Investing money is a way for individuals to save toward their goals, whether it be retirement, a child’s college education, or some other financial goal. Beginning investors need to take time to determine their goals and learn some basic concepts of investing before jumping right into making an investment. Successful investing takes much research, time, and patience. As beginning investors start to have some success in making money through investments, they will develop a degree of skill. However, there is still a degree of risk involved even the most seasoned and skilled investors. Finding the answers to some basic investing questions will help make the efforts of beginning investors more successful.
How much money do I need to make an investment?
One common misconception by beginning investors is that they must have a large sum of money to make an investment. The truth is, many investments can be made for as little as hundreds or perhaps a few thousand dollars. One way to begin investing small is through dividend reinvestment plans or direct stock purchase options. Investors may be able to invest in a company’s stock options by paying a minimal start-up fee, often as little as $25 or $50 and making an initial investment. Once the money begins adding up, it can then be transferred to a brokerage account, where the investor will be able to begin investing larger sums of money.
What are the different types of investing?
Once investors determine that they have enough money to make an investment, the difficult part is often deciding where to invest their money. There are many different options for investors; some of the most common investment options are mutual funds, bonds, futures, and real estate.
- Mutual funds – A way for individuals to invest without having to manage their investment “hands-on” is through investing in mutual funds. Mutual funds are investments that are handled by a fund manager. This fund manager invests the pool of money, contributed to by several individual investors, in the financial marketplace. The funds may be invested through closed or open-ended funds. Closed funds have a set number of shares that are distributed to the public and are traded on the open market; whereas open-ended funds to do not a set number of shares. The trader will re-invest into new shares for the investor. The shares are overseen by a professional money manager who is trained to select investments that will provide the largest returns to the investor.
- Exchange traded funds – These funds, known as ETFs, are pools of investor money that is invested in similar ways to mutual funds. However, since ETFs are designed only to track certain indexes and much of their management is computerized, their maintenance costs and fees are generally much lower.
- Bonds – When investors purchase bonds, they are buying an interest in a company or corporation. The companies issues bonds, which is a loan from an investor. In turn, the company agrees to pay this investor back at determined intervals with interest. Investing in bonds can be a fairly secure investment. Unless the company goes bankrupt, the investor is almost certain to receive back at least the minimum amount of his investment. These interest payments at set intervals can be a source of steady income for retired couples or others wishing to create a type of investment where they can generate consistent returns. The interest earned on bonds can be tax exempt with some types of bonds.
- Real Estate – Real estate can a good investment when the timing is right but often requires a lot of work. One easy way for investors to enter the real estate market is through a real estate investment trust, or REIT. Investors become part owners in the investments of the REIT such as malls, park garages, hotels, or other real estate ventures. REITs often pay out high cash dividends to investors because the REIT pays no federal income tax in return for paying out 90 percent or more of their profits to shareholders in the form of dividends. Another way of making money through investing in real estate is through purchasing properties, improving the properties through repairing them or adding amenities, then selling them at a profit; or renting the houses to tenants and receiving a monthly income from the payments.
- Futures – Futures trading is the marketplace where buyers from around the world buy and sell futures contracts. A futures contract is an agreement to receive a product at a future date with a set price. Once the price is agreed upon, the price is secure for the next year regardless of the changes in the market. Some common futures markets include commodities, currencies, stock indexes, interest rates, and other alternative investments such as economic indicators. The rewards of this kind of investing can be great but so are the risks. Therefore, futures should be left to the most experienced investors.
Should I diversify or stick with one investment?
Most professional investment advisors will confirm that diversification is the key to a successful investment portfolio. Investors who spread their investments out through several avenues reduce their risk of losing all of their assets should the investment fail. While it may be tempting to dive right in and start investing large sums or money, beginning investors should balance the potential profit against the risks they are exposing themselves to in the investment marketplace.
Using the services of a professional investment advisor
A professional investment advisor can provide beginning investors with the basic information needed to start an investment portfolio. An investment advisor sometimes is also a financial planner and can help with all financial matters. Some investment advisors are paid a percentage of the value of the assets managed, while others charge an hourly fee or are paid on a commission basis.
For investors who would like to avoid these fees, the best strategy is to do some study and start with mutual funds or ETFs offered by reputable companies.
We favor investments that are low cost, tax efficient, diversified, liquid, and simple. Many investors often run into trouble when they invest in things that do not have these five characteristics. Investments with these five characteristics have been profitable over time, but typically are not very exciting. There is generally not a “hot story that you need to act on now!” associated with them. The financial services industry generally does not favor these type of investments because they generate very little profit from them. We are in the business of helping to maximize the wealth of our clients, not the financial services industry. Keep in mind that this list of investment characteristics is not comprehensive. Other factors to look for in investments might include attractive valuation, low correlation to your other holdings, a nice dividend yield or interest income, a tilt towards areas of the market that have produced higher returns such as value stocks, an appropriate risk level for you, etc.
Low Cost. We typically invest in low cost index based funds and exchange traded funds (ETF’s). The funds we invest in have an average expense ratio of only.30% per year. The typical actively traded equity mutual fund has an average expense ratio of 1% or more. With investment funds, the best predictor of future relative performance is the expense ratio on the fund; the lower the better. Hedge funds typically have annual expense ratios of 2% plus 20% of any profits earned. Some variable annuities and permanent life insurance “investments” can have annual expenses of 2% or more. By keeping a close eye on the costs of our investments, we can save our clients significant amounts of money each year and help them achieve higher returns over time (all else being equal). With investment products, you don’t get better performance with a higher cost product, in fact you typically get worse performance.
Tax Efficient. Our investments (index based funds and ETF’s) are extremely tax efficient and they allow the investor to have some control over the timing of the taxes. These types of funds have low turnover (trading activity), which is a common characteristic of tax efficient investments. We recommend avoiding mutual funds with high turnover due to their tax inefficiency. After the recent big increase in the U.S. stock market, many active equity mutual funds have “imbedded” capital gains of as much as 30%-45%. If you buy those mutual funds now you may end up paying capital gains taxes on those imbedded gains even if you didn’t own the fund during the increase. ETF’s typically do not generate long and short-term capital gain distributions at yearend, and they do not have imbedded capital gains like active mutual funds. Hedge funds are typically tax inefficient due to their very high turnover. In addition to investing in tax-efficient products we also do many other things to help keep our client taxes minimized such as tax loss harvesting, keeping our turnover/trading low, putting the right type of investments in the right type of accounts (tax location), using losses to offset capital gains, using holdings with large capital gains for gifting, investing in tax-free municipal bonds, etc.
