We get questions about investing all the time. And it's amazing — I love helping women+ start building their wealth through passive income. But, since it's a topic we get asked about a lot, I figured I'd answer some of the most common questions about investing right here.
How do I know I'm ready to start investing?
Before you start investing, you need to pay off high-interest debt and save up an emergency fund. If you haven't done those two things, go do them as fast as you can so you can start investing.
You have to do those things first because if you have high-interest rate debt, it costs you more to hold onto that debt then you can make by investing, so trying to invest while you have debt while you have high interest rate debt is like trying to fill a bucket that has holes it. Instead, you want to pay off that debt and then start investing.
Quick note: if you have something like a mortgage or student loans with an interest rate below 7% (what we call “marathon debt”), it's okay to hold onto that and start investing simultaneously. It's just the high-interest rate debt, like credit cards, that you want to pay off first.
The other piece that you need to have in place before you invest is an emergency fund. You need to have this in place so that you can invest for the long term and not have to pull money out of your investments in case of emergency, because that's how people lose money by investing.
The stock market goes up and down. It fluctuates depending on the day, news, economic conditions, and many other factors, but historically, it always trends upward in the long run.
If some thing happens — say, your car breaks down or your dog gets sick — you don't want to pull your money out to fix the problem while the market is experiencing a dip. You want to be able to ride those waves and invest for the long term to be able to get the highest possible return.
So, if you've done those first two steps of paying off your high-interest rate debt and saving an emergency fund, congratulations! You are ready to start investing.
(Want to learn about how to start investing? Check this out!)
Should I use investing apps?
If you pick up your phone (I'm sure it's nearby) and head over to the app store, there are a ton of micro-investing apps available: Robinhood, Acorns, Stash, to name a few.
Here's the deal: investment apps are a double-edged sword. Yes, they are a convenient way to start investing, and if you're new to the investing world, they can be a really useful tool because they're super easy to use and you can usually get started with just a few dollars. Plus, they're kind of fun to check in on.
So, if an app is what gets you into investing, that's awesome. Whatever it is that gets you into investing, I am all for it, but I want you to also know the downside of these investing apps.
When it comes to investing, fees are really important, and we recommend not using any approach to investing that charges a fee higher than 0.3%.
As soon as you start paying more than that in fees, it cuts into your returns and can have a large impact on your lifetime returns. Get this: a 1% fee (which most financial advisors charge) can cost you over $100,000 in lost returns over your lifetime.
Keep in mind: these fees are often disguised as monthly fees rather than a percentage of assets, which is really sneaky, so let's walk through the math together.
Let's say an app charges users $3 per month for their basic plan, which is $36 per year. If you're only investing $1,000, that ends up being a 3.6% fee, which is more than three times what you would pay a financial advisor to personally manage your money for you. For that reason, I recommend staying away from the apps that charge fees and learn to invest yourself.
Which brokerage should I use?
When it comes to investing, the most important thing to do is start as soon as possible. The sooner you start, the more time your investments have to grow. So if you've been stuck trying to figure out what brokerage to use to start investing, well, let's help you make your decision right now. Here's what you need to know:
Robinhood markets itself as being a beginner-friendly investing option. It's a great app for getting started, but if you plan to invest in index funds, you can't do that from Robinhood. Because of that, use Robinhood to get started, then opt for one of the other larger brokerage firms when you're really ready to dive into investing.
Schwab is a good option for investors who need a full-service broker that performs strongly across the board.
One perk of using Schwab is that they also offer a bank, so if you're opting for simplicity and minimalism and want to keep your savings and your investments in one place, this is a good option for that.
E-Trade is a solid brokerage option, regardless of what type of investor you are: passive or active, novice or expert. It provides thorough educational resources and analysis, so E-Trade is one of the better options if you plan to make frequent trades.
Vanguard is a low-cost long-standing brokerage that is best for long-term investing. So if you plan to opt for the “set it and forget it” approach, Vanguard is the way to go. They offer some of the best-performing, lowest fee funds, and you can only get access to them from a Vanguard account.
Also, if you ever decide that you don't want to manage your investments on your own, you can opt into Vanguard personal advisory services for a fee of 0.3% and have your assets managed for you.
Fidelity is a one-stop financial shop for investors. It's best for casual investors and traders who want access to more tools and charting and technical analysis. It's regularly voted the best overall brokerage choice.
Bottom line here, don't get hung up on which brokerage to use. You're better off just picking one of these large brokerages and getting started. They're all relatively the same. And if you're still feeling conflicted, just go with Vanguard.
I'm 30, what should I invest in? I'm 60, what should I invest in?
To understand investing you first need to understand the relationship between risk and return. The riskier something is, the higher its potential return is, and the less risky an investment is, the lower its potential return.
In general, stocks are riskier investments, but they have a much greater chance of offering a high reward, whereas bonds are lower risk but offer a lower return.
When you're young (say 30-ish or younger), you want to be invested in high-risk investments with the highest potential for growth. Think about investing in a 100% stock portfolio because you have more time for the market to recover. Investing entirely in stocks means that your investments are going to go up and down way more often than if you are invested in bonds, but the potential returns are much higher.
When you're young, you can tolerate the ebbs and flows because over the long term, it has historically always gone up more than the bond market has. If you're willing to tolerate those ups and downs, you want to be invested more in stocks, which some people call an aggressive growth portfolio.
As you get closer to retirement, you'll want to change your mix from mostly stocks to a mix of stocks and bonds so that your portfolio is less volatile. Bonds offer lower but steadier returns, so if having a mix of stocks and bonds stabilizes your portfolio.
You can either change to more of a mix of stocks and bonds as you get closer to retirement yourself or you can invest in a target date fund, which is an investment that will automatically diversify your investment portfolio to consist of a more equal stock-to-bond ratio, lowering your risk.
To find the target date fund that's right for you, just take the year that you plan to retire (let's say 2050) and type “target date fund 2050” into Google. You'll immediately find target date fund options that will select the best portfolio for you.
The best part about that is that even if you're starting at 30, that portfolio is going to be made up of more stocks, so it is automatically adjusts the risk-to-reward ratio.
Is now a bad time to invest?
The stock market is an unpredictable roller coaster ride. It's full of ups and downs, and people often look at what's happening in the market and wonder is this a bad time to invest?
People get scared when the market drops. Their natural inclination is to pull money out of the market, not put more in, but historically the market has always recovered, so putting money into the stock market when prices are low isn't a bad idea.
The truth is, as long as you're willing to leave your money invested for at least five years (preferably more), then there's no bad time to invest. There's always an opportunity for you to grow your money.
The best time to invest is actually as soon as possible. The more time you have to keep your money invested, the more you can benefit from compound interest and growth over time. There's no bad time to invest only a bad time, not to invest.
If you need help figuring out how to invest and how to do it on your own, check out our article on investing for beginners.
I hope that answers all of your questions about investing! If you have any more, feel free to leave a comment, and don't forget to check out our free masterclass, Think Like an Investor, where our Dow Janes co-founder Laurie-Anne explains how she went from being $40,000 in debt to making thousands from her investments every month.