When it comes to investing, many first time investors want to jump right in with both feet. Unfortunately, very few of those investors are successful. Investing in anything requires some degree of skill. It is important to remember that few investments are a sure thing – there is the risk of losing your money!
Before you jump right in, it is better to not only find out more about investing and how it all works, but also to determine what your goals are. What do you hope to achieve with your investments? Will you be funding a college education? Buying a home? Retiring? Before you invest a single penny, really think about what you hope to achieve with that investment. Knowing what your goal is will help you make smarter investment decisions along the way!
Too often, people invest money with dreams of becoming rich overnight. This is possible – but it is also rare. It is usually a very bad idea to start investing with hopes of becoming rich overnight. It is safer to invest your money in such a way that it will grow slowly over time, and be used for retirement or a child’s education. However, if your investment goal is to get rich quick, you should learn as much about high-yield, short term investing as you possibly can before you invest.
You should strongly consider talking to a financial planner before making any investments. Your financial planner can help you determine what type of investing you must do to reach the financial goals that you have set. He or she can give you realistic information as to what kind of returns you can expect and how long it will take to reach your specific goals.
Again, remember that investing requires more than calling a broker and telling them that you want to buy stocks or bonds. It takes a certain amount of research and knowledge about the market if you hope to invest successfully.
Reasons to Invest
Many people think of investing in the stock market as a means of reaching retirement goals and nothing more. There is very little that could be further from the truth though. There are many reasons that people invest in the stock market that have a lot to do with the more immediate future. If you haven't considered all the great things that can come about as the result of savvy investing in the stock market and mutual funds, perhaps these ideas will give you a little inspiration.
- Buying a home. While you do not necessarily need the money upfront to pay for the entire house it would be great. Of course, down payments are great to have to and the more money you can spend as a down payment the lower interest rate you can get, which means you will pay considerably less over the life of your home. It also means you will have instant equity in your home that is almost always a great thing.
- Sending the kids to college. This is a long term investing goal but it isn't as long term for many as retirement. Most of us can actually envision sending our kids off to college while we aren't yet ready to imagine or day to dream (or dread) what our retirement is going to be like. But many people wonder often how they are going to give their children the college education they dream of for their children.
- Braces and other medical expenses. If you have kids you should be prepared for unexpected medical and dental expenses along the way. Even if you have an excellent insurance plan chances are that you will need to bear the brunt of some of these costs along the way in the form of deductibles and co payments that can be costly in their own rights. It helps if you have a little money set aside and earning interest for these occasions.
- Dream vacations. We all have places we'd love to go, things we'd love to do, and sights we'd love to see. Most of us put a lot of time and effort into securing our future and forget the importance of taking some time to enjoy the time we have today. Our children are only young once so if you want to take them to Disney it is best to do it while they are young and can enjoy and remember the experience. More importantly they can remember sharing the experience with you. This is one of the best reasons to invest.
- To pay for the unexpected. Pipes burst, the heating and air conditioning go out, and new cars are needed along the way. Most investments have a much better return on investment than the average bank's interest rate. This means that by investing the money you are more likely to have it making money for you while you are waiting for those moments when you need to withdraw it in order to handle those little emergencies.
As you can see there are plenty of reasons to invest your money that have nothing to do with retirement though securing a comfortable retirement is near the top of most people's lists of reasons to invest. If you haven't thought of all these reasons and a few more and aren't yet investing, what on earth is stopping you from getting started right away?
Because investing is not a sure thing in most cases, it is much like a game – you don’t know the outcome until the game has been played and a winner has been declared. Anytime you play almost any type of game, you have a strategy. Investing isn’t any different – you need an investment strategy.
An investment strategy is basically a plan for investing your money in various types of investments that will help you meet your financial goals in a specific amount of time. Each type of investment contains individual investments that you must choose from. A clothing store sells clothes – but those clothes consist of shirts, pants, dresses, skirts, undergarments, etc. The stock market is a type of investment, but it contains different types of stocks, which all contain different companies that you can invest in.
If you haven’t done your research, it can quickly become very confusing – simply because there are so many different types of investments and individual investments to choose from. This is where your strategy, combined with your risk tolerance and investment style all come into play.
If you are new to investments, work closely with a financial planner before making any investments. They will help you develop an investment strategy that will not only fall within the bounds of your risk tolerance and your investment style, but will also help you achieve your financial goals.
Never invest money without having a goal and a strategy for reaching that goal. This is essential. Nobody hands their money over to anyone without knowing what that money is being used for and when they will get it back! If you don’t have a goal, a plan, or a strategy, that is essentially what you are doing! Always start with a goal and a strategy for reaching that goal.
There are several different types of investments, and there are many factors in determining where you should invest your funds.
Of course, determining where you will invest begins with researching the various available types of investments, determining your risk tolerance, and determining your investment style – along with your financial goals.
If you were going to purchase a new car, you would do quite a bit of research before making a final decision and a purchase. You would never consider purchasing a car that you had not fully looked over and taken for a test drive. Investing works much the same way. You will of course learn as much about the investment as possible, and you would want to see how past investors have done as well. It’s common sense!
Learning about the stock market and investments takes a lot of time… but it is time well spent. There are numerous books and websites on the topic, and you can even take college level courses on the topic – which is what stock brokers do. With access to the Internet, you can actually play the stock market – with fake money – to get a feel for how it works.
You can make pretend investments, and see how they do. Do a search with any search engine for ‘Stock Market Games’ or ‘Stock Market Simulations.’ This is a great way to start learning about investing in the stock market.
Other types of investments – outside of the stock market – do not have simulators. You must learn about those types of investments the hard way – by reading.
As a potential investor, you should read anything you can get your hands on about investing…but start with the beginning investment books and websites first. Otherwise, you will quickly find that you are lost.