Diversified. We like to invest in diversified funds because they reduce your stock specific risk, and the overall risk of your portfolio. Bad news released about one stock may cause it to drop 50%, which is horrible news if that stock is 20% of your whole portfolio, but will be barely noticed in a fund of 1,000 stock positions. We tend to favor funds that typically have at least a hundred holdings and often several hundred holdings or more. These diversified funds give you broad representation of the whole asset class you are trying to get exposure to, while eliminating the stock specific risk. We are not likely to invest in the newest Solar Energy Company Equity Fund with 10 stock positions, for example. We don’t believe in taking any risks (such as stock specific risk) that you will not get paid for in higher expected return.
Liquid. We like investments that you can sell in one minute or one day if you decide to do so, and those which you can sell at or very close to the prevailing market price. With liquid investments you always (daily) know the exact price and value of your investments. All of the investment funds we recommend meet this standard. We don’t like investments which you are locked into for years without the ability to get your money back at all or without paying large exit fees. Examples of illiquid investments would be hedge funds, private equity funds, annuities, private company stock, tiny publicly traded stocks, startup company stock or debt, illiquid obscure bonds, structured products, some life insurance “investments,” private real estate partnerships, etc. We prefer investment funds that have been around for some time, are large in size, and have high average daily trading volumes.
Simple. We prefer investments that are simple, transparent, and easy to understand. If you don’t understand it, don’t invest in it. All of our investments are simple and transparent; we know exactly what we own. Complicated investment products are designed in favor of the seller, not the buyer, and usually have high hidden fees. Examples of complicated and non-transparent investments that we generally avoid are hedge funds, private equity funds, structured products, some life insurance “investment” products, variable annuities, private company stock, startup company stock or loans, etc. “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.” -Albert Einstein.
We believe most investors should have the majority of their portfolio invested in things that have these five excellent characteristics. By doing so you will avoid plenty of mistakes, negative surprises, and risks along the way. In addition, we believe your after tax investment returns will likely be higher over long periods of time. Of course not every smart or good investment will have all of these characteristics. For example, income producing real estate property is illiquid (and often not diversified) but can be an excellent long-term investment if purchased and managed properly. Owning your own business is illiquid and not diversified but can be an excellent way to build wealth as well. We believe these five investment characteristics become even more important as you enter retirement, since at that point you may be more focused on reducing risk and preserving your wealth than building it, and you may need the liquidity to spend and gift part of your wealth during retirement. These five excellent investment characteristics can be a good screening device for possible investments and good factors to think about when investing.
So… You may ask yourself, why should you buy or invest in real estate in the First Place? Because it’s the IDEAL investment! Let’s take a moment to address the reasons why people should have investment real estate in the first place. The easiest answer is a well-known acronym that addresses the key benefits for all investment real estate. Put simply, Investment Real Estate is an IDEAL investment. The IDEAL stands for:
• I – Income
• D – Depreciation
• E – Expenses
• A – Appreciation
• L – Leverage
Real estate is the IDEAL investment compared to all others. I’ll explain each benefit in depth.
The “I” in IDEAL stands for Income. (a.k.a. positive cash flow) Does it even generate income? Your investment property should be generating income from rents received each month. Of course, there will be months where you may experience a vacancy, but for the most part your investment will be producing an income. Be careful because many times beginning investors exaggerate their assumptions and don’t take into account all potential costs. The investor should know going into the purchase that the property will COST money each month (otherwise known as negative cash flow). This scenario, although not ideal, may be OK, only in specific instances that we will discuss later. It boils down to the risk tolerance and ability for the owner to fund and pay for a negative producing asset. In the boom years of real estate, prices were sky high and the rents didn’t increase proportionately with many residential real estate investment properties. Many naïve investors purchased properties with the assumption that the appreciation in prices would more than compensate for the fact that the high balance mortgage would be a significant negative impact on the funds each month. Be aware of this and do your best to forecast a positive cash flow scenario, so that you can actually realize the INCOME part of the IDEAL equation.
Often times, it may require a higher down payment (therefore lesser amount being mortgaged) so that your cash flow is acceptable each month. Ideally, you eventually pay off the mortgage so there is no question that cash flow will be coming in each month, and substantially so. This ought to be a vital component to one’s retirement plan. Do this a few times and you won’t have to worry about money later on down the road, which is the main goal as well as the reward for taking the risk in purchasing investment property in the first place.
The “D” in IDEAL Stands for Depreciation. With investment real estate, you are able to utilize its depreciation for your own tax benefit. What is depreciation anyway? It’s a non-cost accounting method to take into account the overall financial burden incurred through real estate investment. Look at this another way, when you buy a brand new car, the minute you drive off the lot, that car has depreciated in value. When it comes to your investment real estate property, the IRS allows you to deduct this amount yearly against your taxes. Please note: I am not a tax professional, so this is not meant to be a lesson in taxation policy or to be construed as tax advice.
With that said, the depreciation of a real estate investment property is determined by the overall value of the structure of the property and the length of time (recovery period based on the property type-either residential or commercial). If you have ever gotten a property tax bill, they usually break your property’s assessed value into two categories: one for the value of the land, and the other for the value of the structure. Both of these values added up equals your total “basis” for property taxation. When it comes to depreciation, you can deduct against your taxes on the original base value of the structure only; the IRS doesn’t allow you to depreciate land value (because land is typically only APPRECIATING). Just like your new car driving off the lot, it’s the structure on the property that is getting less and less valuable every year as its effective age gets older and older. And you can use this to your tax advantage.
The best example of the benefit regarding this concept is through depreciation, you can actually turn a property that creates a positive cash flow into one that shows a loss (on paper) when dealing with taxes and the IRS. And by doing so, that (paper) loss is deductible against your income for tax purposes. Therefore, it’s a great benefit for people that are specifically looking for a “tax-shelter” of sorts for their real estate investments.
For example, and without getting too technical, assume that you are able to depreciate $15,000 a year from a $500,000 residential investment property that you own. Let’s say that you are cash-flowing $1,000 a month (meaning that after all expenses, you are net-positive $1000 each month), so you have $12,000 total annual income for the year from this property’s rental income. Although you took in $12,000, you can show through your accountancy with the depreciation of the investment real estate that you actually lost $3,000 on paper, which is used against any income taxes that you may owe. From the standpoint of IRS, this property realized a loss of $3,000 after the “expense” of the $15,000 depreciation amount was taken into account. Not only are there no taxes due on that rental income, you can utilize the paper loss of $3,000 against your other regular taxable income from your day-job. Investment property at higher price points will have proportionally higher tax-shelter qualities. Investors use this to their benefit in being able to deduct as much against their taxable amount owed each year through the benefit of depreciation with their underlying real estate investment.
Although this is a vastly important benefit to owning investment real estate, the subject is not well understood. Because depreciation is a somewhat complicated tax subject, the above explanation was meant to be cursory in nature. When it comes to issues involving taxes and depreciation, make sure you have a tax professional that can advise you appropriately so you know where you stand.
