Top 8 Tips for First-time Investors

THESE are not a set of tips that will guarantee huge returns and a market-beating portfolio, they are points of advice we think you should certainly consider before you invest your money.

1. Establish a Plan

Having established that you’d like to invest your money you need to formulate a plan, taking into consideration a few questions:

How much can I invest? What can I afford to lose?  What is the goal of my investments? How long am investing for to reach that goal? Do I know all the relevant investment definitions and terminology?

2. Understand Risk

Understand your risk tolerance and how you would feel if you lost some or all of the money invested.

A common mistake for first-time investors is to believe they are more tolerant of loss than they actually are.

Taking a considered approach to risk and reward will ensure you invest in line with your capacity for loss.

3. Diversify

As different markets rise and fall, a diversified portfolio of different investment funds can help to stabilize your portfolio over an economic cycle.

Investing exclusively in particular markets, sectors or companies can leave you exposed to unforeseen issues occurring in one particular area.

Investing across a range of asset classes, regions, and sectors helps to mitigate potential losses and maximize long-term returns.

4. Don’t Speculate

One of the most influential investors of history, Warren Buffet said “It’s far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price”.

Though penny shares with their perceived potential for high returns through “cancer cures” or “prospective oil field” can be very enticing, you need to consider what the long-term future value of the company is.

Very small companies can be riskier purely due to the fact they may be less well regulated than larger, multinational corporations. 

5. Invest Regularly

Investing little and often is sometimes better than investing larger lump sums. Researching investments has shown that even professionals find it is often better to invest regularly, rather than to try to time the market by investing a one-off lump sum.

In volatile times you may also benefit from Dollar Cost Averaging, whereby investing regularly, you seek to even out the highs and lows of the market.

By starting to invest early and regularly you can take advantage of compounding.

6. Reinvest

Unless you are looking for specific periodic income from your investment (see Income vs Growth Investments and Funds explained here)* then you might consider reinvesting any capital returned from funds or dividends back into your investment portfolio. History has shown that re-investment of dividends from equities vastly increases your returns over the long-term.

7. Reassess

Periodically review your investments, personal circumstances, timeframes and risk tolerances, as all of these will change over the course of time.

For example, as you get closer to your goal you may want to reduce your exposure to riskier investments to try and secure your capital. In addition to assessing your own personal risk tolerance, check your portfolio’s risk profile. Periodic rebalancing of your portfolio seeks to readjust this back to the desired level.

8. Stick to your plan

Once you start investing for the first time you’ll realise it’s very hard to ignore the chatter about market movements, commodities, share tips, inflation, interest rates, dividends, gold price, oil price…it’s endless and is near enough constant with globalised markets.  A true investor should be looking at long term trends and macroeconomic factors that originally shaped their plan and always keep these as their focus.

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