Investing can be daunting. I know I didn't invest, outside of my retirement accounts at work, because I was worried about taxes.
At least that's what I told myself.
The real reason was uncertainty. That's the toughest part about investing – am I making the right choice? Am I diversified? What does that even mean?
It wasn't about education. I know the basics to investing, you probably do too (but review it if you don't), but it wasn't about information. It was about action. Or rather fear of action.
I grapple with those questions every time I review my finances. Fear of the unknown can be paralyzing but it doesn't have to be.
I overcame that fear of the unknown when I started reading about investing. All the expert opinion agreed that investing was the right choice. Taking action today was the best choice and a little risk and volatility was acceptable if my time horizon was long enough. If you need the money in two years, keep it in something safe and stable. If you don't need it for twenty, you can put it in something riskier.
If you're sitting on the sidelines, a little worried about what to do next especially after the Great Recession and subsequent bounce back, the consensus is still the same.
Invest. (well almost 100%!)
Below, you'll see the opinions of 25 money experts. I asked all types, from certified financial advisers to bloggers, from university professors to professional investors; I wanted to get a variety of opinions to see what they all said but they all echoed a similar message.
Here's what they said (click here for high level takeaways):
Table of Contents
- First, something you won't hear often…
- Pay Down Debt
- Start with the End in Mind
- One Recommendation for a Fund, One Recommendation for a Stock
- Focus on a Strategy
- Focus on Yourself
- Index but Educate Yourself
- Innoculate Yourself Against Emotion Early
- Consider Waiting
- Be Conservative Early On
- Invest In The Index
- Invest in a Risk Profile
- Keep Costs Low
- Employ a Long Term, Low Cost, Diversified Position
- Pick and Choose Stocks…
- …Or Go with a Robo-Advisor
- Learn to be Your Own Adviser
- Dividend Investing the Smart Way
- Invest in a Safety Net
- Invest In Yourself
- Harness the Power of Robots!
- Like Many Things… It depends!
- Finally, keep your emotions in check!
- High Level Takeaways
First, something you won't hear often…
Tyler Cowen, professor of economics at George Mason University and blogger at the uber popular Marginal Revolution, has a simple suggestion:
Rates of return are low right now.
Who said economics was dismal! 🙂
Pay Down Debt
Dr. Jim Dahle of The White Coat Investor, recommends folks cover their bases first:
The typical investor with “$1000 to invest” ought to put that $1000 toward his credit cards. If he's out of debt, at least besides a low interest rate mortgage, then it ought to go into a 401(k) if he has a match. If not, then maybe a Roth IRA in a simple mutual fund like a Vanguard Target Retirement fund.
I agree 100%, if you have credit card debt you shouldn't be investing just yet!
Start with the End in Mind
Larry Ludwig, Founder of Investor Junkie:
Start with the end in mind. What's the purpose of investing? Retirement, home purchase, higher education? From there work backwards and helps determine everything else.
One Recommendation for a Fund, One Recommendation for a Stock
This gem is provided to us by Robert R. Johnson, PhD, CFA, CAIA, president and CEO of The American College of Financial Services. He has co-authored several books including Strategic Value Investing, Invest With the Fed, Investment Banking for Dummies, and The Tools and Techniques of Investment Planning — he knows his stuff!
Investing in a diversified stock index fund is the best investment idea. For instance, the Vanguard 500 Index Fund Investor Shares (VFINX) invests in 500 of the largest US companies. The fund is diversified and has a very low fee structure. It is an ideal first investment and one that the investor can continually add to by buying more shares. And, unlike owning a single security, a fund is typically less volatile. Volatility can discourage novice investors.
If one wants to purchase a single company stock, there is none better than Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway B shares (BRK-B). Berkshire owns more than 60 different operating companies like See's Candies and Dairy Queen. In addition, Berkshire has positions in many large publicly traded companies like Coca Cola and American Express. The side benefit of Berkshire Hathaway is that shareholders benefit from receiving the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Report and the wisdom of Mr. Buffett and his partner Charlie Munger.