The “E” in IDEAL is for Expenses – Generally, all expenses incurred relating to the property are deductible when it comes to your investment property. The cost for utilities, the cost for insurance, the mortgage, and the interest and property taxes you pay. If you use a property manager or if you’re repairing or improving the property itself, all of this is deductible. Real estate investment comes with a lot of expenses, duties, and responsibilities to ensure the investment property itself performs to its highest capability. Because of this, contemporary tax law generally allows that all of these related expenses are deductible to the benefit of the investment real estate landowner. If you were to ever take a loss, or purposefully took a loss on a business investment or investment property, that loss (expense) can carry over for multiple years against your income taxes. For some people, this is an aggressive and technical strategy. Yet it’s another potential benefit of investment real estate.
The “A” in IDEAL is for Appreciation – Appreciation means the growth of value of the underlying investment. It’s one of the main reasons that we invest in the first place, and it’s a powerful way to grow your net worth. Many homes in the city of San Francisco are several million dollars in today’s market, but back in the 1960s, the same property was worth about the cost of the car you are currently driving (probably even less!). Throughout the years, the area became more popular and the demand that ensued caused the real estate prices in the city to grow exponentially compared to where they were a few decades ago. People that were lucky enough to recognize this, or who were just in the right place at the right time and continued to live in their home have realized an investment return in the 1000’s of percent. Now that’s what appreciation is all about. What other investment can make you this kind of return without drastically increased risk? The best part about investment real estate is that someone is paying you to live in your property, paying off your mortgage, and creating an income (positive cash flow) to you each month along the way throughout your course of ownership.
The “L” in IDEAL stands for Leverage – A lot of people refer to this as “OPM” (other people’s money). This is when you are using a small amount of your money to control a much more expensive asset. You are essentially leveraging your down payment and gaining control of an asset that you would normally not be able to purchase without the loan itself. Leverage is much more acceptable in the real estate world and inherently less risky than leverage in the stock world (where this is done through means of options or buying “on Margin”). Leverage is common in real estate. Otherwise, people would only buy property when they had 100% of the cash to do so. Over a third of all purchase transactions are all-cash transactions as our recovery continues. Still, about 2/3 of all purchases are done with some level of financing, so the majority of buyers in the market enjoy the power that leverage can offer when it comes to investment real estate.
For example, if a real estate investor was to buy a house that costs $100,000 with 10% down payment, they are leveraging the remaining 90% through the use of the associated mortgage. Let’s say the local market improves by 20% over the next year, and therefore the actual property is now worth $120,000. When it comes to leverage, from the standpoint of this property, its value increased by 20%. But compared to the investor’s actual down payment (the “skin in the game”) of $10,000- this increase in property value of 20% really means the investor doubled their return on the investment actually made-also known as the “cash on cash” return. In this case, that is 200%-because the $10,000 is now responsible and entitled to a $20,000 increase in overall value and the overall potential profit.
Although leverage is considered a benefit, like everything else, there can always be too much of a good thing. In 2007, when the real estate market took a turn for the worst, many investors were over-leveraged and fared the worst. They could not weather the storm of a correcting economy. Exercising caution with every investment made will help to ensure that you can purchase, retain, pay-off debt, and grow your wealth from the investment decisions made as opposed to being at the mercy and whim of the overall market fluctuations. Surely there will be future booms and busts as the past would dictate as we continue to move forward. More planning and preparing while building net worth will help prevent getting bruised and battered by the side effects of whatever market we find ourselves in.
Many people think that investment real estate is only about cash flow and appreciation, but it’s so much more than that. As mentioned above, you can realize several benefits through each real estate investment property you purchase. The challenge is to maximize the benefits through every investment.
Furthermore, the IDEAL acronym is not just a reminder of the benefits of investment real estate; it’s also here to serve as a guide for every investment property you will consider purchasing in the future. Any property you purchase should conform to all of the letters that represent the IDEAL acronym. The underlying property should have a good reason for not fitting all the guidelines. And in almost every case, if there is an investment you are considering that doesn’t hit all the guidelines, by most accounts you should probably PASS on it!
Take for example a story of my own, regarding a property that I purchased early on in my real estate career. To this day, it’s the biggest investment mistake that I’ve made, and it’s precisely because I didn’t follow the IDEAL guidelines that you are reading and learning about now. I was naïve and my experience was not yet fully developed. The property I purchased was a vacant lot in a gated community development. The property already had an HOA (a monthly maintenance fee) because of the nice amenity facilities that were built for it, and in anticipation of would-be-built homes. There were high expectations for the future appreciation potential-but then the market turned for the worse as we headed into the great recession that lasted from 2007-2012. Can you see what parts of the IDEAL guidelines I missed on completely?
Let’s start with “I”. The vacant lot made no income! Sometimes this can be acceptable, if the deal is something that cannot be missed. But for the most part this deal was nothing special. In all honesty, I’ve considered selling the trees that are currently on the vacant lot to the local wood mill for some actual income, or putting up a camping spot ad on the local Craigslist; but unfortunately the lumber isn’t worth enough and there are better spots to camp! My expectations and desire for price appreciation blocked the rational and logical questions that needed to be asked. So, when it came to the income aspect of the IDEAL guidelines for a real estate investment, I paid no attention to it. And I paid the price for my hubris. Furthermore, this investment failed to realize the benefit of depreciation as you cannot depreciate land! So, we are zero for two so far, with the IDEAL guideline to real estate investing. All I can do is hope the land appreciates to a point where it can be sold one day. Let’s call it an expensive learning lesson. You too will have these “learning lessons”; just try to have as few of them as possible and you will be better off.
When it comes to making the most of your real estate investments, ALWAYS keep the IDEAL guideline in mind to make certain you are making a good decision and a solid investment.
The investment services industry can be daunting and ambiguous for individuals who seek a return on their capital. After working hard earning your wealth, it is important to understand the different services offered by professionals and what solutions fit you personally. One of the main questions we get asked here is:
“What is the difference between investment management and stockbrokers?”
Firstly, let’s discuss what stockbrokers are – we all have a much better, clearer, idea of what they do and who they represent. Stockbrokers are regulated firms that offer financial advice to their clients. A stockbroker buys and sells equities and other securities like bonds, CFDs, Futures and Options on behalf of their clients in return for a fee or commission. A brokerage / stockbroker will receive a fee on each transaction, whether the idea is profitable or not.
A brokerage can specialise in any investment niche they wish for example:
- FTSE All-Share stocks,
- AIM stocks,
- European Stocks,
- Asian Stocks,
- US Stocks
- Combinations of the above
- Straight equities,
- Straight derivative trading (CFDs, Futures & Options)
The main reason why investors choose stockbrokers over any other professional investment service is simply down to control. Due to the nature of a brokerage firm, they can only execute a trade after you instruct them to do so. This means it is impossible for a brokerage to keep buying and selling securities without you knowing – known as churning for commission. This doesn’t however prevent stockbrokers providing you with several new ideas a week and switching your positions to a new idea.
