Part 8: Start Investing

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Investing some money in the stock market can be a great way to get your finances working for you long term, as you work towards building a portfolio to supply you without another income stream. If you’ve never invested before, this might sound like a scary new thing to learn, but these days you can invest in low-risk investments with even just small amounts of money, so as long as you only put in money you don’t need (and not your entire savings), investing MIGHT be an adequate way to build up your assets and net worth further.

Part 8: Start Investing

Generally speaking, there are two types of investments that make up most of the stock market: stocks and bonds. Stocks or shares represent a small part of the company. Whoever owns shares of a company essentially owns part of that company. Shares give shareholders dividend payments at specific intervals (for example yearly or biannually) based on profit results.

Bonds on the contrary represent loans taken out by a company. If you buy a bond you essentially lend money to a company. Throughout the lifespan of the bond you will be paid interest and at the end of it you will be returned the original amount of money that the bond was issued for.

Both stocks and bonds might with time go up in value, meaning that if you decided to sell these assets you could make a bit of money. Unfortunately the opposite might also be the case: they could go down in value in which case if you had to sell them after their value has gone down, you would lose money.

When it comes to investing your money in the market, there are three main ways of doing so:

  • You can pick and choose your own stocks and bonds to invest in. Handpicking your own investments gives you a lot of flexibility and means you’re in (almost) complete control of the process: which company to invest in, when to buy and when to sell. It does of course mean you need some knowledge as to how to make these decisions.
  • A second option is to invest in mutual funds where a fund manager makes all of those decisions for you. Mutual funds often have high associated costs and fees however and therefore aren’t always the most efficient way to make money on the market.
  • A third way to invest is via index funds which is a way to proportionally invest in all the companies of a specific index. This type of investing doesn’t require you to have specific knowledge and often has very low costs. 

None of the above options are without risk: investments can always go down in value and whilst you can make money on the stock market, it is just as easy to lose money.  That said, as long as you take calculated risks and invest in relatively safe investments, putting money into the market can be good opportunity to. build your wealth.

It’s worth finding some time today to check out the investing options that might be available to you, what their minimum monthly required contributions are and what their fees or costs are. This gives you a much better idea of what investing might look like to you.

Lastly, before ending this quick intro into investing, let’s look at an investing guideline that has become known as the 4% rule. This rule is based on extensive research done by Trinity University where researchers found that if you have an investment portfolio of a certain value, and take out no more than 4% annually, your portfolio will nearly always sustain itself due to market increases, meaning the increase in value balances out the money you take out. Practically speaking this means that if your investments are worth $60,000, you can take out $2.400 each year without your portfolio going down in value. Or if you build a portfolio worth $500,000, you can take out $20,000 each year! That might even be enough to live off without needing any further income? Unfortunately, whilst the 4% rule is a great initial guideline, it doesn’t always hold up, especially not in times of a recession, so before you think all you need to do is invest and then live off the proceeds, you’ll likely need a contingency plan for when there is an economic downfall scenario.

Investing can be a great way to build and maintain your wealth, but it is also complex and there can be great risks involved. This blogpost is just an introduction to the topic. Before you go off and invest all of your savings, please make sure to educate yourself further with blogs, books and / or podcasts on this so that you don’t take any unnecessary and irresponsible risks. 

The above is an adaptation of part 8 of the 10 parts in the guidebook to Financial Independence100 Steps to Financial Independence: The Definitive Roadmap to Achieving Your Financial Dreams where you can find more details as well as action plans and guidelines to each of the 10 parts. Available in both ebook and paperback format!

Get your FREE sample of the 100 Steps to Financial Independence Book here

Coming up next: Part 9 of the Journey to Financial Independence!

Day 22 / 31 Discover the 3 Ways to Invest

Day 22: Discover the 3 Ways to Invest

Day 22: Discover the 3 Ways to Invest
Day 22: Discover the 3 Ways to Invest

There are generally three different ways to invest in a stock market and today you’ll find out about the advantages and disadvantages of each approach.

