6 investing basics to know


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Investing can be intimidating, especially if you’re a beginner. There are lots of terms, concepts to understand and a variety of regulations that oversee the industry.

As a novice investor, navigating the intricacies of the investing world can be overwhelming. However, investing can be part of a financial plan to help you grow your wealth in the long term.

One way to make something less intimidating? Educating yourself on the subject. Taking the time to learn a few investing basics can make the entire concept seem less frightening.

Here are some basic investing definitions and ideas to help make investing more approachable.

Related: How to open your first IRA

This article originally appeared on SoFi.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

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1. How saving and investing are different

You may think if you’re saving money you don’t need to invest, but in reality the two concepts are different. Saving is when you incrementally set aside money for emergencies or the future.

Your savings are typically kept in a savings account or another cash equivalent where the money can be easily accessed when you need it.

When you invest, you use your money to buy stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or real estate. The hope is that those investments will earn a return. This strategy can be used to reach long-term goals.

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2. Setting your financial goals

One way to start is by understanding your financial goals. The goal you are saving for can inform how you invest and the types of assets you invest in. If you’re in your 20s and you’re investing toward your retirement, your strategy might be different than someone who is in their mid-40s and investing toward the same goal.

People sometimes have multiple goals they are working toward simultaneously, like saving for retirement, buying a house, or putting their children through college in the future.

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3. Understanding risk v. return

In finance, risk refers to the degree of uncertainty about the rate of return on an asset and the acknowledgment that there is the potential for the financial returns to be less than you expected.

For example, an asset could perform incredibly well and make a great return for the investor. But there’s also the chance that the asset could underperform, leading to a financial loss for the investor. Generally, as investment risks rise, investors seek a higher rate of return to compensate them for taking on additional risk.

Each of your investing goals will have a different time horizon, which is the amount of time an asset is held until it is liquidated. Typically, the longer the time horizon, the more risk you can stand to take on.

For example, in your 20s you’re likely able to build a riskier retirement portfolio. As you age and get closer to retirement, you may want to adjust your investment strategy so that it is more conservative.

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4. Why portfolio diversification matters

There’s really no way around risk when you’re investing, but there are strategies that can help investors minimize risk. Having a diversified portfolio is one way to reduce risk.

Portfolio diversification is spreading your investments over many different asset classes, business sectors, companies, industries, or countries.

Typically risks don’t impact all asset classes in the same way so diversifying your assets is generally less risky than concentrating your money in one asset or one asset class. A diversified portfolio can’t eliminate risk, but it can help minimize risk, especially in the long-term.

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5. Active investing v. passive investing

Active investing is a hands-on approach to investing. It’s what portfolio managers do every day. Essentially they analyze and then select investments based on worth. Typically active investing comes at a cost since you’ll usually need to rely on a team of professionals to actively manage the investments.

Passive investing is a lower-maintenance approach to investing. Instead of assessing individual assets one at a time, your goal is to match the performance of certain market indexes that already exist. Passive investing typically has lower fees than active investing.

Passive funds have been growing in popularity. There are pros and cons to investing using each approach. The markets are changing constantly, so one aspect of smart investing is staying informed.

In some cases, having a financial professional on your side to help you proactively manage your funds can help alleviate stress.

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6. How can I start investing?

There are a variety of options when you’re ready to get started. If your employer offers a 401(k), that can be one of the easiest ways to start investing.

A 401(k) is an employee-sponsored plan designed to help you save for retirement. It allows both you and your employer to make contributions. Another option for retirement is an IRA or individual retirement account.

You could also open a brokerage account for financial goals outside of retirement. It’s an investment account that allows you to buy and sell investments like stocks, bonds and mutual funds.

When you’re ready to start investing you may want to speak with a qualified financial advisor who can help you establish your savings goals and risk tolerance and help you develop a personalized investment strategy.

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