Finally, speak with a financial planner. Tell them your goals, and ask them for their suggestions – this is what they do! A good financial planner can easily help you determine where to invest your funds, and help you set up a plan to reach all of your financial goals. Many will even teach you about investing along the way – make sure you pay attention to what they are telling you!
Investing for Retirement
People choose mutual funds for investing for many different reasons. Some people start very early (the smart ones) with dreams of a retirement home in the sun. For some, mutual funds are a practical and easy way to save for the college education of their kids, or even grandkids. But without a doubt, the most popular reason for mutual fund investing is saving for retirement. With social security looking less and less helpful, many realize that investing to save for retirement isn’t a choice anymore, but a must. Here are some tips for those that are looking ahead to their golden years with mutual fund investing.
First off, the earlier you start saving for retirement, the better. Convincing a 25 year old recent college graduate that they need to put some of their income away to save for college can be almost impossible, but trust us, the sooner you start, the better off you’ll be.
Take a financial inventory of your life. If you have several retirement accounts from jobs you’ve had since you were 30, you can easily combine them now into one savings account. You can also figure in the value of your home, your possessions and your savings to get an idea of how much net worth you have and how that can relate to your ability to save for retirement.
While this may sound like a basic idea, setting goals in a big part of saving for retirement. Get together with a financial expert and decide what age you want to retire at and how much money you’ll need per year and how long you expect to be retired for. Knowing all this will help you plan long term for your retirement.
Try to open an emergency account. This account, which should be all cash, can be for emergencies that you may face while you’re trying to save for your retirement. The main purpose is that in case something goes wrong, you won’t take the money you’ve been saving for your retirement out and use it. That money needs to be kept where it is so you can keep marching towards your retirement goals.
While saving for retirement can be difficult, using various investment tools including mutual funds can really help. Combine that with solid advice from your broker and you will be well on your way to celebrating your retirement years in style.
Real Estate Investment
Compared with most other investments, good real estate can excel at producing current income for property owners. So in addition to the longer-term appreciation potential, you can also earn income year in and year out. Real estate is a true growth and income investment.
The vast majority of people who don’t make money in real estate make easily avoidable mistakes, which we help you avoid.
The following list highlights the major benefits of investing in real estate:
- Tax-deferred compounding of value: In real estate investing, the appreciation of your properties compounds tax-deferred during your years of ownership. You don’t pay tax on this profit until you sell your property — and even then you can roll over your gain into another investment property and avoid paying taxes.
- Regular cash flow: If you have property that you rent out, you have money coming in every month in the form of rents. Some properties, particularly larger multiunit complexes, may have some additional sources, such as from coin-operated washers and dryers. When you own investment real estate, you should also expect to incur expenses that include your mortgage payment, property taxes, insurance, and maintenance. The interaction of the revenues coming in and the expenses going out is what tells you whether you realize positive operating profit each month.
- Reduced tax bills: For tax purposes, you also get to claim an expense that isn’t really an out-of-pocket cost — depreciation. Depreciation enables you to reduce your current income tax bill and hence increase your cash flow from a property.
- Rate of increase of rental income versus overall expenses: Over time, your operating profit, which is subject to ordinary income tax, should rise as you increase your rental prices faster than the rate of increase for your property’s overall expenses. What follows is a simple example to show why even modest rental increases are magnified into larger operating profits and healthy returns on investment over time.
Anyone dealing with business investment is concerned with business failure. The ideal which all investors and business owners are working towards is to improve the effectiveness between the original investment and the level of overall return, however that return may be measured.
With business failure there is often a degree of confusion. Though detailed research suggests that overall failure rate is not as bad as previously documented, this is only when defined as the "pure" failure rate in business. "Pure" failures lie at one end of the continuum of business performance - with the high growth, high performance companies at the other extreme. Between them lies a whole range of other types of company performance, which make up the majority of the survivors.
- The "living dead" - those companies which stagger from crisis to crisis and never provide any effective return to the investor
- The "ship will come home" - those companies which appear continually accident prone
- The "mountain range" companies which have as many bad times as good, never delivering dependable growth in earnings
- The "sun and ski" companies which achieve a balance between profit and work which benefits the senior employees and not the investor - often termed the life style business
- The "better widget" company where there is always time to further improve the product or service prior to the minor issue of generating revenues.
- The "one step good, two steps bad" company - those organisations which start well and then rest on their successes.
Each of these types of company is not defined as a "failure", they cannot be classed as "successes" by the outsider, though they may be for the management. For the investor and advisors, many of these survivors are more resource intensive than business failures, as they continually demand input (even if it is time rather than finance) and yield very limited returns over long periods of time.
There are therefore two distinct problems - reducing "pure" failure and improving "success" - the ability of the company to move through the various stages of business development in an effective and constructive fashion. A structured approach to business planning can help to achieve both objectives.
So what are potential investors looking for? Well:
- A management team with a proven track record. You will not get funding if you do not have experience in the sector your business will be in or a proven record of success in another business. Deal with it. If this is the case, look for angel investors or friends and family.
- A defensible product with a competitive advantage. It's easier to predict the success of a tangible product than it is a service, which is why service businesses are rarely interesting to investors. Of course, there is the occasional exception but this is generally only in online businesses.
- Reasonable valuation. Divide the amount you plan to take as investment by the percent of ownership you're offering to give in exchange. For example, offering 50 percent of a company for $5 million means you're valuing your company at $10 million. An outrageous valuation shows investors you may still have your head in the clouds and the World is full of potential business owners with a ridiculously high valuation of a business that does not yet exist.
- A clear statement of the investment offering Yo must establish the legality of your offering, including how much equity for how much money you're planning to offer this time through, and the planned future dilution for later rounds of investment.
Great Investments were planned that way!
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