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If you’re a beginning investor looking for ways to make your money grow, you’re not alone. Going it alone when learning to invest is a tried-and-true path. But everyone has to start investing money somewhere.
Today, getting information about how to invest money online has increasingly become the norm than the exception. Looking here surfaces several exciting ideas worth considering when looking to build a diversified portfolio for beginner investors.
In other words, you’re never too young to learn about the best investments for beginners.
This article will discuss how to choose these investments and what they are. Some suitable investments for beginners include high yield savings accounts and checking accounts, stocks, bonds, index funds, and more.
Best Investments for Beginners
Many new investors might not know the best place to start or where to put their money first. When beginners think of investing, visions of stock market investing or cryptocurrency investing might come to mind.
However, before you start investing in the market, it’s a good idea to have some cash on hand in an emergency fund or checking account. Here are some options to consider.
1. Emergency Fund
Many Americans fail to set aside money in an emergency fund, leaving them exposed to financial risk.
If this is you, consider starting one today. That way, if something unexpected happens, such as losing your job or having to pay for car repairs, an emergency fund will help give you some financial stability until things are back on track.
Additionally, having an emergency fund can help if you need to leave a toxic job, fly last minute to say goodbye to a grandparent, or have an unexpected medical issue.
Many financial experts recommend you establish an emergency fund first before investing money in the market. That way, unexpected events won’t derail your daily budget.
Lastly, emergency funds provide incredible peace of mind. Life is easier when unexpected repairs or doctor’s bills don’t cause financial stress.
In other words, an emergency fund goes a long way to ease tension and worry in everyday life, and who doesn’t want that?
2. Checking Account
If you have cash on hand, it’s best to keep it in a checking account (and not under your mattress.) Much like the credit bureaus report how you handle credit, an organization called ChexSystems keeps track of how you handle checking accounts.
Thus, putting your money in a bank account is an excellent way to establish a history with the bank. Most checking accounts don’t provide competitive interest rates, but many credit unions and banks offer other benefits, like a debit card, access to loans, and financial education.
3. Savings Account
Most banks also offer savings accounts, which is an excellent place to put cash on hand you don’t want to spend (but aren’t quite ready to invest.) Like checking accounts, savings accounts likely won’t have competitive interest rates unless they are a designated high-yield savings account.
Savings account withdrawals used to be regulated. In the past, you could be penalized if you withdrew money from your savings account more than six times per month.
However, this changed during the pandemic. For this reason, it’s best to check with your bank if they charge fees for savings account withdrawals, so you’re informed.
4. High-Yield Savings Account
High-yield savings accounts are similar to checking accounts, but they offer a slightly higher interest rate. This means you can potentially earn more than your regular bank account, which is why it’s essential to compare the rates offered by different banks before opening a new one.
Banks compete over who can offer the best interest rates on high yield accounts. However, banks base their interest rates on several factors, including something called the prime rate. So, you might notice many banks offer interest rates that are very close to one another.
Unfortunately, just because a bank offers a specific interest rate when you sign up for an account doesn’t mean that you’re guaranteed that interest rate for the long term.
Interest rates change, so consider other factors, like how easy it is to transfer money in and out of your account when deciding on a bank.
Overall, high yield savings accounts are an excellent place to keep short-term savings or an emergency fund because they keep your money in a separate location and typically offer better interest rates.
5. Retirement Plans – 401k
Once you have an emergency fund and a bank account with cash on hand, it’s time to consider investing in the market. The easiest way to get started is to take advantage of your employer’s retirement plan options (if they have them.)
The most common retirement plan employer’s offer is a 401k. A 401k is a type of retirement plan that allows you to put away money before it gets taxed and invest it.
This can potentially save consumers thousands of dollars in taxes throughout the year. The catch is if you withdraw your money before age 59.5, there are penalties. A 401k is designed to grow your money until you’re at retirement age.
As of 2022, you will be able to save up to $20,500 per year (this limit increases by $6,500 if age 50 or older) in your 401k. Your employer also has the option to match some of these contributions if they want.
If they do, that is essentially free money you can earn towards your retirement, so it’s absolutely worth it.
6. Retirement Plans – IRA
Another type of retirement plan is called an individual retirement account or IRA. An IRA is a type of retirement plan that lets you save up to $6,000 per year (or $7,000 if you are above age 50.)
You can invest in an IRA in addition to a 401k. They also have two types: Traditional IRA and Roth IRA, which will be explained further below.
7. Health Savings Account
A Health Savings Account (HSA) is a special savings and investment account with a triple tax benefit.
First, you can add money to the account pre-tax, and it also grows tax-free. Then, you can spend your funds tax-free on qualifying expenses.