However, there are natural flaws with the brokerage industry is that because trading ideas can only be executed after being instructed to list a few flaws;-
- you may miss out of good opportunities due to moves in the market,
- you may get in a couple of days later because you were busy and not make any money after fees,
- you may receive a call to close a position but unable to without your say so.
The above are examples that can happen when investing with brokerage firms, but this is due to the reliance of gaining authorisation from their clients. So if you are ultra busy or travel a lot then you could potentially miss out on opportunities to buy or sell.
What are investment managers?
Now we understand what stockbrokers / brokerage firms are about, let’s discuss what investment management services can do for individuals.
Investment management firms run differently to brokerages. The core aspect to these services is that the professional investment managers use their discretion to make investment decisions. As a client of an investment management firm you will go through a rigorous client on boarding process (just like a brokerage firm) to understand your investment goals, understanding of the services being used, risk profile, angering to the investment mandate and allowing the service to manage your equity portfolio. The sign up with the service may seem long winded but it’s in your best interest to ensure the service is suitable and appropriate for you. In reality, it’s not a long winded process at all. Once you agree to the services offered then you will only be updated on the on-going account data and portfolio reporting in a timely manner. This means no phone calls to disrupt your day-to-day activities and allows the professionals to focus on your portfolio.
Investment management firms usually have specific portfolios with a track record, into which you can invest your capital according to you appetite for risk. These portfolios will focus on specific securities, economies, risk and type of investing (income, capital growth or balanced). All of this would be discussed prior or during the application process.
Another method used by investment management firms is different strategies implemented by their portfolio managers. These strategies are systematic and go through thorough analysis before investment decisions are made.
The fees usually associated with investment management firms can vary from each firm. There are three common types of fees and are usually combined, fees can be;-
- Assets Under Management Fee – This is where you pay a percentage of the portfolio per year to the firm, usually an annual fee. E.g) 1% AUM Fee on £1,000,000 is £10,000 per year.
- Transaction Fee – This is a fee associated with each transaction made through your portfolio – similar to the brokerage firm’s commission.
- Percentage of Profits Fee – This is where any closed profits generated over a set time will be charged to the firm. E.g) 10% PoP Fee – the firm generates you closed profit of £10,000 in one quarter – you will be charged £1,000.
The main benefits provided from investment management firms is that after the service understands your needs and tailors the service around you, it is their job to build a portfolio around you. It is also the job of the investment management firm to adhere to the investment mandate you agreed on, we’ll take about this later, so you understand of the time frame given what you should expect. Another bonus why high-net worth individuals choose investment management services is because they are not hassled by phone calls every other day with a new investment idea.
The main difference between investment management and stockbroking firms is:
- Investment Managers offers discretionary services; no regular phone calls about stock ideas.
- Stockbrokers give you more control as you can personally filter out ideas you think won’t work.
- Investment Managers offer an investment mandate; this is where the investment management service provides a document of what they are offering you in return of managing your portfolio. You will understand what exactly they are targeting over the year, based on what risk, and should they achieve it – then they have fulfilled their service. E.g) the mandate could state that the strategies used and based on 8% volatility (risk), they seek to achieve 14% capital return.
- Stockbrokers do not offer an future agreements but look to deliver growth during the time you are with them. They are not bound by their performances like investment managers.
- Investment management firms have a track record for all of the strategies and services used, stockbrokers do not.
Which to choose?
Both services provide professional approaches to investing in the stock markets. Stockbrokers are chosen over investment managers by people who like to be in control and receive financial advice. Stockbrokers generally do not have a systematic approach to the markets but use selective top-down approaches to select stocks.
Investment managers are chosen by investors who want an agreement on their performances over the year and understand the risk up-front. Usually more sophisticated investors that wish to take advantage of the track-record and gain an understanding of the systematic approach used by the investment management firm.
Feel free to learn more.
DISCLAIMER: The above is not considered financial advice or any endorsement to use any particular service. If you wish to use any of the services mentioned, please seek independent advice.
RISK WARNING: Spread betting, CFD, futures and options trading carries a high level of risk to your capital and can result in losses that exceed your initial deposit. They may not be suitable for everyone, so please ensure that you fully understand the risks involved. Past performance of a managed service is not a guide to future performance.
Warren E. Buffett offers the following advice on the qualities of a successful investor. Buffett essentially suggests that a successful investor does not need an extraordinarily high IQ, exceptional business acumen, or inside information. To enjoy a lifetime of successful investing, you need a solid decision-making framework and the ability to maintain your emotions.
A successful investment strategy requires a thoughtful plan. Developing a plan is not difficult, but staying with it during times of uncertainty and events that seem to counter you plan’s strategy is often difficult. This tutorial discusses the necessity of establishing a trading plan, what investment options best suit your needs, and the challenges you could encounter if you don’t have a plan.
The benefits of developing a trading plan
You can establish optimal circumstances for experiencing solid investment growth if you stick to your plan despite opposing popular opinion, current trends, or analysts’ forecasts. Develop your investment plan and focus on your long-term goals and objectives.
Maintain focus on your plan
All financial markets can be erratic. It has experienced significant fluctuations in business cycles, inflation, and interest rates, along with economical recessions throughout the past century. The 1990s experienced a surge of growth due to the bull market pushing the Dow Jones industrial average (DIJA) up 300 percent. This economic growth was accompanied by low interest rates and inflation. During this time, an extraordinary number of Internet-based technology firms were created due to the increased popularity of online commerce and other computer-reliant businesses. This growth was rapid and a downturn occurred just as fast. Between 2000 and 2002, the DIJA dropped 38 percent, triggering a massive sell-off of technology stocks which kept indexes in a depressed state well into the middle of 2001. Large-scale corporate accounting scandals contributed to the downturn. Then in the fall of 2001, the United States suffered a catastrophic terrorist attack that sent the nation into a high level of uncertainty and further weakened the strength of the market.
These are the kinds of events that can tax your emotions in terms of your investment strategies. It’s times like these that it is imperative that you have a plan and stick to it. This is when you establish a long-term focus on your objectives. Toward the end of 2002 through 2005, the DJIA rose 44 percent. Investors who let their emotions govern their trading strategies and sold off all their positions missed out on this upturn.
The three deadly sins and how to avoid them
The three emotions that accompany trading are fear, hope, and greed. When prices plunge, fear compels you to sell low without reviewing your position. Under these circumstances, you should revisit the original reasons for your investments and determine if they have changed. For example, you might focus on the short term and immediately sell when the price drops below its intrinsic value. In this case, you could miss out if the price recovers.
An investment strategy that is based on hope might compel you to buy certain stocks based on the hope that a company’s future performance will reflect on their past performance. This is what occurred during the surge of the Internet-based, dot-com companies during the late 1990s. This is where you need to devote your research into a company’s fundamentals and less on their past performance when determining the worth of their stock. Investing primarily on hope could have you ending up with an overvalued stock with more risk of a loss than a gain.