Focus on a Strategy
Dividend Growth Investor, a blogger I've read for many many years, shares his approach:
Before I invested my money, I decided what my investing goals should be. I spent time researching various investment strategies. Then I focused on one strategy, and learned all there was to it. When I was ready, I opened a brokerage account where I wasn't charged for stock trades. Using the knowledge I accumulated initially, I created an equally weighted portfolio of roughly 30 – 40 dividend aristocrats to hold for the long term.
Those companies were expected to generate roughly $35 – $40 in annual dividend income. There was no cost to buy or to hold those shares ( many of which I still hold today) If I were starting all over, I would likely deposit $1,000 in Robinhood, and build my own portfolio.
Focus on Yourself
The conventional wisdom is that young people should ‘save early and save often’ in retirement accounts, but the reality is that your greatest asset when you’re young is your ability to work and earn money in the future. Which means taking your available dollars and investing them in your “human account” – yourself – can actually generate far greater long-term than even saving in a tax-free Roth IRA! In fact, investing $1,000 in yourself and getting “just” a $500 raise to your base salary – which becomes the new base you negotiate from for all future raises, too – can produce 20X the additional wealth of just putting it in a tax-free Roth! Invest in yourself!
Index but Educate Yourself
John Paul Engel, Lecturer of Entrepreneurship at the University of Iowa and founder of Knowledge Capital Consulting:
A no load index fund from a company like Vanguard is a good place to invest $1,000.
The famed fund manager that grew Fidelity, Peter Lynch, suggests that people invest in what they know. He wrote a book called Beating The Street where he taught grade schoolers how to construct a portfolio that outperformed the average professional investor. I would suggest every new investor read that book. Get it from the library and the ROI is even higher.
I've learned so much by reading books but have yet to read this one by Lynch, I'll have to check it out.
Innoculate Yourself Against Emotion Early
Steven Jon Kaplan, investment counselor and the blogger behind True Contrarian, suggests a strategy that will help you innoculate yourself against the rollercoaster of emotions when you invest:
Out of one thousand dollars, I would recommend putting 500 dollars into a myRA account which pays 2% annually (the U.S. government thrift savings plan “G” fund) and teaches you about compounding interest tax-free.
I would put the other 500 dollars into an E*TRADE account and trading only their commission-free funds to understand what investing is about and to learn the emotions of fluctuating assets.
Fellow blogger Kristin Wong explains why you might want to accumulate more:
Personally, I would wait and save enough to invest in a low-cost index fund like VTSMX, which has a $3,000 minimum.
Index funds are simple.
The other option is to invest in an exchange-traded fund (ETF) like VTI. To me, ETFs are a little more complicated than index funds, because they trade like regular stocks, and that might be intimidating if you’re new to investing. But there’s no minimum purchase price with an ETF, and it’s still a diversified, boring, solid investment.
Be Conservative Early On
Brian from Lazy Man and Money advises a cautious approach:
I'd hate for a novice to lose too much money… they may lose interest in investing forever. For this reason I'd err on the conservative side. One thing I'd look at is Vanguard's Star mutual fund which happens to have a $1,000 investment minimum. It's a balanced mix of stocks and bonds so it should be relatively stable while growing money over the long haul.
Invest In The Index
Pauline Paquin, Reach Financial Independence was one of the first responses to focus on index investing… but she would not be the last!
Keep it simple and low risk. Invest in index funds with a low fee broker. Most novice investors make the mistake of exiting trades too early when they start making a profit, and keeping losses for too long. So just leave it there, and watch it grow overtime. Even funds managers have a hard time beating the market.
Miranda Marquit, Planting Money Seeds share a similar idea —
Start with an index ETF. I love indexing because it's a good way to see instant diversification without a lot of trouble. An all market ETF offers you the chance to keep pace with returns, and comes with low costs. It's a good way to get the best bang for your investment dollar.
