How to invest money wisely is the question that many people ask themselves, but very few really understand the process of investing money. Anytime that you invest money, there is some amount of risk involved. Before you decide to invest your money, you need to evaluate the risk against the potential return that you will receive. It is best to both invest and save your money at the same time. The difference is that when you invest, you have a much higher possible return, but also an increased risk.
Every day you are making financial decisions that impact your life. In order to be a thriving investor, you need to make investing and saving a part of your daily routine. Many ask how to save money to use for investing. You will be surprised how little savings it takes to begin your path to riches. You might invest $20 or you might invest $1000. You need to invest an amount that you feel comfortable with after all of the bills are paid.
But you wonder how to invest money wisely? There are two types of investors. You can be an active investor, where you or your broker picks your own stocks, bonds, and other investments. Or you can be a passive investor. This is when you follow the advice of an index created by some other party.
If you are investing a small amount of money, probably the best route that you should take is with Dividend Reinvestment Plans, or DRPs. This is when you do not go through a broker, but you directly pick stocks from the companies or their agents. There are thousands of major companies that offer stock plans. If you are just beginning with investing, this is a good starting place. You can eventually even set up an automatic payment plan.
DRPs are considered a safe way to create wealth over a long period of time. However, it is very important for you to keep all of your records for tax purposes. There are many ways to invest money with imagination being the limit. Do your due diligence and research before doing so.
Another method if you want to know how to invest money is to use index funds. This is a good choice if you have a few hundred dollars to invest. Index funds normally track an index, such as the Dow or NASDAQ. Some indexes permit you to invest less than $250, but you should not use this if you are investing more than $100. The biggest benefit from an index is that they are inexpensive because they just track the index. Two of the most popular index funds are through mutual funds or Exchange Traded Funds.
If you have a little more money to invest, you might want to consider a discount brokerage account. This is when to pay an expert to buy stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or other investments. You should only invest money in the stock market if you have reason to believe it will go up. It is a risk, but with the advice of your financial advisor, you could end up making a lot of money. However, keep in mind that the stock market is so unpredictable, so it is also possible that you could lose everything that you have invested.
Forex Trading is also a good choice if you have a considerable amount of money to invest. This is when you purchase one currency at precise exchange rate and then sell it when the exchange rate goes up. Forex Trading is basically when you make a substantial number of small transactions each day. In order to complete Forex Trading, just find a broker and get them to open the accounts for you.
It is important to research your options on how to invest money, so that you can make the best decision based on your needs. Go online and look at all of the possibilities, and then choose wisely.
With the economy like it is today, the stock market fluctuates frequently. Therefore, it is important to make wise and thought out investments, so you can be sensible with your money. Because investing sounds complicated, you may feel you do not know how to invest money; however, it is really quite simple and rewarding if you have the patience and take the time to be well informed and educated on the strategies involved.
For 2016 and beyond there are 3 very popular ways or places to invest money in stocks, and your best place to invest will depend on how actively you want to invest in the stock market. Do you want to try to pick the best stocks yourself or would you rather invest your money with a fund and leave the money management to professionals?
You can invest money in stocks online by simply opening an account with a major discount stock broker (like TD Ameritrade or E-Trade) and invest in individual stocks, in exchange traded funds (ETFs), or in mutual funds. You can also invest your money in stock mutual funds and get personal attention with low cost if you invest directly with a no-load fund company like Vanguard, Fidelity, or T Rowe Price. Here are the 3 best ways or best places to invest in stocks depending on how active you want to be in the management of your money.
If you really want to invest money in individual stocks in an attempt to find the best stocks each year your best place to invest is with a discount stock broker. Unless you really know what you are doing I wouldn’t invest much money in individual stocks. When you invest money here it requires that you stay on top of things. The odds of the average person making money and beating the stock market in 2016 and beyond by buying and selling individual stocks are slim. Few investors beat the stock market.
Your second choice if you want to invest money in stocks is to invest in exchange traded stock funds or stock mutual funds through a discount broker. This is your best place to invest if you are capable of picking your own funds and want to own a diversified portfolio of stocks vs. individual stocks. Diversification lowers your risk by spreading your money around. Professional money managers make the stock picking decisions for you.
