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Ask Kim: When to Invest

President & CEO Kim Sponem answers financial questions.

Investing can be tricky – even for the experts. So, how’s an ordinary person supposed to make sense of it? Good question. Luckily, our President & CEO Kim Sponem is here to help answer it with these tips to demystify investment options.

Q: I want to invest my money but don’t know where to start. Am I too young to be thinking about this? If not, how do I get started?

A: The answer is almost certainly no, you are not too young to be thinking about investing. You may or may not be ready to actually invest. If you don’t have an emergency fund and some savings cushion, for example, it’s probably too soon to invest, but even then, it’s not too soon to think about investing and to start asking questions.

One of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to investing is doing nothing because they don’t know how to start and, for some reason, feel they “should” know. Approaching money management from a learner’s point of view is very wise and pays off in added confidence and added dollars. Here are a few tips for beginners:

  • Start with a small amount of money that you do not think you’ll need for at least a few years. And ask yourself: in the worst-case scenario, can you afford to lose it?
  • Start small, learn and have fun. You do not need a lot of money to begin investing.
  • And always keep your savings account for all the expenses, including the unexpected, that life brings.

Mutual funds are the best option for most investors and the easiest to start with. When you invest in a mutual fund, the fund’s managers pool your dollars with money from other investors, so you avoid putting all your eggs in one basket. You want to avoid putting too much of your money into something that might have a big drop in value. Some mutual funds are extremely diversified, investing across stocks and bonds worldwide. Others diversify within a specific market – for example, they might focus on investing in stocks of U.S. companies that operate in some particular industry like health care.

When choosing mutual funds, look at fees. A fund that charges lower fees will put more of your investment dollars to work for you. And look at the fund’s track record for generating income and gains over the long run – some funds can be volatile, so doing really well in the most recent year doesn’t mean the next year will go well.

Some people like investing in particular stocks, instead of mutual funds. Researching the company can be interesting, and you might want to support a local company or a company whose mission you believe in. Investing in a local stock can be a great learning opportunity and fun for your kids too. But buying stock in particular companies isn’t necessary for most investors – you’ll pay more to buy and sell stocks than it would cost to invest in mutual funds, you’ll be less diversified and you’re taking 100% of the responsibility for deciding how your money is invested.

Investing is an effective way to grow your savings, but it’s important to be informed so you can find the right balance between your investments and day-to-day financial responsibilities. Still have questions? Schedule a meeting to learn more.