So You Want to Start Investing…

One of the most popular financial topics in personal finance is investing, and it’s not too hard to understand why: you think you can get rich quick by throwing a couple dollars into a company and then instantly when the price of the stock rises, you will win big and come out with a ton of money with little to no strategic effort, minimal time commitment, and a bunch of extra cash you didn’t have before.

Although this sounds intriguing to a college student who needs money right now and doesn’t want to put in a lot of work for it, the idea of getting rich quick by investing in the right stocks doesn’t quite match up with what the reality of investing truly is. Think of investing as hiking a mountain–it’s a journey, a process, and a bit of a tough climb. When you choose to invest, you’re in it for the long haul.

Before we even get to investment options, though, let’s start by asking a preliminary question: 

Are you ready to start investing?

In the excitement of investing, let’s slow down a bit and make sure that all the bases are covered before you begin investing:

Step 1: Pay off your high-interest and short-term debts first.

Step 2: Cover your living expenses, and create an emergency fund to cover future unexpected expenses.

Step 3: Save for major purchases (car, house, wedding, furniture, etc.)

Step 4: Set and plan for long-term goals (buying a house, paying off loans, starting a retirement fund, paying off your mortgage, etc.)

Step 5: Achieve your long-term goals & with your surplus, invest wisely

If you can walk through all five of those steps and say, “yes, I’ve done that!” and you’re at Step 5 where you have a surplus and are ready to invest with your excess money available, invest wisely.

What are my options for investing?

Depending on how much control you want over your investments or how much you would like assistance with your investments, there are a wide variety of options for beginning investors.

First, there are self-directed investments. This means that you are in charge of your own investment portfolio–you have control of where your money goes. Some options for investing might include a variation of stocks, bonds, ETFs and mutual funds. 

Second, there are investment services, which are usually through different brokerage companies. Basically, you will pay people to manage your investments for you based off of their expertise. Some common brokerages are Charles Schwab and Fidelity. When considering an investment service, make sure you know what your financial goals are and what types of investments you are interested in.

Third, similar to these investment services, are managed investments. These are growing in popularity currently and many people use a robo-advisor to manage their investments. Just like a brokerage, the robo-advisor learns the market based off of a set of algorithms and formulas in order to best invest your money. 

Lastly, there are investment apps. Some of the most popular apps for investing are Robinhood, Stash, and Acorns. With Robinhood, you link the app to your bank account, choose what stocks you want to watch or invest in, and track it over time to keep it, buy more, or sell the stock. Stash provides a wide range of investment options and education for investing; the investment plans vary in their prices. Acorns uses your spare change to invest it–you can choose to round up your purchases to send those extra pennies into investments.

If you are ready to start investing, I encourage you to read and research further about the topic. College is a time of growth and learning, and there is an almost infinite amount of information out there to keep you busy. Hopefully this information is a good place to get you started and I wish you the best of luck with your investments!