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For many consumers, investing is a daunting prospect. It seems like it should be complex. However, the reality is that investing doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s actually fairly simple. Break it down, and you can get started investing quickly — and without things getting too crazy. Here are four simple steps that can help you start investing:
Use an Online Broker
It’s possible to open an online brokerage account in less than half an hour. As long as you have information about your bank account and identifying information (address, birthdate, Social Security numer, etc.), you can open an account. In many cases, you don’t even need to make an initial deposit.
There are a number of online brokers, from Sharebuilder to TradeKing to Betterment to Loyal3 that make it easy for you. Betterment is especially easy because they will manage your investments for you, based on your risk profile, for a low annual fee (no transaction fees) as long as you set up an automatic investment plan of at least $100 a month.
Choose an Index Fund or Index ETF
One of the most daunting aspects of investing is choosing your assets. Make it easier by starting with a low cost index fund or index ETF. You don’t have to pick individual stocks. Instead, you can choose to follow an index, like the S&P 500, or you can get an all-market fund that follows the entire market as a whole. It takes the guesswork out of the process and helps you earn a reasonable return while keeping your risk to a manageable level.
Set Up an Automatic Investment Plan
Take advantage of automatic investment plans to ensure that you invest regularly. Set it up so that you invest the same amount of money each month. Many brokerages will allow you to invest as little as $50 or $100 when you set up an automatic plan. This makes it easy to invest consistently, and you won’t have to remember to set aside money each month.
Sign Up for Your Company’s Retirement Plan
Perhaps the simplest thing to do, though, is to sign up for your company’s retirement plan. If your employer offers a match, so much the better. Putting money into your 401(k) is an investment, and an employer match is free money to boot. If you have the option, it can make sense to go this route, since you will be able to invest for the future automatically, with a tax benefit, every time you are paid.
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