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3 Simple Steps to Start Investing: It's Really Not as Scary as You Think

3 Simple Steps to Start Investing: It's Really Not as Scary as You Think

Scared to invest? You’re not the only one. In fact, you might seem like a downright anomaly if the “Someday Scaries” don’t give you a small case of the heebie-jeebies. 

A whopping 61 percent of adults say they find investing in the stock market to be “scary or intimidating,” according to a survey by Ally Invest. The same Ally Invest survey reported that three in five Americans (60 percent) say they know someday they will need to be more financially secure, they just don't know how to get there. This number increases to 70 percent if you’re between the ages of 18 and 39.

You shouldn't have to feel that way. Think of investing as not an impossible task and more like learning how to ride a bike when you turned six — it just gets easier and more comfortable over time. Here’s how to make investing simpler and less intimidating in just three steps. 

Step 1: Squash the “Someday Scaries.” 

Didn’t your parents always tell you to face your fears? Now’s your chance. Get accustomed to the idea of investing. Educate yourself.

  • Read information from expert sources about how to invest in stocks. 
  • Listen to podcasts. Believe it or not, they can actually offer some entertainment and can get you used to the idea that investing is for everyone, even if you only have a small amount of money.   
  • Read books. Books these days often offer a lot of entertaining information and make it fun. They also get you excited to invest!
  • Talk to others. However, you want to be discerning about who you talk to. Talk to people who know lots about investing and can prove investment success themselves. 

The more you immerse yourself into learning how to invest, the less scary investing will seem. Remember, Warren Buffett didn’t roll out of diapers and instantly know how to invest. He had to learn — just like you.

Step 2: Determine Your Risk Tolerance: Fast Lane or Slow Lane? 

How do you feel about the money that you do have, whether it’s crammed under your mattress or sitting idle in a savings account? How much risk can you tolerate in your investments? In other words, do you feel more comfortable not risking too much of your money (like investing in bonds) or do you feel okay with adding on more risk (investing in stocks)? 

You might already have some instincts about your comfort level, but you can start with Vanguard’s investor questionnaire

Consider your age and goals to determine your risk tolerance, but remember that it’s also important to take your own personal feelings into consideration. If you’re still not sure, get an investment professional on board. Ask around in your community to find a trusted advisor. He or she can help you determine your risk, timeline and also help you outline your goals. 

Step 3: Pick your Investments, but Start Small.

One of the trickiest parts of deciding how to invest involves choosing a broker and your investments. This trips people up the most. But let’s start small. First, you’ll need to have some money set aside in order to invest in the first place. Brokerages like Vanguard require you to have a minimum investment. So why not have a savings account and pay yourself first? Put whatever you can from each paycheck into your account. (Remember, just $10 a week amounts to $520 over the course of a year.) Once you've saved several months' worth, you can transition some of that into a low-cost investment account that will help you build wealth over time. 

But what if you want to get started right away with hardly anything at all? The market’s got you covered — Robinhood and Acorns don’t require a minimum initial investment at all. Investment account fees and minimums have decreased significantly in recent years, which makes it easier and more affordable than ever to get started. 

Next, choose the type of investment you want. Are you investing for long-term or short-term goals? It’ll depend on your goals — are you saving for a down payment on a house in five years or a car down payment that you’ll need in six months? Reach out to a professional to help match your investments to your timeline and goals.

Step 4: Tap into Your Company's 401(k) or 403(b). Today.

You can choose your investments on your own, but don't forget about the Big Mama of all retirement accounts: your company's 401(k) or 403(b). (You can tap into a 403(b) if you work at a nonprofit organization.) The first thing you need to do: Pay a visit to your company's human resources office and ask for the paperwork. The employer contribution makes it more than worth it, because many, many companies kick in some money once you contribute to your retirement fund.

Though a super boring name (they both take their name from the section of the law that created them), watching your 401(k) or 403(b) grow and grow gets wildly exciting when you give your account time to compound. 

Thinking you don't have "enough" money to invest? It might not involve as much as you think! If you really think you won't make ends meet, start with 3% and notice how much you barely notice the change in your take-home pay. Vow to increase your contribution every year by 3% every six months. 

Make the commitment to invest at least 10% of your income. 

Conquer Those Fears!

Here’s a quick recap: Get rid of those fears, decide how much risk you think you can handle and choose your investments based on your risk tolerance. Finally, invest in your company's 401(k) and 403(b). Take these small steps and you'll quickly realize investing isn't scary. The more you do it and educate yourself, the more you'll get comfortable with it.

Pretty soon, it’ll be like strapping on a helmet and grabbing the handlebars. Hop on!

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Melissa Brock
About The Editor

Melissa Brock

Associate Editor & Contributing Author

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