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An Introduction To Investing

An introduction to investing

We’ve mentioned in previous posts the increases in the cost of practically everything and the fact that wages aren’t keeping up with these increased costs. We’ve also talked about financial independence or at least living life on your terms previously and one of the quickest ways to financial independence is through investing.

Investing can take on many forms, it can be through the ownership of your place of residence, it can be through a business that you own, through shares, investment properties or crypto investments. It could even be with your stamp, coin or sports card collection.

The key to investing (or at least to fund your financial independence) is investing in quality investments that will (eventually) allow you to fund your lifestyle. Now the earlier you enter your investment journey the less time it will take to build up sufficient investment income to replace that of your current job however the earlier you start the sooner you can look forward to handing in your resignation and living life on your terms.

Below is an introduction to investing and the different types of investments you can use to build your personal portfolio to fast track your path to financial independence.

When you should look at investing

Now or as soon as possible. For those with a current 401K, pension or superannuation account, you should be actively investing now. Warren Buffet has called compound interest ‘an investors best friend’ while Albert Einstein has called compound interest the 8th wonder of the world.

So the sooner you start investing, the sooner you can start reaping the benefits of compound interest. For a more detailed explanation of compound interest, read this.

When looking at investing your surplus income, once you have reached your savings levels or emergency funds levels (anywhere from 3 month to 12 months worth of your lifestyle expenses) you’ll want to do your research about the types of investments that you would feel comfortable investing in, the amount of money that you could afford to lose and the type of performance or rate of return that you are realistically looking for with your investment. 

For those of you with limited spare cash an option to build your investments is to use ‘sweat equity’ to build your own business. This article will focus on investing your savings or surplus cash into an investment.

Types of investments

Investing covers a wide range of sectors and a large range of investments, for this articles we’ll focus on the major investment categories.

CASH

Unless you live in a country that is politically unstable and highly volatile cash is pretty risk free as an asset. Now 2008 was probably the riskiest a bank account has been in recent times however most Western government implemented guarantees for bank accounts up to a certain cash amount.

Inflationary environments are a killer to cash (particularly if your bank account pays no interest) with the value of $10,000 cash eroding by $500 in an environment where the inflation rate is nearly 9%

In the money printing times that we live in, bank account interest was like an endangered species however as interest rates rise this is being reflected in savings account interest offerings. Cash (in nearly all cases in a western economy) will offer a lower return to other investments long term however it is usually a risk free investment and it’s liquid.  

As I’ve mentioned previously I like to have enough liquid cash available for at least 12 months living expenses (3 months living expenses was my first major savings target) however that will be a different target for others.

Always have some cash on hand (kept in a safe place) if possible.

FIXED INTEREST

The next step up in terms of risk is usually fixed interest investments such as treasuries, bonds, term deposits. You can also invest in managed funds and ETF’s that invest in various fixed interest investments.

While most Fixed interest investments can be considered fairly safe investments, there can be a wide investment risk  profile spectrum within fixed interest investments. For example US treasuries are usually seen as the safest investments and the income that a US treasury bond will be a lot less (and the investment a lot safer) than a high yield bond from a listed tech company that hasn’t made a profit. Yes the yield is better but what happens if the company goes bust and can’t repay their debts? Not all fixed interest investments are similar, some can be quite risky!

If you are looking to invest in bonds do your research regarding the company or organisation issuing the fixed interest instrument and if you are chasing yield by investing in high yield or “junk” bonds be prepared to lose some (or all) of your capital if the company goes bust.

PROPERTY

Property is usually the first step in their investment journey for most people, usually through the family home.

Real estate investments are either in residential, office or industrial and are usually made either directly, via a syndicate or through an investment vehicle such as a managed fund/ETF, REIT ((Real Estate Investment Trust) or Listed Investment Company (LIC). 

In most cases (providing you aren’t taking on too much debt) investing in real estate is a safe investment. There have been times (such as in 2008) where the property market has underperformed however if you do your research and don’t take on took much debt or risk,

Individual (house or commercial property) or via a syndicate, through a managed fund, ETF or REIT.