According to the IRS, you are eligible to open an HSA account if you meet these criteria:
- You have a high deductible health care plan and no other health coverage.
- You are not enrolled in Medicare.
- You’re not someone else’s dependent.
HSAs are a good investment account for retirement planning because your health care costs could rise as you get older. Saving and investing now and letting those funds grow tax-free could help you considerably when you’re of retirement age.
You can invest in mutual funds or exchange-traded funds through your HSA. This grants you the option of investing in stocks and bonds, which can help your account balance compound with time.
8. Brokerage Account
A brokerage account is a bank account that you use to buy and sell investments such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), etc.
You can easily open a brokerage account with online brokers offering stock trading apps and platforms.
There are traditional brokerage firms where you work with an individual broker who places trades on your behalf. They’ll typically charge you commissions and fees every time they handle a transaction for you (buying or selling), so it’s essential to pick one that has low trading costs.
You can save on transaction fees by using low-cost brokerage firms like Webull, M1 Finance, and Public. These brokerage firms offer access to low-cost funds with very low fees, which can save you thousands of dollars on fees during your lifetime.
There are also micro-investing apps that enable you to buy investments. Again, be mindful of fees when using investing apps. Although many of them make it incredibly easy to invest, there is typically a cost to use them.
As an investor, it’s just as important to understand what you’re investing in as it is to understand the fees associated with your investments. That’s how you ensure you’re on the right track to build wealth in the future.
Best Investment Strategies to Start Investing
1. Start Investing in the Stock Market through Individual Stocks
When many people think about high-yield, high-return investment options, most people tend first to consider stocks.
Investing in stocks is an investment you make by purchasing tiny fractions of ownership in a public company. These small fractional ownership pieces are called shares of a company’s stock.
By investing in their stock, you’re making a bet that the company grows and performs well over time.
You can invest in companies known for financial stability that deliver consistent performance, returns, and dividends over time—like the “Steady Eddies” recommended by a stock picking service like Motley Fool’s Stock Advisor—or you can go for companies focused on growing rapidly.
If you make wise investments and the company you select grows and performs well, the shares you hold may become more valuable. In turn, they become more desirable to other investors who now are willing to pay more for them than you did.
These appreciating assets allow you to earn a return when you sell your stocks down the road.
One of the best ways for those who want to grow their wealth with minimal risk is by investing in stocks of established companies.
The average stock market return has been about 10% per year over the last several decades.
This doesn’t mean every year will return this amount—some may be higher, some may be lower—remember that’s an average across the entire market and multiple years.
If you own individual stocks, their returns vary even more depending on corporate performance and future-looking investment decisions.
The stock market is a good investment for long-term investors no matter what’s happening day-to-day or year-to-year; they want long-term capital appreciation in growth companies and dividend stocks alike.
Holding equities over long periods is a surefire way to learn how to increase net worth.
Getting started in the stock market can be a daunting task for beginners, though it doesn’t need to be.
The best investing apps for beginners make the process painless and straightforward to get started and continue growing your investment account balance for many years to come.
→ Growth Stocks
Investing is a way of setting aside money that will work for you so in the future, you can reap all the benefits from your hard work. Investing is a means of achieving one’s better future.
Perhaps said best by legendary investor Warren Buffett, investing is “…the process of laying out money now to receive more money in the future.”
Investing aims to put your money to work and grow it over time. Growth stocks take this to another level by seeking capital appreciation as their main investing goal.
Growth stocks belong to growth-oriented businesses, including industries such as technology, healthcare, and consumer goods.
Growth companies traditionally work well for investors focused on the future potential of companies.
Growth companies focus on reinvestment and continuous innovation, which typically leads them to pay little to no dividends to stockholders, opting instead to put most or all its profits back into expanding its business.
Some popular growth companies include firms like Google, Apple, and Tesla.
Despite constantly reinvesting in the business, growth stocks are not without risk. Companies can make poor decisions, markets overvalue stocks, and economic mishaps can derail companies with even the best prospects.
However, growth stocks as a whole tend to provide the best return on investment over time if you can tolerate the volatility that comes with them.
But, take risks cautiously. While growth companies have a higher probability of providing an excellent return when compared to other types of investments, you should balance how much risk you are willing to tolerate.
Some companies grow at breakneck speed but have valuations to match. Taking on too much risk can undermine a portfolio and tank returns.
Instead, you might consider investing in a growth-oriented investment fund through a service like M1 Finance with their Domestic Growth and Global Growth Expert Portfolio Pies.
These invest in U.S. and global-based growth equities, respectively and purchase broad swaths of growth companies and not just concentrate your risk in a handful.