Handpicking shares

Firstly you can handpick your own shares, meaning you select one or a few companies you want to invest in, buy their shares and wait for the magic to happen. The key advantages as well as disadvantages are summarised below. Continue reading “Day 22 / 31 Discover the 3 Ways to Invest”

Day 21 / 31 Learn about Shares and Bonds

Day 21: Learn about Shares and Bonds

Day 21: Learn about Shares and Bonds
Day 21: Learn about Shares and Bonds

Today’s challenge will be a crash course on investing. Since there is a lot to go through and not much blog post length to use, let’s dive straight into this…

Shares

Any company is made up of shares and each share is essentially a very small part of a company. If you have a share, it means you own a part of that very business. The more shares you have, the bigger the part you own of that company.  Continue reading “Day 21 / 31 Learn about Shares and Bonds”

Step 73: Lifestyle Investing Option

Step 73 of the 100 steps mission to financial independence: Lifestyle investing option
Step 73: Lifestyle investing option

In the previous step we’ve looked at asset allocation and using the yearly rebalancing technique to keep the right balance between your various assets in your portfolio, even if some of your assets grew more than others, thereby taking up a bigger percentage of your portfolio. In step 73 we’ll look at how rebalancing your portfolio can also help to readjust your portfolio when you get closer to your goals. In the examples below I mainly use retirement as a goal, but it can of course be other goals too that you might have in mind for your investments, such as a college fund for a (grand)child, a down-payment for a house etc.

Lifestyle option

Let’s assume that you have a 70/30 shares / bonds allocation to start off with in your portfolio and that the main goal for that portfolio is to use it as (an addition to) your pension provision. With time when you start nearing retirement, you might become a little nervous about the possible volatility of this portfolio however. What happens if there is a sudden crash in the market and you lose a big chunk of the money in your portfolio right before or after you were planning to retire? It means you suddenly wouldn’t have the same amount of money available that you maybe planned to have, which would probably compromise some of your pension plans. Of course when you’re 30 or 40, having a portfolio with a bigger risk factor doesn’t matter as much as your portfolio still has time to recover after a possible crash before your retire. But when you’re close to retirement age, you don’t have the same luxury of time and you probably don’t want that same volatility anymore as when you were younger. Continue reading “Step 73: Lifestyle Investing Option”

Step 72: Rebalance your Portfolio

Step 72 of the 100 Steps Mission to Financial Independence: Rebalancing your Portfolio
Step 72: Rebalancing your Portfolio

This and the next step look at managing your assets in your portfolio on a long-term basis to ensure they remain aligned with your goals. With time some assets might grow faster than others, goals might change or you might want to change the risk level of your portfolio the closer you get to your goals. In all cases this can be dealt with by rebalancing your portfolio and re-allocation your assets. Similar to the investing principle of “buy when everybody else is selling”, which we discussed in step 54, the rebalancing of your portfolio is another investing concept which is easy to understand and execute logically, but can be difficult to implement psychologically.

Yearly rebalancing

The yearly rebalancing of your portfolio ensures that if one area of your portfolio does really well in one particular year, you don’t deviate too much from the original asset allocation that you had in mind for your portfolio. If one assets grows much more than another, it might make your portfolio too volatile or too safe for your goals and risk tolerance.

Let’s look at an example and assume that you want a 70% shares and 30% bonds allocation in your portfolio. You put in $10.000 and the moment you enter the market both bonds and shares happen to be $100 per unit. Ignoring costs for the sake of this example, that means you’d have $7.000 in shares and $3.000 in bonds. A year later the shares have far outperformed the bonds, and even though both have gone up in prices, your bonds are now worth $3150 (a 5% increase), whereas your shares are now worth $8050 (an increase of 15%). The stocks and bonds allocation is now no longer 70/30 but 72/28. Not a huge difference you might think but if the shares keep outperforming bonds by that much for a few years, you might end up with an 80/20 portfolio in just a few years. Continue reading “Step 72: Rebalance your Portfolio”

Step 71: Investing through Crowdfunding

Step 71 of the 100 steps mission to financial independence: Investing through Crowdfunding
Step 71: Investing through Crowdfunding

Once you’ve got a taste for investing, you’ll likely want to investigate other options that allow you to invest some money, either to diversify your portfolio, support a small start-up, increase returns or simply for fun to see what happens.

A hugely popular new way of investing (or indeed raising money if you are on the other side of it) is crowdfunding. Crowdfunding is a way for companies, entrepreneurs and start-ups to get together a sum of money to set up a business, launch a new product or expand and open a new project or department.

Types of crowdfunding

There are different types of crowdfunding:

  • In P2P (peer-to-peer) lending, capital is raised by getting many different loans of small amounts together. Instead of getting one loan of $30.000 from the bank, entrepreneur(s) might get as many as 200 different people lending them amounts between $50 and $1000 for example. Like with a bank loan, the entrepreneurs are then paying the loans back over time with interest to their investors.
  • Pre-sales in which people can pre-order even before a product has been produced. Those initial investors will get a first release or even a small present several times a year (for example a new exclusive wine or another small new release).
  • Selling shares and having people invest in your company in return for a small ownership in your company.

