Investing refers to putting your money into a financial asset or scheme with the aim of earning a profit. Investing your money is one of the most critical steps for achieving financial freedom. When you invest, you give your money the potential to grow, beat inflation, and offer you financial security. Without the right investments, your money is likely to sit as it is and not increase in value.
While you may hear a lot about investing and its importance, you may still be unclear about how to invest. Everyone’s investing style can differ. Your particular investing approach can depend on your risk appetite, investment budget, income, future goals, and more. Therefore, following a generalized investment strategy or mimicking those around you is never advised. Irrespective of how your peers are faring in their investment style, it is vital to understand your unique needs and goals and then make an investment decision in financial management that can serve your requirements. You can reach out to a professional financial advisor who can help you pick the right investments based on your risk tolerance, goals, investment budget, etc., and also help design an effective investment strategy for you.
The vast volume of information and never-ending advice from friends and family can sometimes be overwhelming. It can also be hard to distinguish right from wrong. However, paying attention to some critical aspects can help. Here are some vital factors to consider before investing to ensure that you get what you are looking for.
Six factors to consider when making investment decisions
1. Understand the reason for your investment:
Your needs for investing are distinct and can help you choose the right investment vehicle. Understanding your goals is the first step in your financial journey. As long as you know what you are looking for, you can create a suitable roadmap and follow it until you meet your goals. To do this, you can jot down your present needs and future goals. For instance, if you are planning to have children soon, you may want to prepare for their added expenditures like food, clothing, healthcare, etc.
Additionally, you would also have to plan for their education, including higher education like college. This can further help you pick the best things to invest in for your needs. Insurance is a must to secure their healthcare. A 529 education savings account can be helpful to offer them a good college education without the need to take on student loans. You may have to save more to cover their daily expenses, too. This can also be done by earning more through a side hustle, promotion, change of job, etc. The reason for investment does not always have to be long-term, such as in the case of having children. You may also have short-term goals, such as travel, buying a car, etc. No matter your goals, jotting them now can help you streamline your thoughts and put a strategy in place.
2. Evaluate your risk:
Risk is one of the most critical factors to consider when making investment decisions. Every financial asset has some amount of risk or degree of uncertainty in investment. A high risk denotes a higher chance of losing money, and a lower risk reflects a lower chance of losing money. Risk is also directly proportional to return. So, a high-risk instrument is likely to generate higher returns than a low-risk instrument. However, this is a simplistic definition. For example, stock market returns can vary based on a number of things, and the risk element may not always be the sole determinant of returns. Having said this, risk is still very important in investing.
Just like every investment has a risk level, so does every investor. Your risk appetite will help you decide where you can put your money. Your risk appetite also depends on factors such as your income, job security, dependent family members, etc. Understanding these factors and how they affect your risk can be instrumental in helping you comprehend how to invest money.
3. Diversify your investment portfolio:
The investment portfolio is a mix of different investments, such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, 401ks, etc. You can create a portfolio as per your risk appetite and future goals. However, irrespective of what you select, it is essential to diversify. Diversification refers to spreading your money across different types of investments to lower risk. For instance, you can invest in various asset classes, such as equity, bonds, and cash, to not concentrate all your money in one class. You can also diversify within an asset class. For example, if you are investing in equity, try picking stocks from various sectors like technology, consumer staples, healthcare, etc. This way, if one industry takes a hit, the others can offer some cushion.
There are several ways to diversify your investments. You can diversify on the basis of geography, sectors, industries, asset classes, market capitalization, and more. However, when picking out investments, make sure to understand their pros and cons and choose options that align with your needs and goals.
4. Know the taxes and costs involved:
The cost of investment is an essential factor to consider before investing. The lower the costs, the maximized the returns. Ideally, the cost of investment should not overpower the return. Therefore, before you select anything, check the associated expenses. There can be the following types of costs when you invest your money:
- Administration/ transaction/ processing fee/ expense ratio/ exit load, etc.: You may have to pay some fee when you invest your money. These are primarily used to cover administration costs, transaction fees, etc. For instance, mutual funds charge an expense ratio to manage your investments. Active mutual funds may have higher expense ratios than passive ones. Likewise, an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) may charge an opening or an account maintenance fee. It is essential to pay attention to these costs and pick the option with the lowest charges.
- Taxes: Your profits are taxed as long and short-term capital gains. Some investment returns are also taxed as ordinary income. For example, investments held for less than a year are taxed as short-term capital gains in the U.S. These are added to your income and taxed according to your tax slab for the year.
