It seems everyone is on a different side of the investment spectrum. Some are Wall Street veterans who've had some skin in the game since their first paychecks and some are rookies who aren't even quite sure to begin. Wherever you land, there are some key tried-and-true investing tips that even the pros swear by. In fact, you may be utilizing them already without even realizing it.
LearnVest.com explains that, while there are always risks in investing, the potential rewards are worth it; your money can multiply much more in an investment account than if you simply kept it in savings. And while most of us would love to get rich from our investments, your first priority should be to aim toward financial goals like preparing for retirement.
Turns out, you don't need several thousand dollars to begin growing your stash, either. You can open some accounts with just a few hundred dollars or no money at all, or look into financial apps that, in essence, invest your spare change. "There are increasingly options available for investors who are just starting out," points out Arielle O'Shea, investing and retirement specialist with NerdWallet. "This wasn't nearly as common a few years ago."
If you're ready to start investing or growing your nest egg, read on. Ahead, you'll find expert tips on turning your hard-earned cash into a healthy financial cushion.
Start With A 401(k)
You may already be investing in one of the smartest, easiest ways possible — and that's participating in your employer's 401(k) program. "That's my number one recommendation for first-timers," says O'Shea. "Often these, and other employer retirement plans, come with matching dollars, which means if you contribute, your employer contributes a matching percentage. That's free money and a guaranteed return on your investment."
O'Shea suggests taking advantage of this benefit by contributing the highest matching amount, and once it's set up, you won't even have to think about it — it's usually taken directly from your paycheck. Increasing your contribution may hurt your wallet a little at first, but it'll pay off big in the long run.
Consider An IRA
If your workplace doesn't have a 401(k) benefit or you're self-employed, an IRA is the next best thing. (Contributing the full matching amount to your 401(k), but want to do more? Open an IRA too, and you'll be doing double-duty in your retirement savings.) "If you don't have a workplace retirement plan, you should consider an IRA, which is a retirement account you can open on your own," says O'Shea. "We have a full guide to these here, but in a nutshell, they offer you tax advantages for investing for retirement. Many people will particularly benefit from a Roth IRA, which allows your investment to grow tax-free."
With IRAs, you have options and can choose your broker. NerdWallet published this handy guide to help you decide what works best for you. "Say you put $500 every month into an IRA (that adds up to the annual maximum of $6,000)," the article explains. "The stock market’s annual average return of eight percent would get you more than $475,000 after 25 years. Even if you earned a more conservative 6 percent, you’d end up with more than $345,000 after 25 years."
Look Into Robo-Advisors
Almost everything is becoming automated these days ... and that includes financial advisors. A robo-advisor is pretty much exactly how it sounds: A program where you can put your money to be diversified and invested, based on algorithms. "A robo-advisor will help you invest your money if you want to be hands-off," says O'Shea. "It's basically a computer-augmented portfolio management service. You'll generally pay for the service, but it can give you some peace of mind if you truly don't want to manage things on your own (and there's no shame in that)."
Certain services allow you to open an account for free, and the management fee is usually a percentage of your balance. Check out NerdWallet's Best Robo-Advisors list for ratings, pros and cons, and more.
Try An Investment App
"I like investing apps, but they should be a supplement to your investing and retirement plan, not your plan itself," clarifies O'Shea. "There are a lot of merits to these, particularly an app like Acorns, which rounds up your transactions and invests the change in a diversified portfolio." While this can certainly build a nice little nest egg, she points out that it probably won't accumulate to an amount that's enough to retire on.
"It's important to prioritize: 401(k) with match comes first. Once you've grabbed the match, you can consider an IRA, and if you want to open that IRA with an investing app, that’s fine — again, just be mindful of fees and the investment selection available to you."
If you want to start experimenting with trading, O'Shea suggests the Robinhood app, but again, only as a supplement to retirement investing. "I think it's great for dabbling in the market, as you can trade individual stocks commission-free," she explains. "But same goes here: It shouldn't be used for your retirement savings. If you're interested in trading individual stocks, set aside a small portion of your investing budget to do so."
When To Start Investing
If you haven't done any investing just yet, The answer to "when" is easy: "ASAP," says O'Shea. She mentions that you may already be contributing to your 401(k) (if it's not to the full match amount, increasing it should be your first priority), and reiterates that some robo-advisors and apps require a $0 minimum deposit.
As you begin to build your portfolio, O'Shea suggests budgeting for investments, like you would with any other expense. "It's a line item in your budget, just like your cell phone bill and your Netflix subscription. That way, you're not saving what you have leftover after spending each month — you're consciously deciding how much to save and then spending what is left."