Hi there. I am a 24 year old male who wants to begin investing in a smart way. I have about three hundred dollars that I'm willing to invest. I guess my question is..where do I start? Do I seek out companies I think are going to do well in the future, or buy penny stocks? Any direction is helpful. Thank you.
Thanks for the question.
I think the most important step for someone in your position is to realize that time is your friend right now,no matter what you do, the money you manage to put aside now will grow to huge amounts thanks to compound interest.
Over time, you really cannot lose if you are smart with your money.
For someone your age,if you start now, you can make millions of dollars.
The best/easiest thing to do would be to put your money into a stock market index fund. Most major investment firms offer some sort of index fund. On average, these funds will pay 5-10%/year and over time this will really add up. Of course, the fund will go down sometimes, but will usually increase over a lifetime.
Consider a low fee ETF (exchange traded fund)which tracks the US S&P 500 or some other broad stock index to do this.
If you get more sophisticated over time you could begin to manage your own portfolio instead of using the index fund. Yahoo and google finance have lots of information for individual investors.
Successful investing takes discipline, education, and patience. A plan should be established and strictly followed for decades. My suggestion is to spend the next six months researching. Start with "Investing for Dummies", available at amazon.com and most major bookstores. This will give you the basics on most major forms of investment, and you can do further research on what appeals to you. In general, the higher the possible return of an investment, the more risky it is. As an example, a money market account will earn you about 1% a year; this is a very low gain. But it is perfectly safe and you would get that 1% every year without fail. CD's (Certificate of Deposits) can earn higher annual returns and are also perfectly safe, most banks offer CD's. No risk here, but your investments are locked up for one to two years depending on the CD. A portfolio of stocks can earn you even more. But some years will be good, and others bad. Many investors lost half or more of their worth during the bad markets of 2001 and 2002 and the more recent crash in 2008.
However, over a long period of time, the risk evens out and the returns are much more substantial. An average of 20% return each year would double your investment every four years. (Not every five, as you have to account for the growth in the portfolio for the next year returns).
Another good resource here is any of the books written by William O’Neil, founder of Investment Business Daily. Keep in mind this is one approach, but he goes into depth on how he successfully selects stocks and builds a stock portfolio. Always read with a critical mind, no one has the holy grail when it comes to investing. If they claim that they do, it is a scam. There will always be failures, but the idea is find more successes than failures. This is very possible over time.
I believe that the ultimate solution is two fold. First, move slowly. While stocks and other investments can treat you well, they can also treat you very poorly if the wrong decisions are made. Start with a money market, this is a great place to 'park' your savings while you learn more. Then I suggest ETFs. Do your research.
When you have more than $5,000 invested, branch out to several funds that specialize in different areas such as real estate, technology, health care, utilities, or others. That way if a specific industry does poorly, you will not feel it too badly.
Only after a few years or whenever you feel confident should you venture into individual stocks. But start practicing right away. Begin researching possible stocks you would want to invest in (again the book I mentioned will help you learn what to look for). Track your ideas on a free service such as yahoo.finance.com and see what your stock picks do.
I would also stress the following points:
1. Avoid debt like the plague! Do NOT run up credit card debts. If you are in school, try to pay as you go for your education and do NOT rely on big student loans!
2. Save money. If you can save 25-50 dollars a week and invest it you will end up with a huge amount of money by the time you are 65.
3. Read a good newspaper everyday--like the New York Times or Wall Street Journal. Read the news AND the business section
4. Take a college course in finance and/or US economic history.
5. Invest your money in a stock market index fund. Try to find one with low fees. Leave that money there and do not try to chase the markets. You want to gain over time, you don't need to day trade or worry if things go up a bit or down some. Think long term.
You are smart to be doing something about this now rather than waiting until you are older.
Best of luck with your education and investments!