INVESTING FOR BEGINNERS – simple tips for beginners to learn how to invest and save money
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This article is for all the people that think because they know nothing about their money they will always know nothing about their money. Here are simple tips for beginners to learn how to invest and save money. I’ve got news for you, it’s not hard to learn and it’s fun! I am not an accountant, a financial advisor, or a professional investor. However, I LOVE learning about money and finances. I also love my budgeting app (I use YNAB), and I am proud to say I haven’t paid a penny in credit card interest in YEARS. When we don’t know anything about how we spend or why we spend or where our money is going (if any) for the future, we keep ourselves hidden away from an entire subject that could be interesting and NOT (promise!) difficult to manage. Just because you aren’t paying attention doesn’t mean you are spending appropriately. Ignorance isn’t bliss.
The following are five personal finance ideas to move you forward in your awareness of your money and your spending habits.
1. Start using a personal finance app
My go-to personal finance app (for tracking net worth) is Personal Capital. At any time of day, you can sign on and see the money that has come out of your checking account, any credit card account, or your investment accounts, etc. If you are concerned about security – think about this: if you can see what’s happening in your accounts at a moment’s notice chances are you will spot something “fishy” much sooner than if you were in your “I don’t pay attention to that stuff” mode. Knowing your net worth is terrific. You will feel more in control of your life. (Really.) Especially as you pay attention and start saving, even a little bit, it’s very encouraging to see the numbers go UP as you watch instead of PLUMMETING when you look every once in a blue moon.
Again, I use YNAB on a daily basis to keep track of where my money is going, and since it works a lot like the envelope system of budgeting, I will know exactly how much money I have left for groceries this month, dining out, gas, etc.
2. Chat your way to cheaper utility bills
Once you start using a personal finance app and paying attention to your spending, it’s easy to see where your hard-earned money is going every month. If you’re like most of us, two of your most significant expenses after home and auto (never buying a new car will be a topic for another day) are probably your cable and wireless phone bill. I never want to do this – I can’t stand to make the call and be on hold and wait until I have to finagle a better deal with someone. I would instead not make the call and keep paying the same high price. BUT – Look for the chat icon on a vendor’s website! Usually, someone comes on to chat with you (it’s like texting back and forth) immediately. Ask about options to cut your expenses. (Telling them you found a better price elsewhere is something most people do, but it works.) There are usually new “promotions” that we would NEVER know about unless we checked. Ask about them!
Ask neighbors. I recently had a neighbor, who saw oil being delivered to my house, call and ask me if I minded telling him how much I paid for my fuel. I was happy to share that information because perhaps one of us can save more money if our costs are different. (Ended up that I was paying WAAAAY less than him.)
3. Check your credit cards
Obviously, if we are getting a handle on our finances, the last thing we want is credit card debt. For that reason, if you DO have credit card debt, make sure you are using a card with the lowest interest rate you can find. Now let’s say you do not have credit card debt. You should still be keeping an eye out (at least once a year) on what card you are using and see if there is something that would be more beneficial for you. Look at the NerdWallet information on the side of this page – they have WONDERFUL calculators that can help figure this information out. (Comparing benefits, yearly costs, and interest rates.)
4. Investigate no-fee and low-fee trading platforms
Investment allocation –
This may sound confusing, but it’s not. There are stocks, bonds, international, domestic, large, small, real estate, etc. types of investment options. Allocation just means how much of your money is in each “type” of investment. To keep things simple – think INDEX FUNDS!
Here, in a nutshell, is index funds described in the book “The Bogleheads' Guide to Investing” (John Bogle is the founder of The Vanguard Group), “Index investing is an investment strategy… It takes very little knowledge, no skill, practically no time or effort – and outperforms about 80 percent of all investors.
In Benjamin Graham’s classic “The Intelligent Investor” he writes, “What then, should the intelligent investor do? First of all, recognize that an index fund – which owns all the stocks in the market, all the time, without any pretense of being able to select the ‘best’ and avoid the ‘worst’ – will beat most funds over the long run.”
