Personal Finance Mar 23, 2024 12:37 PM EDT

Experts Reveal the Easiest Path to Becoming an Investor 

By April Fowell

It might appear like investing is too hard, and this complexity could prevent Americans from taking any action. However, investing doesn't have to be difficult, especially when done wisely. In reality, financial experts say it may be rather simple to get started.

Experts Reveal the Easiest Path to Becoming an Investor 
It might appear like investing is too hard, and this complexity could prevent Americans from taking any action.
(Photo : by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Investing is considered by many to be essential for increasing savings and guaranteeing retirement income. Due to a larger time horizon for interest and investment returns to compound, investors who start early in their careers gain.

Individuals may have different long-term objectives, but as a general guideline, Fidelity Investments suggests saving around one multiplied by your salary by the age of 30, three multiplied by your salary by the age of 40, and ten multiplied by your salary by the age of 67. 

Target-Date Funds: A Good Start in Investing

Financial experts claim that target-date funds, or TDFs, are the easiest way to start investing for the long run.

TDFs are age-based. Investors select a fund according to the year they want to retire. For instance, a 25-year-old who plans to retire in about 40 years may choose a 2065 fund.

The majority of the labor-intensive tasks for investors are handled by these mutual funds, including rebalancing, diversifying over a wide range of stocks and bonds, and determining a reasonably acceptable degree of risk

As investors get older, asset managers automatically reduce risk by increasing exposure to bonds and cash and decreasing the percentage of equities in the TDF.

According to Lee Baker, the founder of Apex Financial Services in Atlanta and a certified financial planner, TDFs are a suitable place for "do nothing" investors looking for a hands-off strategy to start. Just the TDF provider, the goal year, and the investment amount need to be selected by investors

Picking a TDF with underlying index funds is advised by Benz. In contrast to actively managed funds, which seek to mirror broad stock and bond market returns, index funds, sometimes referred to as passive funds, are typically less expensive and likely to perform better over the long run than their actively managed counterparts.

Additionally, Benz suggests that investors look for funds from the largest TDF providers, such as Fidelity, Vanguard Group, Charles Schwab, BlackRock, or T. Rowe Price.  There are other easy choices available for investors who choose to be a little more involved than TDF investors, according to experts.

According to Baker, some could choose a target-allocation fund, for instance. Similar to TDFs, these funds use asset managers to diversify their holdings between stocks and bonds based on a predetermined asset allocation, such as 60% equities and 40% bonds.

However, unlike TDFs, this allocation is set, so investors could ultimately need to review their selection. According to Baker, individuals might start by completing an online risk profile assessment to ascertain which fund would be a suitable place to start.

According to McClanahan, a member of CNBC's Advisor Council, young, long-term investors should typically make sure their fund, whether TDF or not, has a high allocation to equities, about 90% or more.

According to Benz, retirement investors under the age of 50 would probably do well with a portfolio that is mostly skewed toward equities and has some cash reserves set away for unforeseen circumstances like job loss or health problems.

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Short-Term Safer Investments

McClanahan cautions investors who are saving for a short- or intermediate-term necessity, such as a home or automobile, would probably be better off allocating their funds to safer investments like money market accounts or certificates of deposit.

Long-term investors can save most easily through employer retirement plans, such as a 401(k) plan. McClanahan advised those who had an employer match to try to invest as much as possible to receive the full match.

According to McClanahan, investors without access to a 401(k)-style plan can save in an individual retirement account, which is a different kind of tax-preferred retirement account, and set up automatic deposits.

According to experts, investors in TDFs who save in taxable brokerage accounts can get an unexpected tax payment. Due to their frequent rebalancing, target date funds (TDFs) may contain transactions that, if they aren't kept in a tax-advantaged retirement account, result in capital gains taxes.

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