→ Dividend-Paying Stocks
Despite being associated with lower long-term returns than many other asset classes, dividend stocks are still a compelling option in some cases.
Dividends are regular cash payments issued to shareholders. When thinking of high-yield investments, these likely represent the most direct way to consider how an investment can put money back in your possession.
Because of this direct cash transfer, dividends also tell a lot about the risk profile of a stock.
When thinking about the risks involved with a stock that pays dividends (or not), consider some of these factors:
- The dividend should be far more consistent and declared in a similar (or growing amount) each quarter. Whether the stock goes up or down, the dividend comes to your brokerage account just the same. Even if your stock underperforms for a while, these dividends should give you something of value and make it easier to hold onto the stock during a market swoon or period of underperformance.
- Dividends tend to buffer significant falls in price, assuming economic circumstances don’t warrant cutting dividends. Also, dividend payments remain fixed in dollars per share terms, but dividend yields can rise when a stock’s price falls. That measure represents the amount of money you can expect to return based on the company’s current share price in a year. As a stock’s price falls, you’re paying less for that same dividend—assuming the company doesn’t cut it.
- Dividends represent stability to investors. Each period, the company needs to have a certain amount of cash go out the door to investors. This minimum level of cash flow going off the balance sheet means companies need to be less risky and plan for this ongoing cost as part of their corporate strategy.
As mentioned above, companies can—and some will—slash their dividends in times of economic uncertainty. While usually one of the last items for a company to cut, because it usually results in the stock plunging—people buy dividend stocks for their consistency.
When the company threatens that consistency, investors tend to sell in favor of other investment options.
Look for companies with a consistent history of dividend growth and high yields.
Conservative investors tend to find more comfort in these stocks because they have less risk tolerance and still get rewarded for their investment choices through regular dividend payments.
2. Start Investing in the Stock Market through Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs)
Thanks to events like the Gamestop market mania of early 2021, or the sudden rise of Dogecoin, SPACs, or other meme stocks, many people expect quick and high returns on investing in the stock market. But because of its volatility, this is not guaranteed.
One way to diffuse this risk and still earn good returns over time, consider using index funds as an ETF to build diversification into your portfolio.
For beginning investors, using these funds to build entire investment portfolios can make a lot of sense. They provide instant diversification with low costs all-in-one investment. Over time, these are safe investments that build considerable wealth.
To understand what makes diversification powerful, let’s go through a thought experiment on these long-term-oriented, low-risk investments.
What’s better than one company that generates an average annual return of 10%? Two companies that earn an average annual return of 10%.
What’s even better than that? Thousands of companies taken together that generate this kind of return consistently.
Why? Because any one company can befall a disaster, suffer a significant setback or even go out of business. Your risk tolerance need not be as high to invest in these safe investments (over long periods).
If you own shares of a fund holding stock of different companies, you avoid torpedoing your portfolio because you spread the risk out to several companies.
While markets overall can drop in tandem on major economic news, by holding several companies in index funds simultaneously, your portfolio won’t take on any added risk of specific companies failing.
If you can hold through this market tumult and continue to stand firm for years to follow, the market has always rewarded you in the last century.
As an example, think back to the Great Recession back in 2008. If you had owned an S&P 500 index fund, your eyes might have watered as you saw your position lose almost half its value in just a few months.
But, if you managed to hold, your same S&P 500 index fund investment would have averaged 18% per year over the next decade. Just imagine if you’d bought more of the index fund when it fell!
The lesson here? If you can see your stock portfolio as an illiquid basket of securities and can only add to them, you can rest easy knowing your money will come back strong over the long term.
3. Start Investing in the Stock Market through Mutual Funds
Investing can be a daunting task for any investor, but many believe that young investors benefit from setting up mutual fund accounts early.
These investment vehicles act like ETFs by purchasing a bundle of securities attempting to fulfill some stated investment aim.
Mutual funds build portfolios of underlying investments through pooling your money with that of other investors.
This creates a more extensive collection of stocks, bonds, and other investments, called a portfolio. Most come with a minimum initial investment requirement.
When a mutual fund’s securities’ values change, the net asset value (NAV) is adjusted accordingly by calculating how much more—or less—the fund would have to sell its investments for to fulfill shareholder redemptions.
This price changes based on the value of the securities in your portfolio at the end of each market trading day.
Owning a mutual fund in and of itself does not grant the investor ownership to the underlying securities, and they only own the mutual fund shares themselves.
Mutual funds can be stock funds, bond funds, a combination of them or investments in other assets.
Retirees tend to hold a combination of stock funds and bond funds in their retirement portfolios because they both can pay dividends and deliver the upside of stock investments.
Mutual funds come in two types: passively managed and actively managed mutual funds.
