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Learning How to Invest (Part 1)

What is investing all about? How do you start?

If you have decided to enter the world of investing, learning how to invest must now dominate your time and focus. Two steps will help you on your way.

Initially, you need to rebuild your financial outlook to prepare yourself in investing. After that, learn the technique of investing, for example, how to open a brokerage or a mutual fund account. These basic steps will launch your course to a meaningful and productive investment life.

Defining investing

In essence, investing involves spending your time, effort and resources to attain a higher objective. For instance, you spend weekends with a social group to do charitable work, use your talent in the arts to create works of beauty and value or apply your profession in your job or your business to earn a living. In the same way that you do these things hoping to gain valuable rewards, you likewise invest your money in a bond, mutual fund or stock with the goal of achieving material benefits in the future.

Specifically, investing requires putting your money into what is called a "security" -- a term which refers to anything that is "secured" by other assets. Bonds, stocks, certificates of deposit and mutual funds are some forms of securities you can choose to invest in.

You can select from various methods of investing -- some of which you may be familiar with from watching TV or browsing the Internet. You see a neatly-dressed, overly optimistic lad who stares at you onscreen, seated on a porch in Malibu Beach and fully hyped as to how amazingly easy it is to make big bucks in no time at all! Amusing, it all seems. For if it was really that easy, everyone would have learned the technique to such foolproof method. Unfortunately, only those promoting such wealth-building schemes seem to make money – and at the expense of many disappointed gullible takers.

So, here is the better option for you: Instead of spending $25 on the hardcover EZ Secrets to Untold Billions book and $500 for the EZ Seminar, invest it in yourself once you have gained the fundamental secrets to investing here.

Eradicate your debts now

Now that you are eager to go ahead and start investing once you learn how to, you certainly would want to know the next step. But rein in your enthusiasm for a while. Hold your horses while you check if you are really ready to take the ride of your life in investing. Now that you see the possibilities opened to you through the magic of compounded returns, you have to protect yourself from the same trap which you could be unwittingly locked in. Do away with high-interest debts that you may have at the present.

By the exact same law of compounding rates that will make your investments increase, you can rapidly incur hundreds of dollars in debt over time from a dollar. Having such an enormous debt as you invest would negate all your efforts in investing and saving your money. You will be better off as you are paying off your debt first, than risking your money and exposing yourself to greater danger. Hence, it is wiser to get rid of any high-interest debt first before you consider investing, although some low-interest or tax-advantageous debts can be tolerated.

Make each dollar you invest work for you; this is a mantra you can trust to protect you. This is because each dollar you keep from the hands of full-service brokers or financial professionals will build more wealth for you, as you will soon see.

Reward yourself first of all

To succeed as an investor, you must make investing an integral part of every day. That may sound difficult or tedious; but not really. You must realize that the act of buying something, say a cappuccino, will influence your daily finances as much as acquiring a home-equity loan to cover your credit-card payments.

That is not to say that you must act like a miser who cannot get a good night’s rest over a missing penny in her books. If you reward or pay yourself first, you need not worry so much.

Since you already spend valuable cash for such essential things as gas, water, electricity, credit cards, cable TV, phones and wifi access regularly, why not be the first to get your own precious money – be on top of that list! Keep a certain amount of cash as saving or self-investment each time you get your monthly or weekly check; and go on along as merrily as you can while that money grows over time.

We recommend that you stash away as much as you can; with at least 10% of your annual salary of your gross pay as a reasonable target. Without neglecting your liabilities, you may surprise yourself how much you can save over time. Unless you do it, you will never find out. Of course, the higher the target you set for yourself, the more savings you will create. Save a little; it will come in handy when you need it. The only future you can look forward to is that one you secure for yourself today.

Make good use of online banking and brokerage-service providers. You can set up regular automatic money transfers from your checking account to your savings account (or vice-versa) or from any investing instrument you prefer. Discover how you can live on a lot less than what you spend now; start with discarding some luxuries or any unnecessary trips to the mall or the bar. You will notice a significant difference within a month or two. If you think the sacrifice is not worth the money you saved; then spend it on a trip to a dream destination and see how saving can alter your life in radical ways.

It is never too late to start saving. If you have practically nothing left after all the bills payment, try to reduce the amount you set aside regularly. Maybe the timing is not right for you yet if you find out you cannot afford to squeeze in even a piggy bank. No worries; wait till you are in a position to do so.

Active and passive methods of investing

There are two primary methods of stock investing: active and passive management; and they differ on how stocks are chosen, not on how you choose your verbs. Active investing involves selecting stocks yourself or you can ask your brokers or fund managers to pick the stocks, bonds, and other forms of investments. Passive investing requires you to let your holdings follow an index which a third party makes.

In general, stock investing means active investing. Although it seems preferable over passive investing, active investing does not always turn out to be better. Over the long-term duration, most actively-managed stock mutual funds have not reached the level of the S&P 500 Index, the dominant standard for index funds.

Because of that, some investors choose an alternative to "active" investing. A lot of people prefer passive investing as they are satisfied with a return close to that of a major stock index. You may choose to follow other indexes, such as the Russell 2000 for small-cap stocks, the Wilshire 5000 for the broad market as a whole, and other global indexes.

Speculating versus investing

Perhaps, you may have heard of a close friend who struck it rich with options. Or you may have had moments of lucky streaks in the past where you won a sizeable amount of cash from a raffle or lottery. Why should you then enter into a long and slow process of investing your money which can only bring you a double-digit gain and not bundles of cash right away? Investing demands years of patience before you can finally reap the good harvest. What if you cannot wait that long?

Life does not always bring sunshine and roses when you want it to. We all know that. You will not become a celebrated investor like Warren Buffet if you match the performance of the S&P 500. Neither will losing your savings on some speculative gamble make you a hit overnight nor being in a bankruptcy court after you lose all your other assets later on.

If high-stakes gambling is the thrill you seek, plus all the appurtenant live shows and glittering lights, you are no different from those stock market gamblers who lose their money on apparently legitimate pursuits. We live by the axiom that investors "gamble" each time they put money in a venture they do not understand.

It happens to so many people. They overhear a story from their doctor’s plumber talking about a company named Sweet Pipes at a garden show. "This stock will fly like a rocket in a few months," he whispers. If you rush home and tell your broker to buy 200 shares, you might as well be in Las Vegas!

What business is Sweet Pipes engaged in? Tobacco or garments? Have you any information about its main competitor Bronze Arches? How much did it make last quarter? You need to know a lot more about the company before you toss your precious money to it. Ample study and evaluation can save you a lot of money and anguish.

Speculating, in the end, is a sure way of losing the potential value of your dollar to build lasting wealth for you. It leads you to think of the great gain you can achieve right now while failing to do so, more often than not. On the other hand, your patience in investing can assure you of attaining your goals eventually.