A GUIDE TO INVESTING FOR ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS
For the best experience, complete the guide on your laptop/desktop - check your inbox for a link 👍
All of the information contained within this guide has been fact-checked by a Chartered Financial Planner but this doesn't mean it's financial advice! It's to be used for educational purposes only. For advice on your own circumstances, speak to an independent financial advisor.
Remember that when you invest, your capital is at risk, which means that whilst you can make money, you can lose it too.
What is investing?
You’re here because you want to make more from your money. That means, you guessed it, investing. But what is it really?
That wealth might come from buying something that you can later sell for a profit (this is a ‘capital gain’) or that gives you an income (e.g. a rental property).
There are lots of different assets you can invest in but in this guide we’re mainly talking about shares in companies you buy on the ‘stock market’.
‘The purchase of assets or goods with the aim of making more wealth in the future’
WHY SAVING ISN'T ENOUGH
If you’re not happy with a measly 0.5% interest rate you’re getting in your cash savings account, investing could be the answer.
There are two main reasons people invest:
How MUCH COULD i make?
There are no promises when it comes to investing, but looking at how the stock market has behaved in the past shows us how to be successful in the stock market. The key is:
INVESTING FOR THE LONG TERM
Over the last 90 years, the average return every year from the major US stock market the S&P 500 Index was nearly 10 per cent.
BUT! investors didn’t get this every year – some years they would have lost money. It’s unpredictable (or ‘volatile’ in investing speak). That’s why you should invest for the long term – five years plus.
This way, you’re giving your money the chance to ride out any bumps in the market...
So when we talk about markets, what does it all mean? What are you investing your money IN?
tHE PERFORMANCE OF THE S&P 500 BETWEEN 1930 AND 2019
what am i investing in?
Each of these three asset types offers a different level of risk. So how do you know which you should invest in? Don’t panic, you can get an expert to do it for you. You need a FUND.
For simplicity, we can break investments down into three broad categories (the industry jargon is ‘asset classes’):
what is a fund?
Yes, you can hand pick your own investments if you want to. But it requires time, knowledge and skill to do it well and achieve ‘diversification’ (a spread of different things so if one does badly you should still make money overall).
So if you’re a novice, let someone else do the hard work for you and pool your money with other investors in a professionally managed fund.
Funds have three major benefits:
There are lots of options when it comes to funds. They can invest by
geographic region (e.g. companies in Europe),
industry sector (e.g. tech),
company size (e.g. FTSE 100),
investment type (e.g. corporate bonds)
or return type (e.g. income stocks).
They can also be ‘active’- a human being using skill to try to beat the performance of the stock market, or ‘passive’ – a cheaper, no-frills option where a computer algorithm just tracks how the stock market performs.
risk vs return
Investors are constantly trying to find the right balance between risk and reward. How much money are you willing to risk for the potential return?
It will depend on how much TIME you have to ride out the inevitable ups and downs, and your ATTITUDE to loss - could you keep your cool and avoid panic selling in falling markets? Robo advisors and independent financial advisors (explained in a sec) use clever questionnaires to assess your risk profile.
WHAT do you mean?
If you cash in your investments, you might have to pay tax, such as Capital Gains Tax (CGT) on any money you’ve made, or income tax on dividends. But in the UK there are a number of ‘allowances’ that protect investments and savings from tax up to certain limits.
There’s also the ISA: a savings or investment account, a bit like a piggybank the government gives you every year which is shielded from tax up to an annual limit (this is the ISA allowance, and this year it’s £20,000).
types of Individual savings accounts (Isa's)
There are two types of ISA which let you invest in the stock market:
Fees and charges are really important because they can eat up a big chunk of your money. But there are trade-offs: you might be willing to pay a bit more for convenience, for example. Just make sure you understand what you’re being charged and why. The main ones to watch for are:
Investment management / platform fees – a fee you pay to the fund manager or investment platform
Selling/buying funds – a ﬂat fee you pay on buying or selling a fund or shares
Transfer out fee – a fee to move your ISA or pension from one platform to another.
a short word on fees...
How MUCH should i invest?
tHERE ARE TWO INVESTMENT APPROACHES, EACH WITH PROS AND CONS...
The drip feed strategy
Regularly diverting a set amount of money into your investments each month.
The lump sum strategy
Investing a big chunk of money (e.g. an inheritance) all in one go
The sooner you start investing the better, but there are a few things to tick off first.
These are the seven steps from the Go Fund Yourself book.
Step 1: You’ve got goals
You have a goal in mind
Step 2: You’ve got an emergency fund
You've got a savings buffer
Step 3: You’ve paid oﬀ expensive debts
This doesn't include UK student loans!
Step 4: You have a pension and have maximised contributions
Check out the Pension Masterclass for help
Step 5: You’ve boosted your emergency fund
You've boosted your savings to cover 3-6 months of emergency living expenses. You want to keep this in cash or in a cash equivalent.
Step 6: Invest!
You're good to go 👍
am i ready to invest?
Make your investment strategy official so you’ve more chance of sticking to your guns. Answer these questions:
Your Investment Strategy:
Goals (What are you doing this for?)
Timeline (How long are you investing for?)
Asset allocation (If you’re a DIY investor)
Or risk level (If you’re using a robo-advisor/IFA)
Charges (what is the breakdown?)
Set and Forget! (for a bit)
Once your portfolio’s up and running, LEAVE IT BE! Yes, even if the market suddenly drops like a stone. Chances are it will recover.
The trick of really successful investing isn’t what you invest in, or when, it’s how you deal with the emotional turbulence that comes with it. So close your eyes and play the long game.
Review your portfolio once a year, and remember that highs and lows are inevitable, but you haven’t lost money until you sell.