with a much smaller amount of cash.
One of the benefits is that you can do much more specialized research to determine what property to invest in. The process is much less passive than REITs. On the downside, however, the risk potential could be higher since your money is riding on one single building rather than a diversified portfolio.
See also: How to Build Generational Wealth
Platforms for Investing Your Money
There are many ways to start investing your money. A financial advisor, though charging extra fees, may provide you with much-needed guidance and education, especially if you’re a beginner. But if you prefer a little less hand-holding, you can consider two other options as well.
Online brokerages give you the convenience of investing online with the added benefit of controlling what you invest in. So, it’s definitely a more hands-on process than the robo-advisor. Like robo-advisors, however, most online brokers don’t have a minimum balance requirement, so they’re still quite accessible to all types of investors.
Instead of paying a percentage of your funds, online brokers usually charge transaction fees for trades, as well as one-off fees. On the plus side, you’re not limited to your choosing certain funds, as you are with a robo-advisor. If you’d like, you can even select individual stocks. Online brokers and robo-advisors cater to two different types of investors, so the best choice depends on your specific goals.
Enlisting the help of a robo-advisor can be helpful for beginning investors or anyone who wishes to utilize a “set it and forget it” mentality for their portfolio.
Robo-advisors don’t use human financial advisors; instead, they rely on computer algorithms to determine your portfolio allocations. Many of them also use tax harvesting strategies to decrease your tax burden at the end of the year.
Service fees are low and generally charged as a percentage of your invested funds. The transparency is excellent for new investors, and you can also benefit from the low minimum balances. Different robo-advisors offer different investment vehicles you can choose from. You can also pick one based on their investing strategy; most, for instance, pick from ETFs and index funds.
There are a slew of intricacies for building your investment strategy and making your money work for you. Start with a plan that makes sense for your risk tolerance while still leaving room for growth.
You can access countless resources, from free online tutorials to paid financial advisors, to ensure you have a robust investment plan that will generate a passive income strategy to meet your goals.
How to Invest FAQs
What are the different types of investments?
There are many types of investments. The most popular investments include stocks, bonds, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and real estate. Each type of investment carries its own level of risk and potential return.
What are the risks of investing?
Investing involves risk, including the potential for loss of principal. The value of investments can fluctuate and may be affected by market conditions, economic events, and other factors.
It’s essential to understand the risks associated with any investment and to consider your risk tolerance before making any investment decisions.
How do I choose the best investments for me?
The best investments for you will depend on your financial goals, how much risk you can tolerate, and other personal factors. It can be helpful to consult an investment advisor or do your own research to determine which investments are suitable for you.
It’s also wise to diversify your portfolio, or invest in various assets, to spread risk and potentially maximize returns.
How much money do I need to start investing?
There is no minimum amount required to start investing. In fact, you can get started investing with $500 or less. However, you should first have a sufficient emergency fund in place before investing. Some investments may have minimum investment requirements, such as mutual funds or certain types of brokerage accounts.
What is a brokerage account?
A brokerage account is a type of investment account that allows you to buy and sell assets such as stocks, mutual funds, ETFs, and bonds. When you open a brokerage account, you typically do so with a financial institution, such as a bank, a credit union, or an online brokerage firm.
To open a brokerage account, you will generally need to provide some personal information, such as your name, address, and Social Security number. You will also typically need to make a deposit of money into the account, which you can use to buy investments.
Once you have a brokerage account, you can place orders to buy or sell investments online, over the phone, or through a broker. The brokerage firm will execute the trades on your behalf and will typically charge a commission or fee for the service.
Brokerage accounts offer a convenient way to manage your investments and to buy and sell assets easily and quickly. They also provide a range of tools and resources to help you make informed investment decisions, such as market research, news and analysis, and educational materials.
Can I invest in stocks with just $100?
Yes, it is possible to invest in stocks with a relatively small amount of money, such as $100. Many brokerage firms have no minimum initial deposit requirement and allow you to start investing with whatever amount of money you have available.
How do I diversify my investment portfolio?
Diversification is the process of investing in various assets to spread risk and potentially maximize returns. This can be achieved by investing in different types of assets, such as stocks, bonds, and real estate, or by investing in different sectors or industries within a particular asset class. To maintain a diversified portfolio, review and adjust it periodically.
What is a financial advisor and do I need one?
A financial advisor is a professional who provides advice on financial matters, such as investing and saving for retirement. Whether you need a financial advisor will depend on your financial goals, risk tolerance, and investment experience. Some people may prefer to handle their own investments, while others may benefit from the guidance of an investment advisor.
How do I determine my risk tolerance?
Risk tolerance is an individual’s willingness to accept financial risk in pursuit of potential returns. Factors that may affect how much risk you’re willing to take include age, financial goals, and personal comfort level with risk.
Can I lose money by investing?
Investing always carries some level of risk, as the value of your investments can fluctuate and be impacted by various market conditions and economic events. It’s crucial to understand the risks associated with any investment and to consider your risk tolerance and investment objectives before making any investment decisions.
Diversifying your portfolio and not investing more money than you can afford to lose can help mitigate potential losses. Always be sure to do your research and consider seeking investment advice from a financial advisor before making any decisions.