The greed emotion can distort your rationale for certain investments. It can compel you to hold onto a position for too long. If your plan is to hold out a little longer to gain a few percentage points, your position could backfire and result in a loss. Again, in the late 1990s, investors were enjoying double-digit gains on their Internet-company stocks. Instead of scaling back on their investments, many individuals held onto their positions with the hope that the prices would keep going up. Even when the prices were beginning to drop, investors held out hoping that their stocks would rally. Unfortunately, the rally never happened and investors experienced substantial losses.
An effective investment plan requires that you properly manage the three deadly sins of investing.
The key components of an investment plan
Determine your investment objectives
The first component in your investment plan is to determine your investment objectives. The three main categories involved in your objectives are income, growth, and safety.
If your plan is to establish a steady income stream, your objective focuses on the income category. Investors in this category tend to be low-risk and don’t require capital appreciation. They use their investments as an income source.
If your focus is on increasing your portfolio’s value over the long term, your objective is growth-based. In contrast to the income category, investors strive for capital appreciation. Investors in this category tend to be younger and have a longer investment time frame. If this is your preferred category, consider your age, investment expectations, and tolerance to risk.
The final category is safety. Investors who prefer to prevent loss of their principle investment. They want to maintain the current value of their portfolio and avoid risks that are common with stocks and other less secure investments.
While the main reason for growing your portfolio is to increase your wealth, you need to consider how much risk you are willing to take. If you struggle with the market’s volatility, your strategy should focus more on the safety or income categories. If you are more resilient to a fluctuating market and can accept some losses, you might favor the growth category. This category has the potential for higher gains. Nevertheless, you need to be honest with yourself and the level of risk you are willing to take as you set up your investment plan.
As discussed in the previous sections, part of your investment plan is to determine your risk tolerance and investment objectives. After you establish these components, you can begin to determine how you will allocate the assets in your portfolio and how they will match your goals and risk tolerance. For example, if you are interested in pursuing a growth-oriented category, you could allocate 60 percent in stocks, 15 percent in cash equivalents, and 25 percent in bonds.
Make sure your asset allocation reinforces your objectives and risk tolerance. If your focus is on safety, your objectives need to include safe, fixed-income assets such as money market securities, high-quality corporate securities (with high debt ratings), and government bonds.
If your strategy focuses on an income category, you should focus on fixed-income strategies. Your investments might include bonds with lower ratings that provide higher yields and dividend-paying stocks.
If your focus is on the growth category, your portfolio should focus on common stock, mutual funds, or exchange-traded funds (ETF). With this category, you need to vigilant in managing your portfolio by regularly reviewing your objectives and adjusting them according to your risk tolerance and objectives.
Effective asset allocation helps you establish a guideline for properly diversification of your portfolio. This enables you to work toward your objectives and manage a comfortable amount of risk.
Your trading strategy includes deciding what types of investments to buy and how you will allocate your assets.
If your strategy is based on growth, you might consider mutual funds or ETFs that have high market-performance potential.
Wealth protection/income generation
If you choose to pursue a wealth protection method, you might choose government bonds or professionally-managed bond funds.
Choosing your own stocks
If you prefer to select your own stocks, establish some rules for how you will enter and exit your positions. You objectives and investment strategies will determine these rules. Whatever approach you use, one trading rule you should establish is to use stop-loss orders as a form of protection against downward price movements. For example, if your investment drops 60 percent, it will need to increase 110 percent in order to break even. You choose the price that you will set the order, but a good rule to follow is to set a stop-loss order at 10 percent below the purchase price for long-term investments and a stop-loss order at 3-to-5 percent for short term trades.
Your strategy might also include investing in professionally-managed products such as mutual funds. These give you access to professional money managers. If you hope to use mutual funds to increase the value of your portfolio, choose growth funds that focus on capital appreciation. If your intent is to pursue an income-oriented approach, choose income-generating avenues such as dividend-paying stocks or bond funds. Make sure your allocation and risk structure align with your diversification and risk tolerance.
Index funds and ETFs
Index funds and ETFs are passively-managed products that have low fees and tax efficiencies (lower than actively-managed funds). These investments could be a good way to manage your asset allocation plan because they are low-cost and well diversified. Essentially, they are baskets of stocks that represent an index, a sector, or a country.
The most important component in reaching your investment goals is your plan. It helps you establish investment guidelines and a level of protection against loss. It’s important that you develop a plan based on an honest assessment of your investment style, level of risk tolerance, and objectives. You also must avoid letting your emotions influence your investment decisions even during the more discouraging times.
If you are still uncertain about your ability to effectively develop and follow a plan, consider employing the services of an investment advisor. This person’s expertise can help you adhere to a solid plan to meet your investment objectives.
Steps In Investing
Step 1: Meeting Investment Prerequisites-Before one even thinks of investing, they should make sure they have adequately provided for the necessities, like housing, food, transportation, clothing, etc. Also, there should be an additional amount of money that could be used as emergency cash, and protection against other various risks. This protection could be through life, health, property, and liability insurance.
Step 2: Establishing Investing Goals-Once the prerequisites are taken care of, an investor will then want to establish their investing goals, which is laying out financial objectives they wish to achieve. The goals chosen will determine what types of investments they will make. The most common investing goals are accumulating retirement funds, increasing current income, saving for major expenditures, and sheltering income from taxes.
Step 3: Adopting an Investment Plan-Once someone has their general goals, they will need to adopt an investment plan. This will include specifying a target date for achieving a goal and the amount of tolerable risk involved.
Step 4: Evaluating Investment Vehicles-Next up is evaluating investment vehicles by looking at each vehicle’s potential return and risk.
Step 5: Selecting Suitable Investments-With all the information gathered so far, a person will use it to select the investment vehicles that will compliment their goals the most. One should take into consideration expected return, risk, and tax considerations. Careful selection is important.
Step 6: Constructing a Diversified Portfolio-In order to achieve their investment goals, investors will need to pull together an investment portfolio of suitable investments. Investors should diversify their portfolio by including a number of different investment vehicles to earn higher returns and/or to be exposed to less risk as opposed to just limiting themselves to one or two investments. Investing in mutual funds can help achieve diversification and also have the benefit of it being professionally managed.
Step 7: Managing the Portfolio-Once a portfolio is put together, an investor should measure the behavior in relation to expected performance, and make adjustments as needed.
Considering Personal Taxes
Knowing current tax laws can help an investor reduce the taxes and increase the amount of after-tax dollars available for investing.
Basic Sources of Taxation-There are two main types of taxes to know about which are those levied by the federal government, and those levied by state and local governments. The federal income tax is the main form of personal taxation, while state and local taxes can vary from area to area. In addition to the income taxes, the state and local governments also receive revenue from sales and property taxes. These income taxes have the greatest impact on security investments, which the returns are in the form of dividends, interest, and increases in value. Property taxes can also have a significant impact on real estate and other forms of property investment.