The third choice is for people who do not want active participation in the stock market, but do want assistance and service. Their best place to invest money in stocks in 2016 and beyond is through no-load mutual fund companies. Here you open a mutual fund account directly with the fund company vs. a broker. Now you can invest money in a diversified portfolio of stocks with professional money managers working for you. The cost to invest can be much less than you might think if you invest with the fund companies mentioned above. Plus, you can call them and get personal attention – even if you only have a few thousand to invest.
Your main objective when you invest money in stocks should be to earn a higher rate of return at an acceptable level of risk. Trying to pick the best stocks is best left to folks who want to speculate. Stock mutual funds are designed for the average investor. Your cost to invest $10,000 in stock mutual funds (with professional management) can be less than $50 a year with the right no-load (no sales charges) fund companies. That’s the best place to invest money in stocks that I know of if you really want to put your money to work for 2016 and beyond without being actively involved in the stock market.
Most of us know where to invest money in good times, but when it looks like the sky might be falling, knowing where to invest money and how to invest it becomes a puzzle. In 2016 and 2017 good investments might be hard to find, especially if yesterday’s good investments like stocks and bonds tank. This is not a prediction, but rather a “heads up.” You can’t prepare if you’re not aware, so let’s take a closer look at the sky.
We all know that safe choices like money market funds and bank savings accounts don’t look like good investments for 2016 because they pay peanuts. But what if the sky starts falling: either interest rates ignite and/or the stock market tanks? Either way or both… where to invest money is the question of the day. Safe choices will look like good investments for parking money that must be safe.
Wall Street’s traditional answer to where to invest money: put about 60% into stocks with about 40% in bonds holding a cash reserve on the sidelines. Problem: in 2016 and 2017 losses in stocks may not be offset by gains in bonds… as was the case for the last 30 years or so. If interest rates soar from today’s record-low levels, neither stocks nor bonds look like good investments.
For over 30 years interest rates were falling and bonds were generally good investments. With today’s ridiculously low rates (created by our government to stimulate the economy) a rebound in interest rates is in the cards (as the government unwinds its stimulus). When that happens, bonds will no longer be where to invest money for higher interest income with relative safety. Bonds are NOT good investments when rates go up; they lose money. That’s the way it works. How to invest in bonds in 2016 and 2017 if rates take off: lighten up and opt for safety.
Stocks had been very good investments five years running as the year 2016 began. This was at least in part due to government stimulus and cheap money. In a sense, stocks were where to invest money because nothing looked cheap except for money (short term interest rates were set at about one-tenth of one percent). With a gain of over 150% in five years, the downside risk in the stock market is mounting. This begs the question of how to invest money in stocks if the sky starts to look ominous.
Remember that the stock market is actually a market of stocks, which means that the vast majority of stocks get hit when the market crumbles – but at least a few will be good investments. And the best way to find good investments in a bad market is to watch the price action. For example, as the market climbed 30% in 2013, some gold stocks were down about 50% by early 2016. If you don’t know how to invest in or how to pick a specific gold stock… you might want to know where to invest money to get a piece of this action. The answer is to invest money in gold funds and let them pick the gold stocks for you.
The bottom line is that in 2016 and 2017 investors face an uphill battle, because both stocks and bonds look pricey. That presents a new challenge to today’s investor in search of where to invest money. We are facing uncharted waters in this modern electronic world, where no one really knows how to invest or where to find good investments for the future. This includes the big investors like life insurance companies and pension funds.
My suggestion is to take some profits in your stocks and bonds, because the tide will turn eventually if not in 2016 or 2017. Then you’ll have a cash reserve, so you can take advantage of the situation as the skies darkens. Smart investors are always in search of where to invest money next, especially when a change of trend is in the cards. At such times, yesterday’s underperforming sectors or industries often become today’s good investments.
We favor investments that are low cost, tax efficient, diversified, liquid, and simple. Many investors often run into trouble when they invest in things that do not have these five characteristics. Investments with these five characteristics have been profitable over time, but typically are not very exciting. There is generally not a “hot story that you need to act on now!” associated with them. The financial services industry generally does not favor these type of investments because they generate very little profit from them. We are in the business of helping to maximize the wealth of our clients, not the financial services industry. Keep in mind that this list of investment characteristics is not comprehensive. Other factors to look for in investments might include attractive valuation, low correlation to your other holdings, a nice dividend yield or interest income, a tilt towards areas of the market that have produced higher returns such as value stocks, an appropriate risk level for you, etc.
