What Kind of Investor Are You?
Before you commit your money, you need to answer the question, what kind of investor am I? When opening a brokerage account, an online broker like Charles Schwab or Fidelity will ask you about your investment goals and how much risk you’re willing to take on.
Brokers are either full-service or discount. Full-service brokers, as the name implies, give the full range of traditional brokerage services, including financial advice for retirement, healthcare, and everything related to money. They usually only deal with higher-net-worth clients, and they can charge substantial fees, including a percent of your transactions, a percent of your assets they manage, and sometimes a yearly membership fee. It’s common to see minimum account sizes of $25,000 and up at full-service brokerages. Still, traditional brokers justify their high fees by giving advice detailed to your needs.
Since Betterment launched, other robo-first companies have been founded, and even established online brokers like Charles Schwab have added robo-like advisory services. According to a report by Charles Schwab, 58% of Americans say they will use some sort of robo-advice by 2025
Investing Through Your Employer
If you’re on a tight budget, try to invest just 1% of your salary into the retirement plan available to you at work. The truth is, you probably won’t even miss a contribution that small.
Work-based retirement plans deduct your contributions from your paycheck before taxes are calculated, which will make the contribution even less painful. Once you’re comfortable with a 1% contribution, maybe you can increase it as you get annual raises. You won’t likely miss the additional contributions. If you have a 401(k) retirement account at work, you may already be investing in your future with allocations to mutual funds and even your own company’s stock.
Minimums to Open an Account
Many financial institutions have minimum deposit requirements. In other words, they won’t accept your account application unless you deposit a certain amount of money. Some firms won’t even allow you to open an account with a sum as small as $1,000.
Commissions and Fees
As economists like to say, there’s no free lunch. Though recently many brokers have been racing to lower or eliminate commissions on trades, and ETFs offer index investing to everyone who can trade with a bare-bones brokerage account, all brokers have to make money from their customers one way or another.
Depending on how often you trade, these fees can add up and affect your profitability. Investing in stocks can be very costly if you hop into and out of positions frequently, especially with a small amount of money available to invest.
Mutual Fund Loads (Fees)
Besides the trading fee to purchase a mutual fund, there are other cost associated with this type of investment. Mutual funds are professionally managed pools of investor funds that invest in a focused manner, such as large-cap U.S. stocks.
There are many fees an investor will incur when investing in mutual funds. One of the most important fees to consider is the management expense ratio (MER), which is charged by the management team each year, based on the number of assets in the fund. The MER ranges from 0.05% to 0.7% annually and varies depending on the type of fund. But the higher the MER, the more it impacts the fund’s overall returns.
Diversify and Reduce Risks
Diversification is considered to be the only free lunch in investing. In a nutshell, by investing in a range of assets, you reduce the risk of one investment’s performance severely hurting the return of your overall investment. You could think of it as financial jargon for “don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.”
In terms of diversification, the greatest amount of difficulty in doing this will come from investments in stocks. As mentioned earlier, the costs of investing in a large number of stocks could be detrimental to the portfolio. With a $1,000 deposit, it is nearly impossible to have a well-diversified portfolio, so be aware that you may need to invest in one or two companies (at the most) to begin with. This will increase your risk.
The Bottom Line
It is possible to invest if you are just starting out with a small amount of money. It’s more complicated than just selecting the right investment (a feat that is difficult enough in itself) and you have to be aware of the restrictions that you face as a new investor.
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