Managers of an active mutual fund management company buy and sell investments based on their stock research and the fund’s investment strategy.
The goal of portfolio management is typically to outperform a comparable benchmark—a commonly used but risky approach.
Passively managed mutual funds simply attempt to recreate the performance of a benchmark index like the S&P 500, Dow Jones or Barclays Corporate Bond Index. These are simply index funds but in mutual fund form.
You can invest in mutual funds through:
All of these types of investment accounts will allow you to reap the long-term rewards of compounding returns in a diversified investment.
Why Should You Start Investing?
Investing money in the stock market is one of the best ways to make it grow. Putting your hard-earned cash into investments, such as stocks and bonds, can be a great way to build wealth over time that you otherwise may not have an opportunity to access until later in life.
The great news is you don’t need much money to begin. Even investing small amounts consistently can pay off significantly over time, thanks to compound interest.
That’s because instead of just earning interest on your initial investment every year like an ordinary savings account would, with the power of compound interest, you also earn interest on your original principal and any accumulated returns.
Investing is not just for adults either. If you are a teen or young adult that has some extra cash to invest every month, it’s never too early to start planning for your future financial goals through investing.
There are plenty of other reasons why someone should start investing as early as possible, but ultimately it’s because of the power of compound interest and compounding returns over time. The earlier you start, the better.
What Should You Consider as a New Investor?
As a brand new investor, you should consider some of these things.
1. Financial Goals
Sure, we all want to grow wealth, but it’s essential to create specific financial goals. Write down your net worth goals for now, in five years, in fifteen years, and beyond.
Then, work backward to understand how much you need to invest and the types of returns you’d need to achieve to reach your goals.
2. Time Horizon
Again, it’s essential to consider time. When do you want to retire? Or, when do you want to achieve a financial freedom number? The time frame for meeting your investing goals is just as important as the amount of money you want to have in the future.
3. Risk Tolerance
The first step to becoming an investor is knowing your risk tolerance. The right investment mix will depend on how much you can stomach fluctuations in the market and what return rate you are looking to achieve over time.
Your age, family situation, where you live, whether or not this is your primary income source (or only source), and net worth are all crucial factors that play a role in how risky your investments should be.
Typically beginner investors can afford to be a bit riskier than older investors, even if they start with very little money. No one answer applies universally because everyone has different goals and a different tolerance for risk when investing money.
Diversification is a strategy that can help improve your investment returns while also reducing risk. The idea behind diversification is to limit volatility by investing in different types of assets rather than just one or two.
For some people, that means having a diverse investment portfolio, and for others, it means using investment apps in addition to robo advisors or online brokers.
A diverse portfolio could contain stock investing, real estate investing, an employer-sponsored retirement plan, and even saving money in cash.
If you have questions about how diverse your investments should be or whether you’re on track with your retirement savings plan, you can always consult a financial advisor.
5. Automated vs. Manual
Automated investing means just that – you set up automatic transfers and automatic investing. Typically automatic investors continue to invest month after month regardless of market conditions.
This is a highly efficient way to invest money because you can invest consistently over time without letting emotions or the financial news affect your investing behavior.
Manual investing means that you (or your financial advisors) actively watch the financial market and strive to make intelligent investments depending on your goals and market conditions.
Deciding on automated vs. manual investing is a personal decision based on your comfort level and long-term goals for financial independence.
There are many tax considerations when it comes to investing. Your investment income could be taxed. There are also tax-advantaged accounts and other tax benefits depending on the type of investment account you open.
If you have questions about investing and taxes, consult a tax professional to ensure that your investments are tax optimized.
How Much Money Do You Need to Start Investing?
There is no magic number for how much money you need to start investing. The amount of capital required for a well-diversified portfolio depends on your age, risk tolerance, and financial goals as an investor.
Generally speaking, the younger you are when you begin investing, the better. After all, the more money you can invest early in your life, the more time compound interest has to work its magic.
Luckily, with the emergence of investing apps and low-cost brokerage firms, you can start investing today with just a few dollars (or even a few thousand dollars!)
About the Site Author and Blog
In 2018, I was winding down a stint in investor relations and found myself newly equipped with a CPA, added insight on how investors behave in markets, and a load of free time. My job routinely required extended work hours, complex assignments, and tight deadlines. Seeking to maintain my momentum, I wanted to chase something ambitious.
I chose to start this financial independence blog as my next step, recognizing both the challenge and opportunity. I launched the site with encouragement from my wife as a means to lay out our financial independence journey and connect with and help others who share the same goal.
I have not been compensated by any of the companies listed in this post at the time of this writing. Any recommendations made by me are my own. Should you choose to act on them, please see the disclaimer on my About Young and the Invested page.