Invest in a Risk Profile
The Investor @ Monevator adds another vote to index investing:
I'd suggest a novice investor starts with a simple index tracker fund or ETF. Perhaps the best option is the Vanguard LifeStrategy series. It mixes bonds and equities to suit your risk tolerance, so you can start with baby steps or dive straight in — a good way to get a sense of how you respond to volatility in your investment account (although this might feel a bit different when you have $10,000 in there, let alone $100,000!)
Because it's so cheap and tracks the market — yet effective — this very simple solution will beat the majority of expensively managed fund portfolios out there. Magic!
Keep Costs Low
John Schmoll of Frugal Rules reminds us that we can predict one thing — fees:
“The best way to invest $1,000, especially if you're new to investing, is through a low-cost broad-based index fund. It's not the most exciting option to choose, but it's the wisest for a number of reasons.
Not only will it help you ride the ups and downs of the market smoother, it will also significantly reduce just how much you're paying to invest. Don't give into the myth that investing “only” $1,000 isn't worth the effort. It's very much worth the effort as it'll help build a foundation for growing your wealth.
If that's not enough, Warren Buffett recommends this same approach for many – so you'll be in good company.
Employ a Long Term, Low Cost, Diversified Position
Natalie Bacon, Financegirl, shares a more detailed approach:
I believe the best way to invest $1,000 is to create a small, diversified investment portfolio that you can build off in the future. Do this by opening an individual investment account at a brokerage firm. Before you choose which investments to put in your portfolio, decide what you want your asset allocation to be. Asset allocation is the most important part of your portfolio – more important than the actually securities you choose to invest in. Asset allocation is the mix of types of investments you want in your portfolio (e.g.: 80% equities, 10% bonds, and 10% Market Diversifiers).
Consider your risk tolerance, goals, and time horizon when deciding what your asset allocation will be. Once you decide on an asset allocation, choose ETFs and mutual funds to put in your portfolio according to your asset allocation. Research funds that fit within each asset class in order to build a diversified portfolio. When you’re analyzing which funds to use, remember not only to look at risk and return, but also look at fees.
For example, if you choose a fund with a load, you are paying a commission. This is why I prefer no load mutual funds. Once you have selected a few funds to make up your small portfolio, buy them and monitor your portfolio over time. As you have more money to invest, use your asset allocation as the blueprint to invest and rebalance your portfolio. When you invest more money, use a dollar-cost averaging approach (don’t try to time the market).
This is a long-term investing strategy that I believe in.
Pick and Choose Stocks…
Barbara Friedberg, Robo-Advisor Pros, suggests something slightly different. Rather than S&P, she thinks a more worldly view is appropriate (she owns the ETF she mentions):
If you can leave the money invested for at least 10 years and are not looking for a quick turnaround, I'd suggest investing $1,000 in the Vanguard All World Index ETF Stock fund (VT). Although returns have for this fund have been lower than that of the S&P 500 over the last 8 years, if you believe that the total world economies will grow and prosper in the future, then this a a low cost way to benefit. The expense ratio is a rock bottom 0.14% and you may pay a small commission to purchase the fund. The stocks in the fund span the globe and the 10 largest holdings are:
- Apple Inc.
- Alphabet Inc. (formerly Google)
- Microsoft Corp.
- Exxon Mobil Corp.
- Johnson & Johnson
- General Electric Co.
- Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
- Facebook Inc.
- Wells Fargo & Co.
- Amazon.com Inc
…Or Go with a Robo-Advisor
Brad Kingsley, Financial Fitness Coach at MaximizeYourMoney.com talks about Robo-advisors' place in all this:
When someone has gotten their ‘financial house in order' and is ready to start investing, there are several good low-cost options for beginners. In any portfolio the investor will want to make sure they are diversified across stocks and bonds, but also different types of asset classes within those two large groupings. Some people giving advice recommend as few as four different investments (Dave Ramsey) but more commonly the suggestion averages about ten different investments.