EQUITIES

Listed stocks or shares (aside from the family home) are probably the most popular style of investing. Share trading popularity has exploded since the COVID-19 lockdowns with a lot of people attracted to the smaller amounts that you can invest into markets.

Traditionally share investing was done through a stock broker and a broking account however with the rise of the internet and technology improvements trading apps have enable people to make micro investments in their favourite listed companies.

Other types of share investments include Over The Counter (OTC) shares which is investing in shares that aren’t listed on a centralized exchange, rather they are traded via a broker-dealer network. Usually these companies are smaller companies

(usually penny stocks) and come with investment risks if you aren’t familiar with the company. Prices can fluctuate and they can also be manipulated. 

Other share investing can be done through unlisted companies though the major way most people invest in markets is through      mutual or managed funds/ETF’s and usually through their 401K, pension or superannuation fund. This style of invest in shares allows for diversification. Investing in shares can be quite lucrative (particularly with regular investing) however do your research on the individual company you are looking to invest in or the managed fund/ETF that you are looking to invest in. While investing in listed securities on the larger stock exchanges worldwide is usually safe and profitable (at least when investing for the longer term) share prices can fluctuate and companies can (and do) go bust, so manage your investment regularly and don’t invest funds you can’t afford to lose.

ALTERNATIVES

Alternative investments cover a wide range of investments, investments that usually take on more risk than your more traditional property or equity investments. As a result these should only form a small part of your portfolio (at least until your experience grows). Types of alternative investments include:

Derivatives (including) Options, Warrants, Contracts for Difference (CFD) and Credit Default Swap (CDS)

When looking at these types of investments take care and do your research. Ideally you would have a decent investment background before dipping your toes into this style of investments. These can be very risky so do your research.         

Currency

A massive sector that you can invest in via individual currencies, managed funds/ETF’s or through currency indices. 

Commodities

A large sector that you can invest in directly through an individual company such as a mining company or you can invest in a managed fund/ETF or purchasing a commodity directly.

Infrastructure

Examples of infrastructure investments include airports, toll roads, mobile phone towers. Plenty of managed fund/ETF options in this sector.

Agriculture

As the worlds population grows there is less land for agriculture and food becomes more scarce. There are plenty of options to invest in agriculture via individual companies or via managed funds or ETF’s.

Water

A growing investment class. Similar to agriculture, as the world’s population grows, less and less clean water is available with large investment companies buying up water rights to profit.   Not as big an investment class as agriculture, there are still many options to invest in the water sector.

Cryptocurrency & Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT’s)

A new investment class that has appeared over the last decade or so. Highly volatile and quite risky, invest with caution and do your homework.

Collectables

This area can range from vintage coins, sports cards to valuable pieces of art. Do your homework if looking to invest in this area. 

Know your attitude to investment risk

All investments have a form of risk attached, the trick is to balance your risk with how much money you are prepared or can afford to lose.

Also do your homework when looking at any potential investment. If an investment is offering a significantly higher rate of return than is typical for that type investment/fund then in most cases it’s probably very risk or even fraudulent. For example if a bond is providing a coupon rate that is several percent higher than a typical bond, this may not be the most stable investment you could make. Remember the saying if something is too good to be true, it usually is.

Ideally you’ll want to focus on high quality investments and will want to diversify your investments, particularly as your net wealth grows. If you aren’t too excited about getting intricate with investment research then you can look to find an investment adviser to help you navigate your investment journey. Do your research on finding a suitable adviser.

The ice hockey great Wayne Gretzky passed on some wisdom he learnt from his father, skate to where the puck is going to be. Use this philosophy with your investing. Just because a company or sector was great for the last few years doesn’t mean it will be in the next 5 or 10 years. Also some of the great performing companies in 10 years or so may only be in their early stages or may not have been created yet. Always remember when investing, do your research, never risk more than you can afford to lose and invest regularly!