- Low Cost
We typically invest in low cost index based funds and exchange traded funds (ETF’s). The funds we invest in have an average expense ratio of only.30% per year. The typical actively traded equity mutual fund has an average expense ratio of 1% or more. With investment funds, the best predictor of future relative performance is the expense ratio on the fund; the lower the better. Hedge funds typically have annual expense ratios of 2% plus 20% of any profits earned. Some variable annuities and permanent life insurance “investments” can have annual expenses of 2% or more. By keeping a close eye on the costs of our investments, we can save our clients significant amounts of money each year and help them achieve higher returns over time (all else being equal). With investment products, you don’t get better performance with a higher cost product, in fact you typically get worse performance.
- Tax Efficient
Our investments (index based funds and ETF’s) are extremely tax efficient and they allow the investor to have some control over the timing of the taxes. These types of funds have low turnover (trading activity), which is a common characteristic of tax efficient investments. We recommend avoiding mutual funds with high turnover due to their tax inefficiency. After the recent big increase in the U.S. stock market, many active equity mutual funds have “imbedded” capital gains of as much as 30%-45%. If you buy those mutual funds now you may end up paying capital gains taxes on those imbedded gains even if you didn’t own the fund during the increase. ETF’s typically do not generate long and short-term capital gain distributions at yearend, and they do not have imbedded capital gains like active mutual funds. Hedge funds are typically tax inefficient due to their very high turnover. In addition to investing in tax-efficient products we also do many other things to help keep our client taxes minimized such as tax loss harvesting, keeping our turnover/trading low, putting the right type of investments in the right type of accounts (tax location), using losses to offset capital gains, using holdings with large capital gains for gifting, investing in tax-free municipal bonds, etc.
We like to invest in diversified funds because they reduce your stock specific risk, and the overall risk of your portfolio. Bad news released about one stock may cause it to drop 50%, which is horrible news if that stock is 20% of your whole portfolio, but will be barely noticed in a fund of 1,000 stock positions. We tend to favor funds that typically have at least a hundred holdings and often several hundred holdings or more. These diversified funds give you broad representation of the whole asset class you are trying to get exposure to, while eliminating the stock specific risk. We are not likely to invest in the newest Solar Energy Company Equity Fund with 10 stock positions, for example. We don’t believe in taking any risks (such as stock specific risk) that you will not get paid for in higher expected return.
We like investments that you can sell in one minute or one day if you decide to do so, and those which you can sell at or very close to the prevailing market price. With liquid investments you always (daily) know the exact price and value of your investments. All of the investment funds we recommend meet this standard. We don’t like investments which you are locked into for years without the ability to get your money back at all or without paying large exit fees. Examples of illiquid investments would be hedge funds, private equity funds, annuities, private company stock, tiny publicly traded stocks, startup company stock or debt, illiquid obscure bonds, structured products, some life insurance “investments,” private real estate partnerships, etc. We prefer investment funds that have been around for some time, are large in size, and have high average daily trading volumes.
We prefer investments that are simple, transparent, and easy to understand. If you don’t understand it, don’t invest in it. All of our investments are simple and transparent; we know exactly what we own. Complicated investment products are designed in favor of the seller, not the buyer, and usually have high hidden fees. Examples of complicated and non-transparent investments that we generally avoid are hedge funds, private equity funds, structured products, some life insurance “investment” products, variable annuities, private company stock, startup company stock or loans, etc. “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.” -Albert Einstein.
We believe most investors should have the majority of their portfolio invested in things that have these five excellent characteristics. By doing so you will avoid plenty of mistakes, negative surprises, and risks along the way. In addition, we believe your after tax investment returns will likely be higher over long periods of time. Of course not every smart or good investment will have all of these characteristics. For example, income producing real estate property is illiquid (and often not diversified) but can be an excellent long-term investment if purchased and managed properly. Owning your own business is illiquid and not diversified but can be an excellent way to build wealth as well. We believe these five investment characteristics become even more important as you enter retirement, since at that point you may be more focused on reducing risk and preserving your wealth than building it, and you may need the liquidity to spend and gift part of your wealth during retirement.