On the other hand, long-term capital gains are taxed as per the following tax slabs as of 2022:
|Tax filing status||0%||15%||20%|
|Single||Up to $41,675||$41,676 to $459,750||More than $459,750|
|Head of household||Up to $55,800||$55,801 to $488,500||More than $488,500|
|Married filing jointly||Up to $83,350||$83,351 to $517,200||More than $517,200|
|Married filing separately||Up to $41,675||$41,676 to $258,600||More than $258,600|
Understanding the tax implications on your investments can help you select the best option and also plan their redemption. For instance, long-term capital gains tax may be lower compared to short-term capital gains tax. The highest tax slab for long-term investments is 20%. However, if you are taxed as ordinary income, you may pay as high as 37% tax.
Here are the tax slabs as of 2022:
|Tax filing status||10%||12%||22%||24%||32%||35%||37%|
|Single||Up to $10,275||$10,276 to $41,775||$41,776 to $89,075||$89,076 to $170,050||$170,051 to $215,950||$215,951 to $539,900||More than $539,900|
|Head of household||Up to $14,650||$14,651 to $55,900||$55,901 to $89,050||$89,051 to $170,050||$170,051 to $215,950||$215,951 to $539,900||More than $539,900|
|Married filing jointly||Up to $20,550||$20,551 to $83,550||$83,551 to $178,150||$178,151 to $340,100||$340,101 to $431,900||$431,901 to $647,850||More than $647,850|
|Married filing separately||Up to $10,275||$10,276 to $41,775||$41,776 to $89,075||$89,076 to $170,050||$170,051 to $215,950||$215,951 to $323,925||More than $323,925|
Likewise, tax is also critical when choosing between a Roth and a traditional IRA or 401k. The Roth variant is not taxed in retirement, whereas the traditional variant is. The final choice can be made on the basis of your needs and when you wish to pay tax – right now or in retirement.
- Financial advisor fees: If you hire a financial advisor, you will also pay a commission or fee to the professional. However, this can depend on the type of advisor you choose. Financial advisors use different pricing models like fee-based, commission-based, etc. They may charge you on an hourly basis or a commission basis for each product. It is essential to understand these costs. It is also important to know that not all fees are bad. Hiring a financial advisor may help you earn more in the long run as you would have professional guidance.
5. Pick smart investments:
With an assortment of investments available in the market, it is crucial to be smart when curating a portfolio. For instance, taking advantage of your company-sponsored 401k account can be a great way to maximize your profits. You can double up your investment fund if your employer contributes to your plan. Moreover, this can be like free money. While not all companies match their employee contributions, many do. So, try to make the most of this option if you can. As of 2022, the 401(k) contribution limit is $20,500 per annum. People aged 50 or more also have a catch-up contribution limit of $6,500. The limit for employer and employee contributions is $61,000 and $67,500 with catch-up contributions. Contributing up to these limits can considerably boost your investment fund and help you plan your long-term needs. A lot of people feel traditional options do not work, and only new-age options or extremely high-risk options such as cryptocurrency can help you accumulate good money. However, being wise and understanding the true potential of a product can be more helpful in wealth creation.
6. Understand your liquidity needs:
Elaborating on the topic of 401ks, it is essential to focus on every aspect of an investment product. So, while a 401k is an excellent investment option, it may lack on one front, i.e., liquidity. Accounts like the IRA and 401k have certain restrictions with respect to withdrawals. You can only withdraw your funds after the age of 59.5 years. Any unqualified withdrawal before this age can lead to a 10% penalty. This makes these accounts highly inaccessible. Therefore, one crucial investment decision in financial management is to include investments that are highly liquid. Easy accessibility to your money without any penalties or taxes can help you cater to financial emergencies. They also help you cover your short-term goals and day-to-day needs. For instance, you can invest in liquid funds. These are highly liquid and, at the same time, offer market-linked growth on your money. So, your money does not sit idle and is also readily available in your hour of need. Liquidity is particularly essential in times of financial emergencies. For instance, if you have a health crisis or lose your job, you can liquidate some of your investments to help you get by. It is recommended to keep at least six to eight months of your income in liquid accounts that can be accessed quickly.
There are several factors to consider when making investment decisions. Due to market volatility, you can lose your money if you enter it blindfolded. So, be as careful as you can. Having said this, you do not have to be scared when investing your money. You can ride out most risks if you understand your goals and risk appetite and have a diversified portfolio. You can also concentrate on lowering debt, keeping a long-term investment approach, and increasing your savings over time.
For additional information on how you can further enhance your investment returns for long-term financial benefits, visit Dash Investments or email me directly at email@example.com.