First, I want to start off by saying investing is something that you need to do in order to become a wealth builder. Not only that, but if you want to achieve financial independence you must have income that’s being generated from some sort of investment. So, it’s imperative to your financial goals that you find an investment that you’re comfortable with and that will generate the income you need to reach your goals. Investing can sound complicated and sometimes intimidating too. If you’re new to investing and you want a hands off approach I would suggest talking to someone in your community, such as your local financial planner, about the different investing options for you. If there isn’t a local financial professional that can help you then you can turn to the internet. There is what seems like an endless amount of information on the internet that can help you better understand your investing options. You can find different companies that offer investing accounts online and investing professionals who you can call and talk to. I highly recommend doing your research before jumping into any investment. Make sure that you understand the level of risk associated with your investment and remember that it’s ok to start small.
So, let’s take a quick look at a few investments that are out there. One of the most common types of investments that are available are mutual funds. Well, what exactly is a mutual fund? According to Investopidia.com the definition of a mutual fund is, “an investment vehicle made up of a pool of funds collected from many investors for the purpose of investing in securities such as stocks, bonds, money market instruments and similar assets.” Essentially, different investors pool their money into a fund that seeks to perform a certain investment objective. There are lots of companies that offer mutual funds such as Vanguard, T. Rowe Price, and Fidelity among many, many more. Different mutual funds invest into different things. For example, a mutual fund’s goal might be to mimic the performance of the S&P 500 so it will be invested in stock of those companies that make up the S&P 500. According to statista.com there were nearly 80,000 mutual funds worldwide in 2015. The great thing about mutual funds is that they can offer diversification in a very affordable and convenient way. Some of the more diversified mutual funds could be considered “balanced”. This is where they invest in both stocks and bonds. The nice thing about having a balanced mutual fund is that it is diversified meaning it will not be highly affected if there is significant movement in one sector of the market. There are also mutual funds that only invest into stocks, other mutual funds that only invest in bonds, and some mutual funds invest in different sectors of the market. These funds tend to have less diversification than balanced funds but the good thing about these mutual funds is that they can have upside exposure to the market sector that they are concentrated in. For example, a mutual fund can be made up of sever tech stocks which would expose the mutual fund to the tech industry. Or you can have a mutual fund that can be made up of several health care stocks which would expose that mutual fund to the health care industry.
Another investment that is similar to a mutual fund is an ETF (exchange-traded fund). I kind of like to think of an ETF as being half like a mutual fund and half like a stock. The Vanguard Group defines an ETF as “A type of investment with characteristics of both mutual funds and individual stocks. ETFs are professionally managed and typically diversified, like mutual funds, but they can be bought and sold at any point during the day using straightforward or sophisticated strategies.” ETFs, like mutual funds come in all sorts of different varieties. Statista.com tells us that in 2015 there were 4,396 different ETFs worldwide and just 442 worldwide in 2005 indicating a pretty significant growth in the popularity of this investment type. The benefit of having an investment that can be bought and sold like a stock is that the transaction of buying and selling relatively fast, at least compared to buying and selling mutual funds which, from my experience, can to take a couple days for the transaction to go through. If you need the money from the proceeds of a sale in a hurry to buy another investment an ETF might be a good option for you.
Stocks and bonds are another investment vehicle. In order to trade stocks and bonds you need to open an account with a broker. This broker could be a person in your community like a broker from Edward Jones, Merrill Lynch, or a small local company. You could also use an online brokerage company like Scottrade, E*TRADE, TD Ameritrade, and many more. Buying individual bonds or stocks is nice because you can customize your investment portfolio for a certain investment strategy. Also, it’s fun to buy and sell stocks as a hobby.
If you’re a more sophisticated investor you might be someone who trades options. According to Charles Schwab & Co’s website “An option is a contract giving the owner the right, but not the obligation, to buy (in the case of calls) or sell (in the case of puts) the underlying instrument at a specified price for a specified period of time. The underlying instrument can be a stock, an exchange-traded fund (ETF) or even an index… Unlike shares of stock, an option does not represent ownership in the underlying company.” Schwab’s website also says “Options can help you protect against risk, generate income, increase profits, lower your breakeven point, reverse your strategy without selling your stock, and even potentially let you set a purchase price for a stock below its current market price.” I don’t have any experience trading with options besides the simulated option trading I’ve done on Stock Track. Even after reading and researching option trading I still find it hard to convincing myself that option trading is something that I can be successful in.
Owning real estate can also be a good investment. I’m not talking about simply owning the home that you live in I’m referring to owning real estate in order to rent or lease it out and actually make a return on your capital. Granted, your personal home can appreciate over time due to the appreciation of real estate but I would not really consider your home as the same kind of investment that I’m discussing here unless you are renting some portion of your home like if you had roommates or lived in a multi-family building. I’ve seen and worked with many people that have built much of their personal wealth through investing in residential real estate. The residential real estate, I would say, is where most people usually get their first taste of investing into real estate and I would agree that this is a good place to start. The down side with investing into real estate is that it can be extremely expensive so if you don’t have the cash reserves then you can put yourself in a very tight and financially dangerous position. The other downside with real estate is that it takes a long time to get your money back out of it if you are trying to liquidate your position, at least compared to liquidating stocks. Trying to list a house for sale, find a buyer, and finally closing on your real estate can be quite the process and take a considerable amount of time. It’s not like selling a stock where you can simply jump onto your online brokerage account hit the “sell” button and almost immediately have the funds to buy something else.
There are tons of different investments out there. The most important thing that I want you to remember is to make sure that before you buy any investment you do your homework on that investment. If you’re working with a financial planner, a broker, or a real estate agent always ask lots of questions so that you feel well educated, confident, and comfortable with the investment that you’re considering. Never just jump into an investment that you don’t know anything about and be very cautious about getting into any kind of investment with family or friends.
Well, that’s all I have for you about investments in this post. Remember that you need investments to build wealth and achieve financial independence. Happy investing and good luck!