By far the most straightforward book I read while inhaling everything I could on personal finance was “The Coffeehouse Investor” by Bill Schultheis. (I will share more of my favorite books in the fifth section of this article.) He writes, “The simplest approach to diversifying your stock market investments is to invest in one index fund that represents the entire stock market. The problem with having your entire common stock portfolio invested in one ‘entire-stock-market’ index fund is that eventually, someone at some backyard barbeque, you will cross paths with a Wall Streeter who, upon learning that your entire portfolio consists of only one mutual fund, will argue that you are way under diversified and will pay for that mistake the next time the stock market drops.
Just smile and say please pass the potato salad.”
Stash: This is a fun app. Firstly, you can set it to automatically invest – I put a small amount on automatic each month to go into my portfolio. You pick your funds based on your where your beliefs align, where your interests are, etc. I use Stash and have my money invested in their “Roll with Buffett” account. HELLO? How awesome is that? It is interesting just to look at how they set up different accounts. Are you into Defending America? There’s an investment account for that. Health-care your thing? There is an account called “Live Long & Prosper.” Robots? Water? You name it – it’s pretty cool.
Acorns: I like it. It’s a sneaky way of tricking yourself into saving a little bit every day. What the Acorns app does is round UP the amount of any purchase (you pick what accounts (bank, credit card) you want to be involved. So if you spend 13.41 at the diner? Acorns will round up and take the $0.59 and put it in your Acorns account! Once you get to $5 Acorns invests the money for you – This app is more general for choosing your investments than Stash – You decide between aggressive, moderately aggressive, moderate, moderately conservative, or conservative. They do the rest.
Again, it’s fun, and you do start seeing the amounts add up! (I have mine set now to 2x round-ups, so instead of the $0.59 it will put $1.18 in my acorns account. Woop! Woop!
Robinhood: This is a bit different than the previous two in that it is a $0 fee app where you purchase individual stocks. I have started to use this just for fun, with a LITTLE bit of money only. All my other savings go into index funds. You also get a free stock when you sign up here! As of right now, it’s only a mobile app, and that works fine for me.
Just read! The following are the books that taught me the most –
The Bogleheads Guide to Investing – Taylor Larimore, Mel Lindauer, and Michael Le Boeuf. I have also listened to this on audio. This book is an excellent baseline for new investors – Bogleheads’ forum is fun too.
This book is little and is a quick read. If you are nervous about getting into a more extended finance book – this is the one for you. It’s written by a guy who would meet friends in a coffee shop every week. Loaded with useful nuggets of information for the beginner.
All About Asset Allocation – Richard A. Ferri, CFA
I LOVED this book. I learned about all the different types of investments, and how to arrange what was right for my family and me. I frequently go back to it as a resource. Another great book to read cover to cover. (Not thrilling to read, but a wonderful foundation.)
The Intelligent Investor -Benjamin Graham
This book is not for you to read first! (Although beginners will get a ton of knowledge from it.) If you are into reading, and you are getting more interested in your finances, you don’t want to miss this one for sure. I listened to it on audio. The sheer size of the book (you know, THICK with teeny tiny letters) is scary if you are a beginner – but it is SOOOO worth it. I will put a link to the audio version as well as the written book.
The Four Pillars of Investing – William Bernstein
Foundation. Foundation. Foundation. This book is wonderfully written and in my opinion a must-read. This is another book that I return to as a resource whenever I have a question. What are the four pillars?
• The Theory of Investing
• The History of Investing
• The Psychology of Investing (this is
• The Business of Investing
You will feel brilliant when you finish this book. (Well, I did.)
Get a handle on your finances today.
I have worked hard (and read carefully) to make sure investments are not something of which I am clueless. I also would like to save so I don’t have to wait to retire when I’m in my 80’s! Don’t be afraid of investing, and certainly don’t worry about not knowing anything. I started here in my 40’s! It’s never too late.
Go get ‘em…
Any other apps or websites you use for your finances? Other ideas you have regarding simple tips for beginners to learn how to invest and save money? Please comment below or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.