Firstly, let’s discuss what stockbrokers are – we all have a much better, clearer, idea of what they do and who they represent. Stockbrokers are regulated firms that offer financial advice to their clients. A stockbroker buys and sells equities and other securities like bonds, CFDs, Futures and Options on behalf of their clients in return for a fee or commission. A brokerage / stockbroker will receive a fee on each transaction, whether the idea is profitable or not.
A brokerage can specialise in any investment niche they wish for example:
- FTSE All-Share stocks,
- AIM stocks,
- European Stocks,
- Asian Stocks,
- US Stocks
- Combinations of the above
- Straight equities,
- Straight derivative trading (CFDs, Futures & Options)
The main reason why investors choose stockbrokers over any other professional investment service is simply down to control. Due to the nature of a brokerage firm, they can only execute a trade after you instruct them to do so. This means it is impossible for a brokerage to keep buying and selling securities without you knowing – known as churning for commission. This doesn’t however prevent stockbrokers providing you with several new ideas a week and switching your positions to a new idea.
However, there are natural flaws with the brokerage industry is that because trading ideas can only be executed after being instructed to list a few flaws;-
- you may miss out of good opportunities due to moves in the market,
- you may get in a couple of days later because you were busy and not make any money after fees,
- you may receive a call to close a position but unable to without your say so.
The above are examples that can happen when investing with brokerage firms, but this is due to the reliance of gaining authorisation from their clients. So if you are ultra busy or travel a lot then you could potentially miss out on opportunities to buy or sell.
What are investment managers?
Now we understand what stockbrokers / brokerage firms are about, let’s discuss what investment management services can do for individuals.
Investment management firms run differently to brokerages. The core aspect to these services is that the professional investment managers use their discretion to make investment decisions. As a client of an investment management firm you will go through a rigorous client on boarding process (just like a brokerage firm) to understand your investment goals, understanding of the services being used, risk profile, angering to the investment mandate and allowing the service to manage your equity portfolio. The sign up with the service may seem long winded but it’s in your best interest to ensure the service is suitable and appropriate for you. In reality, it’s not a long winded process at all. Once you agree to the services offered then you will only be updated on the on-going account data and portfolio reporting in a timely manner. This means no phone calls to disrupt your day-to-day activities and allows the professionals to focus on your portfolio.
Investment management firms usually have specific portfolios with a track record, into which you can invest your capital according to you appetite for risk. These portfolios will focus on specific securities, economies, risk and type of investing (income, capital growth or balanced). All of this would be discussed prior or during the application process.
Another method used by investment management firms is different strategies implemented by their portfolio managers. These strategies are systematic and go through thorough analysis before investment decisions are made.
The fees usually associated with investment management firms can vary from each firm. There are three common types of fees and are usually combined, fees can be;-
- Assets Under Management Fee – This is where you pay a percentage of the portfolio per year to the firm, usually an annual fee. E.g) 1% AUM Fee on £1,000,000 is £10,000 per year.
- Transaction Fee – This is a fee associated with each transaction made through your portfolio – similar to the brokerage firm’s commission.
- Percentage of Profits Fee – This is where any closed profits generated over a set time will be charged to the firm. E.g) 10% PoP Fee – the firm generates you closed profit of £10,000 in one quarter – you will be charged £1,000.
The main benefits provided from investment management firms is that after the service understands your needs and tailors the service around you, it is their job to build a portfolio around you. It is also the job of the investment management firm to adhere to the investment mandate you agreed on, we’ll take about this later, so you understand of the time frame given what you should expect. Another bonus why high-net worth individuals choose investment management services is because they are not hassled by phone calls every other day with a new investment idea.
The main difference between investment management and stockbroking firms is:
- Investment Managers offers discretionary services; no regular phone calls about stock ideas.
- Stockbrokers give you more control as you can personally filter out ideas you think won’t work.
- Investment Managers offer an investment mandate; this is where the investment management service provides a document of what they are offering you in return of managing your portfolio. You will understand what exactly they are targeting over the year, based on what risk, and should they achieve it – then they have fulfilled their service. E.g) the mandate could state that the strategies used and based on 8% volatility (risk), they seek to achieve 14% capital return.
- Stockbrokers do not offer an future agreements but look to deliver growth during the time you are with them. They are not bound by their performances like investment managers.
- Investment management firms have a track record for all of the strategies and services used, stockbrokers do not.
Which to choose?