Types of Income-Income for individuals can be classified into three basic categories:
1. Active Income-This can be made up of wages, salaries, bonuses, tips, pension, and alimony. It is made up of income earned on the job as well as through other forms of noninvestment income.
2. Portfolio Income-This income is from earnings produced from various investments which could be made up of savings accounts, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, options, and futures, and consists of interest, dividends, and capital gains.
3. Passive Income-Income gained through real estate, limited partnerships, and other forms of tax-advantaged investments.
Investments and Taxes-Taking into tax laws is an important part of the investment process. Tax planning involves examining both current and projected earnings, and developing strategies to help defer and minimize the level of taxes. Planning for these taxes will help assist investment activities over time so that an investor can achieve maximum after-tax returns.
Tax-Advantaged Retirement Vehicles-Over the years the federal government has established several types of retirement vehicles. Employer-sponsored plans can include 401(k) plans, savings plans, and profit-sharing plans. These plans are usually voluntary and allow employees to increase the amount of money for retirement and tax advantage of tax-deferral benefits. Individuals can also setup tax-sheltered retirement programs like Keogh plans and SEP-IRAs for the self-employed. IRAs and Roth IRAs can be setup by almost anyone, subject to certain qualifications. These plans generally allow people to defer taxes on both the contributions and earnings until retirement.
Investing Over the Life Cycle
As investors age, their investment strategies tend to change as well. They tend to be more aggressive when they’re young and transition to more conservative investments as they grow older. Younger investors usually go for growth-oriented investments that focus on capital gains as opposed to current income. This is because they don’t usually have much for investable funds, so capital gains are often viewed as the quickest way to build up capital. These investments are usually through high-risk common stocks, options, and futures.
As the investors become more middle-aged, other things like educational expenses and retirement become more important. As this happens, the typical investor moves towards more higher quality securities which are low-risk growth and income stocks, high-grade bonds, preferred stocks, and mutual funds.
As the investors get closer to retirement, their focus is usually on the preservation of capital and income. Their investment portfolio is now usually very conservative at this point. It would typically consist of low-risk income stocks and mutual funds, high-yield government bonds, quality corporate bonds, CDs, and other short-term investment vehicles.
Investing In Different Economic Conditions
Even though the government has different tools or strategies for moderating economic swings, investors will still endure numerous changes in the economy while investing. An investment program must allow the investor to recognize and react to changing conditions in the economy. It is important to know where to put your money and when to make your moves.
Knowing where to put your money is the easiest part to deal with. This involves matching the risk and return objectives of an investor’s plan with the investment vehicles. For example, if there is an experienced investor that can tolerate more risk, then speculative stocks may be right for them. A novice investor that wants a decent return on their capital may decide to invest in a growth-oriented mutual fund. Although stocks and growth funds may do well in an expanding economy, they can turn out to be failures at other times. Because of this, it is important to know when to make your moves.
Knowing when to invest is difficult because it deals with market timing. Even most professional money managers, economists, and investors can’t consistently predict the market and economic movements. It’s easier to understand the current state of the market or economy. That is, knowing whether the market/economy is expanding or declining is easier to understand than trying to predict upcoming changes.
The market or economy can have three different conditions: (1) recovery or expansion, (2) decline or recession, (3) a change in the general direction of its movement. It’s fairly easy to observe when the economy is in a state of expansion or recession. The difficult part is knowing whether the existing state of the economy will continue on the course it’s on, or change direction. How an investor responds to these market conditions will depend on the types of investment vehicles they hold. No matter what the state of the economy is, an investor’s willingness to enter the capital market depends on a basic trust in fair and accurate financial reporting.
Stocks and the Business Cycle
Conditions in the economy are highly influential on common stocks and other equity-related securities. Economic conditions is also referred to as the business cycle. The business cycle mirrors the current status of a variety of economic variables which includes GDP, industrial production, personal disposable income, the unemployment rate, and more.
An expanding business cycle will be reflected in a strong economy. When business is thriving and profits are up, stock prices react by increasing in value and returns. Speculative and growth-oriented stocks tend to do especially well in strong markets. On the flip side, when economic activity is diminishing, the values and returns on common stocks tend to follow the same pattern.
Bonds and Interest Rates
Bonds and other forms of fixed-income securities are highly sensitive to movements in interest rates. The single most important variable that determines bond price behavior and returns is the interest rate. Bond prices and interest rates move in opposite directions. Lower interest rates are favorable for bonds for an investor. However, high interest rates increase the attractiveness of new bonds because they must offer high returns to attract investors.
Enterprise Investment Schemes
An EIS is an investment vehicle that provides funds and capital to small businesses that, due to the tightening of the credit market, cannot otherwise get financing from traditional sources. An EIS is an unquoted company that is not on a stock exchange and is most likely managed by a venture capital firm. These firms manage the investment objectives to protect investors and maximize investment returns. A good firm will have been involved in venture capital investing for a number of years and be able to provide a solid track record of protecting principle and securing returns. Firms operate their EISes differently, some offering investments into single companies while others operate EIS funds in which you could invest into a fund of multiple companies, therefore diversifying your risk.
The benefit of tax protection that EISes offer has resulted in an increased demand among wealthier investors, with EIS being utilized as a strategic tool within their portfolios. The UK government increased tax relief from 20% to 30% and the annual investment amount has been increased from £500,000 to £1,000,000. With the added benefit that the investment is exempt from capital gains tax and inheritance tax, EIS is increasingly the perfect vehicle for certain investors. More and more EISes have become essential within many investment portfolios as an integral tax relief tactic.
Seed Enterprise Investment Schemes
Not quite as large as the EIS, the SEIS provides a similar benefit and experience. The main difference being the investment amount allowed annually which currently stands at a maximum of £100,000, but offers an unprecedented 50% tax relief on the investment’s gains and value. However this 50% is only applicable if the SEIS continues to comply with the SEIS rules and providing the investment is left for a minimum of three years. After three years the investor can sell their stake, incurring no capital gains tax against profit realized. Furthermore, loss relief applies to any losses incurred.
As of 2014, the upfront tax relief for the highest tax bracket investors equates to a 64% tax break and, when combined with a loss relief tax break of a further potential of 22.5%, equates to a total of 86.5% tax relief. The downside tax protection of almost 90% is unprecedented amongst all other investment vehicles and provides significant tactical value to certain investors.
As with any investment decision, you need to be careful in your consideration when choosing to use EIS or SEIS for your portfolio. You should be considering these tax relief options in your portfolio after you have exhausted other forms of tax mitigation. The first two that should be utilized are your pension and annual Individual Savings Account (ISA) allowance. These primary tax savings vehicles provide secure investment vehicles; ISAs offer amazing investment flexibility not available through EIS or SEIS. Another option includes VCTs – Venture Capital Trusts – which have similar strategic benefits to EIS or SEIS but are limited to £200,000 per year.