Continue reading “Step 71: Investing through Crowdfunding”

Step 51: Investing through Mutual Funds

Step 51 of the 100 steps mission to financial independence: Investing through Mutual Funds
Step 51: Investing through Mutual Funds

In the previous step we looked at the advantages and challenges of choosing the shares and bonds to invest in yourself. In this new step we look at an alternative which is designed to help you if you don’t want to choose your own investments, but rather rely on the opinion and experience of somebody else: Investing through collective or mutual funds.

As we’ll see, this type of investing has its own major positives and drawbacks so let’s get started with the details.

Mutual funds – an overview
In the case of collective or mutual funds, the money of small investors in pooled together in order to raise the total amount available to invest. A fund manager is appointed to manage these funds and he or she decides which shares and bonds to add to the portfolio, trying to make as much money as possible. This often means they buy and sell continuously, following the market, aiming to buy shares at a low price, sell them at a high price and rush selling if they see a fall in the market coming, to avoid their clients losing a lot of money. Sounds like a good tactic? On paper yes, but in reality there are two main problems with this type of investing. Continue reading “Step 51: Investing through Mutual Funds”

Step 50: Investing through Handpicking shares

Step 50 of the 100 Steps to financial independence: Investing through Handpicking Shares
Step 50: Investing through Handpicking Shares

Now that we’ve discussed the what of investing (stocks and bonds and what the differences between the two are), it is now time to learn more about the how of investing and in particular how one can enter the stock market and start investing. Hopefully by now you’ve at least become slightly curious about how this investing really works, whether or not you feel like this will be your thing to do.

Generally speaking there are three different ways you can invest in a stock market:

  1. Handpicking shares (and bonds) of individual companies
  2. Getting a collection of shares and bonds through collective or mutual funds
  3. Passive investing through Index tracking or Exchange Traded Fund

We’ll look at each option in turn to find out more about each way of investing in detail. In this step we’ll start by looking at handpicking shares of individual companies. Remember that these steps are only an introduction to the complexity of investing, so don’t just take my word for it, but read up if you’d like to find out more. There are many good books, articles and websites around that will explain this all in greater detail.

To make things easier on me as well as on you when reading, I have decided to talk about “handpicking shares” where in reality I am talking about both shares and bonds (yes, you can call me lazy if you want..!) Continue reading “Step 50: Investing through Handpicking shares”

Step 49: The Difference between Shares and Bonds

Step 49 of the 100 steps to Financial Independence: The Difference between Shares and Bonds
Step 49: The Difference between Shares and Bonds

Stock markets have a vast selection of stocks and bonds that can be invested in and before deciding what to invest in, understanding the main differences between stocks and bonds well is absolutely key if you consider getting in the stock market. Investors can decide whether they want to invest in just shares, just bonds or whether to create their own mix of stocks and bonds. With time, many furthermore decide to slowly reallocate their investments, so even if you start with a certain percentage shares and bonds, this needn’t stay as such for the rest of your investment life.

Here we’ll look at the main differences between shares and bonds from an investor’s point of view and how they both offer different advantages and disadvantages.

Volatility

  • Share prices vary more day-to-day but also over long periods of time: their value can increase or decrease fast.
  • Bonds are generally more price solid and fluctuate less over time and at a much slower pace than shares.

Continue reading “Step 49: The Difference between Shares and Bonds”

Step 47: Understanding Shares

Step 47 of the 100 steps to financial independence: Understanding Shares
Step 47: Understanding Shares

Here starts a new part of our 100 steps to financial independence, with this being the first step in a mini-series on investing.

If you are serious about money, it is worth understanding more about the stock market and at least get a basic idea of what it is and how it works, before you decide for yourself whether investing will be something you would like to start doing. Investing is often a long-term decision and depending on the risks you are willing to take, you might or might not feel that investing is the right thing to do for you.

Let’s start with one of the key components of the stock market: shares (also known as stocks) and find out what they are, why they exist and how they make or lose us money.

What is a share

A share is basically a very small part of a company. If you have a share, it means you own a part of that very business and the more shares you have, the bigger the part you own of that company. Continue reading “Step 47: Understanding Shares”