I’ve considered myself a personal finance expert for most of my writing career, but there’s always been a glaring hole in my expertise - investing knowledge.
I used to tell myself it just wasn’t an area I was interested in, but eventually, I realized the truth. I was avoiding the topic out of fear.
After taking a long hard look in the mirror, I started the journey of teaching myself about investing. It wasn’t easy, but the results were worth the effort. Here’s how I did it.
What Sparked My Interest
I belong to an active Facebook group of personal finance bloggers and writers. More than a year ago, my friend Stefanie asked the group members why more women weren’t blogging about investing. Women tend to write more about living frugally, budgeting and save money, while men focused on investing, financial independence and traditionally “harder” personal finance topics.
After turning the question over in my mind, I told myself that I didn’t have enough investment knowledge to talk about it. That’s when it hit me - I was actively holding myself back.
I didn’t know anything about investing, but I wasn’t trying to learn about it either. I relied on what I heard from other people to fuel my investing decisions instead of doing the research myself.
How I Got Started
I started by reading the investing articles in magazines like Money and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. I had subscribed to those publications for years, but I always avoided the investing content and focused on topics I was already comfortable with, like saving and budgeting.
As soon as I started reading more about investing, I remembered some of what I had learned in my college personal finance class. Suddenly, I realized how basic investing could be if you boiled it down to the essentials. Within a few weeks of my “education,” I felt comfortable.
Why Everyone Should Learn About Investing
Recently, a friend of mine asked about investing, telling me she was worried that her IRA didn’t seem to be growing.
I asked what she had invested her IRA in, and she told me she wasn’t aware that an IRA was an investment account. She thought it was like a savings account, where you just deposit your money and watch it grow. For five years, her money had languished in the cash portion of her IRA instead of being invested during the best bull market on record.
This is why everyone needs at least a cursory understanding of the investing world. You don’t have to be the next Warren Buffett, but you need enough knowledge to have a general understanding of where your money is going.
The Easiest Way to Start Investing
If you don’t want to learn about investing yourself, don’t worry. There’s an easy way to start and manage a robust investment portfolio without having to get your hands dirty. They’re called robo advisors.
A robo advisor is an investing software that chooses funds based on an algorithm. You create an account, provide crucial details such as your current age and when you hope to retire, and the robo advisor then selects the best funds for you.
Robo advisors are like the Crock-Pot of investing: you just set up your account, turn on automatic deposits and let it simmer. You don’t get the personalized service you’d find with a real-life financial planner, but it’s better than putting all your money in Amazon stock.
Betterment, Wealthfront and Wealthsimple are the most popular and reputable robo advisors. I recommend robo advisors to my friends because they’re easy to use, have a good track record and don’t require lots of hand-holding.
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