For someone who went with the portfolio of ten holdings, that would potentially cost $80+ to execute the trades at most brokerages. A better priced option for people just getting started and with small amounts to invest would be a “robe-advisor” like Betterment. At Betterment the cost to invest $1,000 would be zero initially and then only about $.30 per month afterward. The power of this model’s cost savings is even further compounded if the person is going to be investing a set amount of money each month. If they invest $500 every month and have to pay trade fees to diversify the amount every time – that will really eat into their balance and earning potential.
At a robo-advisor there often aren’t trade fees and the monthly cost is very reasonable – 0.35% annually at Betterment.
Learn to be Your Own Adviser
JD Roth, Money Boss offers up a mindset:
Decide to become your own best financial adviser. A lot of new investors are timid. They don't want to make mistakes. They believe they need to pay somebody to help them, that the stock market is complicated, or that they can pick winning stocks.
None of this is true.
Go to the library. Borrow some books on smart investing. (I recommend anything by William Bernstein.) Learn what stocks and bonds are and how the markets work.
Teach yourself to invest in low-cost index funds. Ask questions. Be willing to make a few early mistakes. Take charge of your financial future!
Dividend Investing the Smart Way
Keith Park, DivHut suggests:
“The number one tip I have for any new investor is to not get sucked in by the allure of high single digit or double digit yield. More often than not, a yield that high signals a red flag because 1) a dramatic stock price decline occurred or 2) the company is paying out too much of its free cash.
Second, a long term dividend growth investor needs to measure his investments in decades and not days, weeks or months. Have a long term outlook, be patient and consistent with adding fresh capital. I make it a point to invest every single month no matter the market conditions. By continually investing you are able to dollar cost average into positions and grow your passive income at the same time.
For a new investor with just $1000 to start, I’d suggest a fee free trading platform like RobinHood or Loyal3. Being able to invest with $0 commission allows even a modest amount of cash to be diversified among a handful of different dividend paying stocks. By using these platforms one can buy stocks in various sectors, reinvest dividends and be on their way towards creating an ever growing passive income stream.
Invest in a Safety Net
Kate Dore of Cashville Skyline warns you need to set your house in order before thinking about investments:
Start by investing three to six months of living expenses into a highly liquid account for an emergency fund. Try to secure a rate of return that keeps pace with inflation, while still maintaining liquidity, like a high-interest savings or money market deposit account. If that's already covered, contribute up to your employer's match in your 401(k). If possible, look for opportunities to invest in low cost, diversified investments like index funds. If you don't have access to an employer-sponsored retirement vehicle, a Roth IRA is another great option because your earnings can grow tax-free.
Invest In Yourself
The best investment is in yourself to increase your your earning capacity to accelerate your savings ability. That's because you'll never achieve your financial goals investing $1,000, even though it's a great start. Instead, you need to double and triple those savings as the fastest path to accelerate equity growth. This is just a mathematical truth provable by the fact that an amazingly skilled investor with 20% return on investment would only increase his equity by $200; whereas, when you increase your earning capacity so you can save an extra $1,000 (not hard to do) then you've doubled your equity.
In short, your primary objective is to grow your equity, and the fastest path in early stages is to invest in your earning capacity (seminars, specialized skills, and training) to immediately increase your earnings and savings, then later invest in your investment skill for ROI in the long run.
Han from InvestmentZen adds another vote to the educate thy self mentality —
I'd invest the $1,000 in a wide variety of books about investing to get a solid picture of all the options available and which ones are most suitable for your unique strengths and life situation. That learning process can save a lot of money and heartache down the road by making future decisions easier and more confident through a deep understanding of how things work in the world of investing.
Harness the Power of Robots!
Robots never go away! Peter Anderson, Bible Money Matters discusses how they may be a solid option for new investors:
If you're starting out as a novice investor with only $1000 to invest, your options these days are better than they've ever been. For me the best way to invest is to diversify your investments, keep your investment costs low, and make sure you're investing with an eye towards to horizon, investing for the long term.