In deciding on further tax mitigation, you need to consider the portion of your portfolio that these tactical investments would make up. Conventional wisdom dictates that you should not put more than 20% of your holdings into risky opportunities, but that 20% could realistically be surpassed with correct use of the right investment vehicles. If you are hedging your portfolio against a known event that will increase your capital gains taxes or inheritance taxes, EIS and SEIS would be a viable way to mitigate those taxes in a given year. In this way you could max out your contributions to these two tactical strategies in order to mitigate the known tax implications from another portion of your investment portfolio. It is these considerations that you should be aware of before deciding on a specific EIS or SEIS company.
Another concern that you should be aware of is the fact that EISes and SEISes are essentially “locked-in” products. You need to be able to leave the investments locked in for a period of at least three years (and in some cases longer) in order to access the tax relief benefits – managers will generally look for an exit in or around year 4, but an exit could realistically take longer and is subject to market conditions. In this way, many EIS and SEIS companies are illiquid and the secondary market for selling EIS/SEIS shares is therefore small. Taking the long view on these investments should be a natural consideration.
Choosing the Right EIS/SEIS
When deciding on the right company to invest for the purpose of tax mitigation, not all EIS/SEIS companies are the same. Choosing a company should not be done on impulse and requires effective due diligence to ensure that their investment philosophy is in line with your own. At the time of consideration, ask all the same questions of the company as you would when investing in any stock. By ensuring the company has a solid and proven track record of investments, open reporting functions that promote transparency and an investment philosophy you agree with, you can feel comfortable with your investment.
By considering an EIS/SEIS investment you are considering an investment option that has a real potential for investment loss. It can be the right option for those looking for a high risk option with an effective tax mitigation strategy as a small portion of their overall portfolio. EIS and SEIS investments can also be an excellent way for investors to dabble in venture capital investing without having to put up too much capital.
For more information please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-enterprise-investment-scheme-introduction
To become successful with your money, you have to make your money work for you. You sell your labor which in return makes you money. By making each individual dollar work for you, this in return makes you wealthy over time. There are a plethora of investing opportunities out there. The key is to figure out which one is the right one for your financial situation.
The most popular of all investing opportunities, are stocks. Stocks are probably the main thing you think of when you hear of investing. When you buy a stock, you buy partial ownership of a company. Stocks range anywhere from $2, to $12,000, which can appeal to a large variety of people. To be successful when trading stocks, you have to buy low and sell high. Of course this isn’t easy, considering the market is always fluctuating. You need to watch the history of the company, know the PE Ratio, the day range, the 52 week range, etc. Knowing this information can help you predict if the stock will go up or down. You can make a lot of money investing in stocks, which means you can also lose a lot of money. You want to keep in mind that most investments in stocks are long term investments. It is very risky investing, but if you do the proper research of the history of the company, you can get a very good return.
Stock Investing Tips
1.) Have the Right Expectations
When you are investing in stocks, you want to make sure you aren’t expecting to become Warren Buffet over night. It just wont happen. You want to make sure you do the proper amount of research, and make sure you know the history of the market as well as the company you are investing in. When investing in stocks, the return is around 10%-13%. You don’t want to make hasty decisions and buy and sell a lot just because you aren’t making the money you expected. Make sure you know how long you are keeping an investment, and then make a commitment. This will help you focus on the principles.
2.) Don’t Listen to the Media
Don’t get caught up in what everyone is talking about and what is being said around you. It will take your decision from being based on research and history, to just “hear-say”. This will hurt your investments immensely. Most of the hype and other things that are being said are just the daily fluctuation of the market.
3.) Stay Focused
You want to make sure you are putting all your effort and focus into your investments. Once you buy a stock, you own part of a company. Make sure you treat it the way it is and make sure you do the proper research of all aspects of what you’re investing in. Doing your research can change your investment of making a profit of $15,000, to losing $15,000. In the end, it’s always worth it to do the extra work.
When you invest in Mutual Funds, you are pooling your money with a number of other investors. You then pay someone to professionally manage and choose each individual security for you. There are a variety of different mutual funds you can choose to invest in, which range to fit your investment strategy.
3 Types of Mutual Funds
2.) Unit Investment Trust
Mutual Fund Investing Tips
1.) Look at the Fees
Always look at the fees involved when investing in Mutual Funds. When you pay more for something, this usually means that you are going to be getting a better product or service, right? Yes! Makes sure you find the best deal, but make sure you are investing the right amount of money in the right places. It can change the course of the whole investment in the long run.
2.) Research the History
One thing you can do to prepare an investment is to check out the history of the Mutual Fund. Just like anything, the history shows how well it has performed, and can be a good indicator. This can directly tell you if it will be a good investment whether it be long term or short term. Another thing you want to look at, is the asset of the fund. If it’s doing good, and there is a community of people investing in it, it can tell you if its a smart idea to invest yourself. Always check the history of any investment before you decide to purchase.
3.) Look at the Contract
You never know what is all involved until you take a detailed look at the prospectus provided by the fund. You want to make sure you don’t just know bits and pieces of what’s involved, but everything there is to know, and then some. Make sure you know all the fees involved with buying and selling funds, and if there are international fees required. Knowing this can help you determine if the company is a solid company where you can make money, or if you are getting into something you will regret in the future.
Bank accounts are one of the simplest form of investment. Most banks give you a very small percentage for opening a bank account and giving them your money. This percentage barely beats the rise of inflation, so unless you are keeping hundreds of thousands of dollars in the bank, you won’t be creating any wealth from this form of investment. Another way to invest in your bank is a CD, or Certificate of Deposit. A CD if very similar to a bank account, but they are usually for a fixed amount of time. They can be monthly, every six months, a year, etc. the CD is then held until its maturity date, and paid back with interest. A Certificate of Deposit usually earns more money than an account at which you can withdrawal the money at any time, like a bank account.
Apart from the basic investments, there are other special securities. These investments include gold/silver, real estate, etc. These investments are speculative and can be very high profit, however; you need to have the knowledge.
1.) Gold & Silver
The first thing you want to do before you invest in gold or silver, is to look at the market and decide if now is the best time to invest in precious metals. You can also talk to a professional and decide when the best time to buy and sell would be. You want to make sure you are familiar with the variety of ways to invest in silver. You can invest in silver mining companies, silver ETF’s, silver futures, silver bullion, and also silver coins. You want to make sure the Exchange Traded Funds (ETF) are backed by physical gold and silver. Another thing to remember, is to not just own a paper owning, but the actual precious metal as well.
Investment is important from many points of view. Before doing investment, it is essential to understand what is investment and its importance?
