Getting Started In Stocks
So you’ve decided to invest in the stock market. Congratulations! In his 2005 book “The Future for Investors,” Jeremy Siegel showed that, in the long run, investing in stocks has handily outperformed investing in bonds, Treasury bills, gold or cash. In the short term, one or another asset may outperform stocks, but overall stocks have historically been the winning path.
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But there are so many ways to invest in stocks. Individual stocks, mutual funds, index funds, ETFs, domestic, foreign – how can you decide what is right for you? This article will address several issues that you, as a new (or not-so-new) investor, might want to consider so that you can rest more easily while letting your money grow.
Risk Taker, Risk Averse or in the Middle?
You may be eager to get started so that you, too, can make those fabulous returns you hear so much about, but slow down and take a moment to contemplate some simple questions. The time spent now to consider the following will save you money down the road.
What kind of person are you? Are you a risk taker, willing to throw money at a chance to make a lot of money or would you prefer a more “sure” thing? What would be your likely response to a 10% drop in a single stock in one day or a 35% drop over the course of a few weeks? Would you sell it all in a panic?
The answers to these and similar questions will lead you to consider different types of equity investments, such as mutual or index funds versus individual stocks. If you are naturally not someone to take risks, and feel uncomfortable doing so but still want to invest in stocks, the best bet for you might be mutual funds or index funds. This is because they are well diversified and contain many different stocks. This reduces risk – and doesn’t require individual stock research.
How much time and interest do you have for investing?
Should you invest in funds, stocks or both? The answer depends on how much time you wish to devote to this endeavor. Careful selection of mutual or index funds would let you invest your money, leaving the hard work of picking stocks to the fund manager. Index funds are even simpler in that they move up or down according to the type of company, industry or market they are designed to track.
Individual stock investing is the most time consuming as it requires you to make judgments about management, earnings and future prospects. As an investor, you are attempting to distinguish between a money-making stock and financial disaster. You need to know what they do, how they make their money, the risks, the future prospects and much more.
Therefore, ask yourself how much time you have to devote to this enterprise. Are you willing to spend a couple of hours a week, or more, reading about different companies, or is your life just too busy to carve out that time? Investing in individual stocks is a skill, which, like any other, takes time to develop.
It is best that you not be exposed to only one type of asset. For instance, don’t put all of your money in small biotech companies. Yes, the potential gain can be quite high, but what will happen to your investment if the Food and Drug Administration starts rejecting a higher percentage of new drugs? Your entire portfolio would be negatively impacted.
It is better to be diversified across several different sectors such as real estate (a real estate investment trust is one possibility), consumer goods, commodities, insurance, etc., rather than focusing on one or two or three, as above. Consider diversifying across asset classes, as well, by keeping some money in bonds and cash, rather than being 100% invested in stocks. How much to have in these different sectors and classes is up to you, but being invested more broadly lessens the risk of losing it all at any one time.
A Portfolio for Beginners
If you are just starting out, think seriously about investing most of your money in a couple of index funds, such as one tracking the broad market (e.g. the S ?>