If you try to pick individual stocks that you think will go up or down, you may win a few here and there, but you'll also lose a few. Studies have shown that investing in the entire market via index funds will have better returns than most actively managed stock funds over the long term, so I personally recommend investing in index funds.
Where should you invest? If you're starting with only $1000 it may limit some of your options as some mutual funds will require a minimum purchase of $3000 or more. With $1000 I might suggest opening a Roth IRA account with an automatic investment adviser like WiseBanyan or Betterment. They will give you a diversified index fund portfolio with no minimum investment, and relatively low cost. For an even lower cost option you can open an account with Vanguard and invest in one of their Target Retirement funds which have a $1000 minimum. It may require a bit more work on your part to rebalance your account and so on, but your costs will be lower since it is self-managed investing.
No matter what you do, the biggest things is to just start investing today!
Like Many Things… It depends!
Ben Malick, a CFA with Three Nine Financial, made no assumptions in his answer:
I have two different recommendations depending on the person.
- If the person is more of a passive investor (no interest or aptitude for investing), I would recommend investing in a no-load Vanguard Retirement Date Fund (minimum investment of $1,000) that corresponds with your retirement date, and regularly contributing to it. This provides diversification and will automatically rebalance as you approach your retirement. This is sort of the finance version of autopilot.
- If the person wants to be a bit more involved with their investments, I would recommend they check out Motif Investing. It's a neat way that individuals can invest based on certain themes or beliefs. For example, if you really think that wearable technology is going to take off, then you can invest in the Wearable Technology Motif that's comprised of companies in that space. I think it's a great way for someone to get their feet wet with investing and learn how it works.
Finally, keep your emotions in check!
Matt Hylland of Hylland Capital shares a very important point, one that puts an exclamation point at the end of this list — keep your wits about you!
Successful long term investing is much more than asset allocation. I think the most important quality of a successful long term investor is keep emotions under control and staying calm when others panic. We have seen time and time again where investors buy at market tops and sell at market bottoms because of fear or envy.
For a client using an investment advisor, the advisor can act as a “check” in the system, hopefully preventing irrational decisions by the investor and providing some education to their client.
But for investors just getting started without an advisor, educating yourself and preparing yourself is going to payoff exponentially compared to any difference in asset allocation with your first $1,000.
I would have a new investor invest equally in several different investments that perform differently and have them watch how they perform over time. An equal allocation to a bond fund, emerging market fund, small cap stock fund, a large cap stock fund and a REIT would work just fine..
The emerging market fund will be volatile, the investor will see big up days and more importantly, big down days as well. Meanwhile, a bond fund will perform quite differently in the same market as will a REIT. With this, the investor will quickly learn the value of diversification and asset allocation. Hopefully they learn to accept big moves in the market, and learn not to get too emotional over short term swings.
As time goes by, the investor can determine an asset allocation that is more suitable for them and change portfolio weights to suit. The important thing would be to get the investor used to the movements of the markets and finding their risk tolerance as early as possible to avoid expensive mistakes in the future when they have a larger portfolio.
High Level Takeaways
All these experts weighing in could leave your head spinning a little, here are the high level takeaways:
- INVEST! If you have a long enough of a time horizon, put your money to work.
- Establish a financial safety net: Invest in a taxable brokerage account only after you have an emergency fund and your retirement accounts funded.
- Think outside of the stock market: Invest in your own education so you can increase your salary or hourly rate.
- Low cost Index Funds is still king: You can't predict market returns but you can predict fees, keep them low.
- Roboadvisors are the new princes: If Target Retirement and Lifestyle funds aren't to your liking, Roboadvisors are powerful inexpensive tools for asset allocation because you get diversification without having to pay individual commissions and fees.
- Don't forget about educating yourself! Educate yourself about the markets, educate yourself to improve your earning capacity, and never stop learning.
I hope you enjoyed this article and if you or someone you care about is wondering what they should do to get started, send them this article!