Investing can be intimidating. There’s a unique language, with expense ratios, ETFs, and dollar-cost averaging — oh my! And there’s a lot at stake, like your retirement. (See also: Beginner’s Guide to Reading a Stock Table)
However, at the risk of sounding like a home repair store commercial, you can do this and we can help. With the following five keys, you’ll be well on your way toward becoming a confident, successful, do-it-yourself investor.
1. Commit to the market
The stock market has been on a tear. Since bottoming out in March 2009, it nearly tripled in value by the end of 2016. And since the start of this year, it has only climbed higher. Unfortunately, for many people, it doesn’t matter. According to a recent Gallup poll, about half U.S. adults are not investing in the market.
Some waffle. They’re in when it seems safe; they’re out when trouble strikes. But pros don’t waffle. They’re in it for the long haul because they know that as a long-term investment, the U.S. stock market has delivered average annual returns of nearly 10 percent.
2. Know your goal
The most common investment goal is retirement. It that’s your goal, make it as specific as possible. How much money do you want to have? By when? And how much do you need to invest each month in order to get there? These questions can feel overwhelming at times, but you need to answer them in order to get a clear picture of your path to a secure retirement. (See also: How Much Should You Have Saved for Retirement by 30? 40? 50?)
3. Determine your optimal asset allocation
While many of the headlines in the investment press are about which investments to choose, there’s a different factor that’ll have an even greater impact on your investing success. It’s making sure you’ve determined your optimal asset allocation.
Asset allocation refers to how you divvy up the money you invest between asset classes, with the two most important ones…