Traditionally investing has been seen as the preserve of the wealthy and has a reputation for being a minefield to the uninitiated. As western standards of living continue to increase, more and more people are beginning to realize the benefits investing even small sums can bring. This article seeks to explore some basic principles to help you get started with investing.
1. What’s the basic premise of investing?
The Collins English Dictionary defines the word invest in the following way; “To lay out, for profit or advantage.” To layout refers to the fact that something of value is needed in the first place in order to generate more wealth. In essence investing is a means of taking a pre defined sum of money and using it in such a way as to increase its original value, therefore generating a profit.
2. Why Invest?
This is one of the most fundamental questions that any person looking to invest needs to ask. The general answer is pretty obvious, to generate a profit, but the reason behind the investment are far more important and will directly influence how and where you chose to invest. In addition the answer will also determine the level of risk you are willing to expose yourself to and which will be explored in more detail later.
Reasons as to why people invest are varied and may include some of the following; to build up a nest egg for retirement, to provide a financial safety net, to pay for future education or university fees for children, for fun because of the buzz investing can create.
3. How Should I invest?
This is also a deeply personal question and will depend upon the amount of money an individual has at their disposal. It is important to stress that investment takes many different forms all of which facilitate differing levels of investment. A single mum might decide to invest $20 or a business entrepreneur $1 million but both will seek a return on their capital outlay and how they go about achieving their investment goals may differ substantially.
4. What level of risk should I expose myself to?
Such a decision is very important as ultimately it will dictate the profitability of your final investment. In many respects this question will also be determined by the answer to the previous question, why invest? If an investment is being made to safeguard a financial future the level of risk taken may be lower than an individual investing for fun.
Generally investments are made in three distinct categories low, medium and high. Low risk investments include Government bonds and savings accounts. Medium Risk investments could include certain types of shares or property. High Risk investments will almost certainly include shares in rapidly expanding companies exploring new markets. The dot.com crash in the late nineties, in which thousands of newly established technology companies went bust, is an example of a high risk investment going very wrong.
What types of investment are there?
This is not an easy question to answer because in theory anything that earns a profit from an initial outlay can be classed as an investment.
There are however some common forms of investment that deserve further explanation.
a) Government Bonds
These are deemed low risk investments as money is invested in Government related projects and assets. It is unheard of in the western world for a Government to go bankrupt.
This is a means of holding a stake in a company trading on the stock exchange and investors benefit from its profitability. Whilst share dealing can be low risk particularly if you are investing in established companies in the FTSE 100, most share investments are deemed medium or high risk. This is because such investments have the potential to return excellent profits but there is also a raised risk of losing your total investment.
Antiques are often a great source of investment given that they hold their value at the very least and have the added benefit of being easy to sell if you need a quick cash injection. In addition if you wish to leave a sum of money to family after your death they won’t be hit with inheritance taxes often associated with large amounts of physical cash. Perhaps one of the major drawbacks to investing in Antiques is the requirement of a level of technical expertise, or access to those skills, to ensure that suitable items are invested in.
Property can also be a very lucrative source of investment as property prices continue to increase across the developed world. Generally property prices increase in value in the long term.
Whilst banks often make the distinction between savings and investments, in essence savings are a form of investment as the money you save with the bank is invested in low risk shares on your behalf, which ultimately enables financial institutions to make interest payments to you.
How to invest
Now that you have more information to help you get started with investment the next step is to speak to an independent financial advisor. These consultations are almost always free and you can get specific advice tailored to your individual needs concerning investing. In the UK there is an excellent site for finding Independent Financial Advisors called unbiased, see the link at the end of this article
This article has attempted to provide advice to enable individuals to get started with investment. Discussion has taken place about the basic premise of investing and the profitability of such a decision, along with examining different reasons for investing. Attention has also been given to how much might be invested and at what level of risk this might be undertaken at. Finally we have explored the vast array of investment options available and what the next step is for a budding investor.