More and more people who take the America Saves pledge are choosing investment savings as their goal. Making investments can build wealth over time more reliably than using a savings account, but it also involves risk. So, it’s important to educate yourself. Here are some resources to help.
Before You Invest
Before you start comparing investment options, learning about some basics like asset allocation, diversification, and risk tolerance will help you decide which to choose. Check out the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) time-tested rules and the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) guiding principles. This glossary is useful, too.
According to the SEC, stocks, bonds, and mutual funds are the most common types of investments. Other options include annuities, exchange-traded funds, money market funds, and U.S. Treasury securities. The SEC provides details about various investments. FINRA, an independent organization that also regulates the securities industry, provides a helpful overview of different types of investments.
Making Your Investment
After learning some basics, it’s time to decide how you want to invest your money. The SEC can help you decide whether to invest on your own, or hire a broker or adviser. If you decide to use a professional, you should make sure that your broker or adviser is a fiduciary, which means they owe you legal duties to serve your best interest. Not all financial professionals are legally required to be a fiduciary. If the financial professional you work with is not already legally required to be a fiduciary, make sure they sign this fiduciary oath, agreeing to act as a fiduciary under the law. You can find fiduciary financial professionals at CFP Board, Financial Planning Association, and National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA). FINRA and NAPFA offer step-by-step guides for evaluating financial professionals.
Protecting Yourself from Investment Pitfalls
To get the most out of the money you invest, it’s important to understand the fees. The more you pay in fees, the lower the return on your investment. Find out what you need to know from the SEC.
Unfortunately, investment fraud like Ponzi schemes and advance fee scams are a fact of life. You may stumble across some fraudulent investment offers as you research your options. Make sure you know how to avoid losing your hard-earned money to fraud by following the advice of the BBB, FINRA, and the SEC.