Both services provide professional approaches to investing in the stock markets. Stockbrokers are chosen over investment managers by people who like to be in control and receive financial advice. Stockbrokers generally do not have a systematic approach to the markets but use selective top-down approaches to select stocks.
Investment managers are chosen by investors who want an agreement on their performances over the year and understand the risk up-front. Usually more sophisticated investors that wish to take advantage of the track-record and gain an understanding of the systematic approach used by the investment management firm.
One of the reasons many people fail, even very woefully, in the game of investing is that they play it without understanding the rules that regulate it. It is an obvious truth that you cannot win a game if you violate its rules. However, you must know the rules before you will be able to avoid violating them. Another reason people fail in investing is that they play the game without understanding what it is all about. This is why it is important to unmask the meaning of the term, ‘investment’. What is an investment? An investment is an income-generating valuable. It is very important that you take note of every word in the definition because they are important in understanding the real meaning of investment.
From the definition above, there are two key features of an investment. Every possession, belonging or property (of yours) must satisfy both conditions before it can qualify to become (or be called) an investment. Otherwise, it will be something other than an investment. The first feature of an investment is that it is a valuable – something that is very useful or important. Hence, any possession, belonging or property (of yours) that has no value is not, and cannot be, an investment. By the standard of this definition, a worthless, useless or insignificant possession, belonging or property is not an investment. Every investment has value that can be quantified monetarily. In other words, every investment has a monetary worth.
The second feature of an investment is that, in addition to being a valuable, it must be income-generating. This means that it must be able to make money for the owner, or at least, help the owner in the money-making process. Every investment has wealth-creating capacity, obligation, responsibility and function. This is an inalienable feature of an investment. Any possession, belonging or property that cannot generate income for the owner, or at least help the owner in generating income, is not, and cannot be, an investment, irrespective of how valuable or precious it may be. In addition, any belonging that cannot play any of these financial roles is not an investment, irrespective of how expensive or costly it may be.
There is another feature of an investment that is very closely related to the second feature described above which you should be very mindful of. This will also help you realise if a valuable is an investment or not. An investment that does not generate money in the strict sense, or help in generating income, saves money. Such an investment saves the owner from some expenses he would have been making in its absence, though it may lack the capacity to attract some money to the pocket of the investor. By so doing, the investment generates money for the owner, though not in the strict sense. In other words, the investment still performs a wealth-creating function for the owner/investor.
As a rule, every valuable, in addition to being something that is very useful and important, must have the capacity to generate income for the owner, or save money for him, before it can qualify to be called an investment. It is very important to emphasize the second feature of an investment (i.e. an investment as being income-generating). The reason for this claim is that most people consider only the first feature in their judgments on what constitutes an investment. They understand an investment simply as a valuable, even if the valuable is income-devouring. Such a misconception usually has serious long-term financial consequences. Such people often make costly financial mistakes that cost them fortunes in life.
Perhaps, one of the causes of this misconception is that it is acceptable in the academic world. In financial studies in conventional educational institutions and academic publications, investments – otherwise called assets – refer to valuables or properties. This is why business organisations regard all their valuables and properties as their assets, even if they do not generate any income for them. This notion of investment is unacceptable among financially literate people because it is not only incorrect, but also misleading and deceptive. This is why some organisations ignorantly consider their liabilities as their assets. This is also why some people also consider their liabilities as their assets/investments.
It is a pity that many people, especially financially ignorant people, consider valuables that consume their incomes, but do not generate any income for them, as investments. Such people record their income-consuming valuables on the list of their investments. People who do so are financial illiterates. This is why they have no future in their finances. What financially literate people describe as income-consuming valuables are considered as investments by financial illiterates. This shows a difference in perception, reasoning and mindset between financially literate people and financially illiterate and ignorant people. This is why financially literate people have future in their finances while financial illiterates do not.
From the definition above, the first thing you should consider in investing is, “How valuable is what you want to acquire with your money as an investment?” The higher the value, all things being equal, the better the investment (though the higher the cost of the acquisition will likely be). The second factor is, “How much can it generate for you?” If it is a valuable but non income-generating, then it is not (and cannot be) an investment, needless to say that it cannot be income-generating if it is not a valuable. Hence, if you cannot answer both questions in the affirmative, then what you are doing cannot be investing and what you are acquiring cannot be an investment. At best, you may be acquiring a liability.