Monday, July 14, 2008

So you've been saving your pennies and dimes and have built up a substantial amount of money. What do you do with it? Do not just let it sit in savings, even if it is a high yield Account. Why? Because when you're only earning 3.00%APY and inflation is 4%...well you do the math. Here is my (very non-professional) basic advice.

First off, you want to have an emergency fund which equals approximately 3-6 months of your monthly income. This chunk of money benefits you when you incur large, unexpected costs (and no, I'm not talking about that to-die-for Chloe handbag). This is also your safety net should anything happen to your job. Life is full of unexpected twists and turns and by having an account ready it minimizes the risk that you will turn to credit when in need. I recommend keeping this fund in your high yield account since these account allow easy use and transfer of money when you're in a pinch.

The key to building investments is to use passive income as your goal. Passive income is defined as income which is sustained through little work. Sounds like a dream doesn't it? Well it takes a large chunk of moolah to generate enough passive income to quit your day job and begin your dream of moonlighting as a professional karoke singer. However, you can use the passive income you generate, no matter what the amount, to either a) reinvest or b) use as a monthly supplement to what you are already making. (I say reinvest...oh did you guess that already?)

Learn the Basics
Ok, ok I hear you panicking now. You know nothing about investing? Well, my soon-to-be money savvy friends, that's what a library is for. Stock up on books such as The Lazy Person's Guide to Investing and Boglehead's Guide to Investing both of which come highly recommended and pack in a lot of great information for the investing novice. Learn key facts such as the difference between Small-, Mid-, and Large-cap funds. How do the funds classification correspond with your goals? And also learn when a stock, versus a mutal fund versus a bond is more preferrable (hint: none of them are a perfect choice, but some align more with your objective than others).

Utilize Your Advantages
An important factor to keep in mind is you're young! You have the golden nugget of time on your side and therefore have a greater ability to choose options that may carry more risk. Most trends show that in the short-term stocks come at a very high risk, but hold on to those babies and you can see significant returns. The longer you have to hold onto your investments the more risk you're able to take on since dips and valleys may very well hardly register 5 or 10 years from now.

Stop Being a Sheep (baaa)
There's a reason why the majority of people do not day-trade for a living. People often fall into the trap of buying a stock when it has hit big and selling the minute they see a decline. You can not get rich by following trend, but rather buying quality stocks at bargain prices (my good pal Warren Buffet said that). Buy low then hang in there for the further lows that may follow. You know your risk is fairly less when you invest in stock that isn't "the next big thing" but rather a steady earner throughout time.

Know your Aptitude

It's difficult managing a laod of individual stocks, which is why I would say stick with mutual funds. What are these? Well, a mutual fund pools money from multiple investors to construct a portfolio of stocks, bonds, real estate, or other securities, according to its charter. Each investor in the fund gets a slice of the total pie. So how do you measure a fund's risk? It takes some analysis on your part:

  1. What is the fund's biggest quarterly loss?
  2. Measure the fund's volatility against the S&P 500 ("the mainstream fund" if you will)
  3. Calculate the standard deviation: this will show you how much the fund bounces in its average returns.

Don't Dump a Loser
Ok, dump a loser if we're discussing your love life here. But with funds, any and all will have an off-year. This is why it is important to benchmark against the S&P 500 as well as check to see if it has trailed comparable funds for more than two years. If it hasn't, hang int here. Through benchmarking the rough patches, you can determine if this is an industry- or market-wide occurance or if you have a real stinker on your hands.

Remember the key to building your portfolio is not about getting rich quick but, instead, finding stocks and funds that match your goals and holding onto these guys.


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