“Investment is an act of investing money to earn the profit. It is the first step towards the future security of your money.”
Need of Investment
The investment can help you in the future if invested wisely and properly. As per human nature, we plan for a few days or think to plan for investment, but do not put the plan into action. Every individual must plan for investment and keep aside some amount of money for the future. No doubt, the future is uncertain and it is required to invest smartly with some certain plan of actions that can avoid financial crisis at point of time. It can help you to bring a bright and secure future. It not only gives you secure future, but also controls your spending pattern.
Important Factors of Investments
Planning for Financial investment – Planning plays a pivotal role in all fields. For the financial investment, one must have a pertinent plan by taking all rise and fall situations of the market. You should have a good knowledge of investment before planning for financial investment. Keen observation and focused approach are the basic needs for successful financial investment.
Invest according to your Needs and Capability- The purpose behind the investment should be clear by which you can fulfil your needs from the investment. In investment, financial ability is also a component that can bring you satisfaction and whatever results you want. You can start investment from a small amount as per your capability. You should care about your income and stability to choose the best plan for you.
Explore the market for available investment options – The investment market is full of opportunities, you can explore the market by applying proper approach. You can take help from financial planners, managers who have thorough knowledge about investment in the market. Explore the possibility of investment markets and touch the sublime height of success by the sensible investment decisions.
By taking help from an experienced, proficient financial planner and traders can also give you confidence to do well in the field of investment. Now the question strikes the mind that what are the types of investments?
Types of Investments
Mutual Funds- Basically the mutual fund is a managed investment fund in which money is pulled from the investors to buy the securities.
Commodity Market- In India, it is a popular place of traders to invest their money. The commodity market comprises of MCX (Multi Commodity Exchange) and NCDEX (National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange) both. In Multi Commodity Exchange market, you can invest in crude oil, precious metals as gold, silver and base metals as copper, aluminium, nickel, zinc and many more. While in National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange market, you can invest in all agricultural commodities as guar, soya bean, cotton, sugar cane and many more.
Stock Market- It is the place where various people trade globally and earn the maximum return on investment. However, it is essential to know the bull and bear of the stock market for investing in it. The Stock market for investment also includes the equity market and nifty market. You can invest in equities and nifty market and get good amount profit by focused approach and keen analysis of market trend.
Bonds – It is the best ways to gain interest on your principal amount. The interest and period of time depends on the agreement. In this, a holder lends a particular amount to the issuer (borrower) for a fixed period of time. At this time, you will get the interest from the borrower and after completing that fixed period of time borrower will return back your money. A long term tool for financial investment.
Fixed Deposits – The Fixed Deposit (FD) service is provided by various banks that offers investors a higher rate of interest on their deposits as compared to a regular savings account. Fixed deposits have the maturity date to gain the return on investment.
Real Estate- One can also invest in the real estate and deal with the residential and commercial property. This is also a trending way to earn a good return on investment.
There are various financial planners, financial managers, trading tips provider who can give you numerous options for investment in the market. But it is essential to choose the options wisely.
One of the reasons many people fail, even very woefully, in the game of investing is that they play it without understanding the rules that regulate it. It is an obvious truth that you cannot win a game if you violate its rules. However, you must know the rules before you will be able to avoid violating them. Another reason people fail in investing is that they play the game without understanding what it is all about. This is why it is important to unmask the meaning of the term, ‘investment’. What is an investment? An investment is an income-generating valuable. It is very important that you take note of every word in the definition because they are important in understanding the real meaning of investment.
From the definition above, there are two key features of an investment. Every possession, belonging or property (of yours) must satisfy both conditions before it can qualify to become (or be called) an investment. Otherwise, it will be something other than an investment. The first feature of an investment is that it is a valuable – something that is very useful or important. Hence, any possession, belonging or property (of yours) that has no value is not, and cannot be, an investment. By the standard of this definition, a worthless, useless or insignificant possession, belonging or property is not an investment. Every investment has value that can be quantified monetarily. In other words, every investment has a monetary worth.
The second feature of an investment is that, in addition to being a valuable, it must be income-generating. This means that it must be able to make money for the owner, or at least, help the owner in the money-making process. Every investment has wealth-creating capacity, obligation, responsibility and function. This is an inalienable feature of an investment. Any possession, belonging or property that cannot generate income for the owner, or at least help the owner in generating income, is not, and cannot be, an investment, irrespective of how valuable or precious it may be. In addition, any belonging that cannot play any of these financial roles is not an investment, irrespective of how expensive or costly it may be.
There is another feature of an investment that is very closely related to the second feature described above which you should be very mindful of. This will also help you realise if a valuable is an investment or not. An investment that does not generate money in the strict sense, or help in generating income, saves money. Such an investment saves the owner from some expenses he would have been making in its absence, though it may lack the capacity to attract some money to the pocket of the investor. By so doing, the investment generates money for the owner, though not in the strict sense. In other words, the investment still performs a wealth-creating function for the owner/investor.
As a rule, every valuable, in addition to being something that is very useful and important, must have the capacity to generate income for the owner, or save money for him, before it can qualify to be called an investment. It is very important to emphasize the second feature of an investment (i.e. an investment as being income-generating). The reason for this claim is that most people consider only the first feature in their judgments on what constitutes an investment. They understand an investment simply as a valuable, even if the valuable is income-devouring. Such a misconception usually has serious long-term financial consequences. Such people often make costly financial mistakes that cost them fortunes in life.
Perhaps, one of the causes of this misconception is that it is acceptable in the academic world. In financial studies in conventional educational institutions and academic publications, investments – otherwise called assets – refer to valuables or properties. This is why business organisations regard all their valuables and properties as their assets, even if they do not generate any income for them. This notion of investment is unacceptable among financially literate people because it is not only incorrect, but also misleading and deceptive. This is why some organisations ignorantly consider their liabilities as their assets. This is also why some people also consider their liabilities as their assets/investments.
It is a pity that many people, especially financially ignorant people, consider valuables that consume their incomes, but do not generate any income for them, as investments. Such people record their income-consuming valuables on the list of their investments. People who do so are financial illiterates. This is why they have no future in their finances. What financially literate people describe as income-consuming valuables are considered as investments by financial illiterates. This shows a difference in perception, reasoning and mindset between financially literate people and financially illiterate and ignorant people. This is why financially literate people have future in their finances while financial illiterates do not.
From the definition above, the first thing you should consider in investing is, “How valuable is what you want to acquire with your money as an investment?” The higher the value, all things being equal, the better the investment (though the higher the cost of the acquisition will likely be). The second factor is, “How much can it generate for you?” If it is a valuable but non income-generating, then it is not (and cannot be) an investment, needless to say that it cannot be income-generating if it is not a valuable. Hence, if you cannot answer both questions in the affirmative, then what you are doing cannot be investing and what you are acquiring cannot be an investment. At best, you may be acquiring a liability.