How top savers meet their financial goals – and how you can do the same.
If you want to build your wealth, making smart investments early on is key. And if you’ve collected some extra cash, and you don’t need to pad your emergency savings account or dig yourself out of debt, it’s an ideal time to try your hand at investing. With that in mind, we asked a handful of financial experts to give their suggestions for investing $1,000, a low sum for a veteran investor but a decent amount for beginners.
But before you start investing, remember, reaching your finance goals takes time. If you think you might need that $1,000 in a few months, adding more money to your rainy day fund is the best thing you can do. And never invest anything you can’t tolerate the thought of possibly losing; after all, investing is a risk. If you have an extra $1,000 to spare, consider placing it into the following categories.
Exchange-traded funds. ETFs have been growing in popularity since they were introduced over 20 years ago. Like stocks, ETFs can be bought or sold on an exchange at any time during the trading day. But similar to a mutual fund, an ETF holds a basket of assets, like tech stocks, or, more broadly, the U.S. stock market.
If you already have a Roth IRA or don’t want to invest in one, put $1,000 “in a few well-diversified, low-cost ETFs,” says Mark McKaig, a partner at Centurion Wealth Management in McLean, Virginia.
There are numerous online brokerages where you could invest $1,000 into an ETF for a relatively low price. For example, you can invest $10 with Charles Schwab. While an investor with deeper pockets may want to invest in mutual funds, ETFs are fairly accessible to a beginning investor.
Mutual funds. Mutual funds are similar to ETFs; they’re both bundles of stocks with subtle differences. For instance, ETFs trade throughout the trading day and mutual funds trade at the end of the day at the net asset value price. The main differentiator: ETFs generally have lower management fees and commissions than mutual funds. Mutual funds (and some ETFs) also often require at least $1,000 to get started and many have a higher minimum. However, some mutual funds can be found for $1,000 or less, like T. Rowe Price and Vanguard.
Another thing to consider if you’re debating between a mutual fund or ETF is whether this $1,000 is a one-time investment or the start of a plan to put money away every month. If you can afford to sock away some money every month toward your retirement, a mutual fund is a good choice (and even better if you’re contributing to an IRA or a 401(k) plan, both of which have tax advantages).
Roth IRA. “My first and strongly encouraged piece of advice to the new investor would be to open a Roth IRA,” McKaig says. “Roth IRAs offer new investors several benefits, chief among them the ability to receive tax-free income later in life,” he adds. “The government does not tax either the contributions or the earnings growth when the funds are withdrawn in retirement. That can result in a pretty significant nest egg after decades of compounding growth.”
Of course, you have to be willing to put money into your Roth IRA every month to get a significant nest egg. But that also applies to many investments. If you want to become rich over time, you generally need to invest far more than $1,000 over the long run, and let compound interest work its magic.
Certificates of deposit. These are among the safest investments because they are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Because the United States is insuring your money, it’s impossible to lose money in a CD. If you put $1,000 into a CD, the only risk you’re taking is that if you need the money, you won’t be able to access it without paying a penalty until the time period is up. For instance, if you invest money in a 1-year CD, you can’t get that $1,000 for another year without paying a penalty that typically includes about six months’ worth of interest.
But since there is virtually no risk, there isn’t much interest. The interest is comparable to higher savings accounts (many of the highest-yielding 1-year CDs currently pay a little over 2 percent). There are even some banks that offer no-penalty CDs, meaning if you need to withdraw the money early, you won’t get hit with a fee. Still, if you’re worried that you might need your money, you may be better off finding a savings account that offers as much interest as possible – since you will be able to withdraw your money without a fee.
Still, it’s easy to debate whether a Roth IRA, a CD, an ETF or a mutual fund is best for your needs. That’s why new investors may also want to seek out a financial advisor. While you might abhor the thought of paying fees for financial advice, the argument for turning to an advisor is that a professional is far more knowledgeable than a novice investing as a beginner, and can help you make far more money than what you spend in commissions or fees. Generally, you’ll pay an annual percentage of your managed assets. Usually, it’s around 1 percent, although some advisors charge less, and some charge as high as 2 percent. If you’re unsure whether a prospective advisor is qualified, you can use FINRA BrokerCheck (brokercheck.finra.org), a search engine that provides information on current and former brokers and brokerage firms registered with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.
But what you do with your money is as important as what you don’t do. When it comes to investing for beginners, one of the most important goals is keeping costs low, diversifying and investing in line with your personal risk tolerance.
You’ll also want to take a look at the expense ratios, or annual expenses, on mutual funds. You’re not only paying for the mutual fund; you pay the cost of operating the mutual fund, which is what the expense ratio measures. It’s typically between 1 and 2 percent for actively managed funds and much lower for index mutual funds.
In any case, whether you’re investing with an advisor or on your own, you’ll want to do your homework. But take your time in making a decision; in the meantime, you can park your $1,000 elsewhere, such as in a safe or an interest-bearing savings account.