The development of technology has increasingly paved the way for ordinary people to global financial markets. But easy access for individual investors to international markets comes with the need to be educated about them and to understand the risks they take.
1. Do your homework
Once you have decided on which platform you want to invest, you have to do your homework. Investing means more than choosing a few random shares, with the hope that everything will go well on its own. A familiar example would be that when you buy a house you do not choose one at random from advertisements, but you will go to visit it. And to determine if it has a fair price, you look at the neighborhood, the real estate market in general and then you make a decision.
Similarly, before you start investing in stocks or any other asset class, you need to research the market to understand what you are investing in. Read about each asset and invest only when you feel comfortable that you can make a well-informed decision.
Thanks to the internet, nowadays it is easy to access information about listed companies. You can see what their income and history are, you can read their news and recommendations for investors. Sector or market information or even political news is also important – for example, we can now see how airlines, even the best performing ones, are affected by Covid-19 travel restrictions or how incentive packages economically affects markets. Being up to date with things that happen in the media helps you better understand the evolutions of stocks and trends in the markets.
2. Define your financial goals
Before you invest your money, you need to have a clear idea of what you want to achieve and how you will do it. You need to understand your personal goals as an investor. Do you plan to invest in the long term (10 years for example) or in the short term? What types of investments will help you achieve your goals? What are you ready to risk?
Investors should be encouraged to define an investment strategy that suits their needs, including their risk attitude. To mitigate risk, they should diversify their portfolio, adopt a long-term attitude and invest only in financial instruments with which they are familiar and for which they understand the risks they take.
3. Invest the money you don’t need in the next five years
Risk appetite should always be linked to investment objectives. Evaluate your current financial situation to understand if you can take the risk and always invest with money you will not need in the next five years. Never invest more than you can afford to lose!
You need to have a long enough time horizon for the investments you make to avoid market fluctuations. If you have an amount at your disposal, but you know that you will need this capital in the next 12 months, then the recommendation is to invest in a less volatile asset class, such as bonds.
Over time, stock markets have provided excellent returns to long-term investors. For example, since the establishment of the S&P 500 index (stock index composed of the top 500 American companies) in 1926, it has increased by an average of 10% annually. This is a much higher return than those generated by other assets, such as government bonds. You can also start investing in shares with a relatively small amount of money using a commission-free platform, as commissions can affect your profit margins.
One of the factors that discourages people from investing online is cost. The idea is still widespread that you need a lot of money to start investing. Moreover, equity investments are often perceived as an extremely complex process, involving technical knowledge and attracting expensive commissions. This is no longer the case. A number of online investment platforms, conduct transactions with shares without commissions, as well as fractional shares – you can actually buy a part of a share, a percentage of it, expressed in dollars. This offers the opportunity to invest $ 50 in high-value stocks, such as those of Amazon (which trades at about $ 3,000 per share), Tesla (over $ 700) or Alphabet (Google) – whose shares would cost about $ 2,000 a piece.
4. Practice before you start investing
Start with small amounts of money or practice with a virtual demo account, while learning the markets and defining your strategy.
Demo accounts of several online platforms allow you to practice without risk. Every user who registers receives access to a demo account, credited with virtual money, so that they can practice their strategies, learning to work with the platform before investing with real money.
5. Diversify your portfolio
Diversification is a risk management strategy and the proverb “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” explains the concept very well. In other words, invest in different assets or market shares to limit your exposure to a certain class of assets or financial instruments.
The purpose of diversification is not to achieve very high returns, but to manage risks. Think about what it would have been like if you had invested all your savings in the shares of an airline company just before the pandemic, which made travel difficult. You don’t want to be completely dependent on the performance of a single company or a single sector, maybe even the economy of a single country or continent.