Like most people you probably have any of your savings being managed by a financial planner of some sort. Are you getting the returns that you want? If you are, then there is no need to read on, but if not, or if you are just starting out, please read on and I will try to detail why I believe that taking financial planning into your own hands is one of the best things you can do for your future.
There are many reasons why you should take investing into your own hands and out of your financial planners, of course financial planners will tell you there are many reasons why they should be looking after your money. But what it really comes down to, and the main point I want to put forward in this article, is that the only person who really and truly cares about your hard earned money, IS YOU. I think the number one excuse that I hear, for why people don't look after their money themselves is that they don't have time for it. Well, I'm sorry, but this is just that, an excuse. If you can spare 15 to 20 minutes a year, then you have time to do this yourself, and you'll probably get a better return then the majority of planners/fund managers to boot.
Before I go and offend any financial planners that may be reading this, I have to say, that yes, there are some professionals that really do care about your money and put your needs ahead of their own. If you have been luckily enough to find a planner like this, then by all means stick with them. Unfortunately planners of this quality may be harder to come by then you think. I have to ask you this, if you take in a loss, does your planner still get paid? I'm willing to bet in 99% of the cases the answer is yes, they do. So technically, there is no difference to their livelihood whether you bring in a profit or a loss from your investments. Another thing to think about is that a lot of institutions are partnered or affiliated with certain fund companies, what this means, is that the planners have extra incentives to invest their clients money into these funds, that doesn't exactly sound like whats in your best interest, does it?
Are your investments tied up in mutual funds? Most peoples are, so this might surprise you, the majority of Mutual Fund Managers fail to beat the markets index, so what this means is that you are 'most likely' bringing in less money through your mutual funds then the market has performed as a whole. When you invest in mutual funds you are not only paying your financial planner, you are also paying a Management Expense Ratio (MER) on the fund itself, these generally average between 1 and 2% so this means that if the fund gives you a 5% return, you are actually only receiving a 3% return on your investment. Ouch!
Those are just a few of the many reasons why you should consider learning how to invest yourself. Now, before you go rushing into the stock market and putting all your money in a risky investment, you have to know that it takes time to learn how things work, and to research the companies you want to invest in. I do not recommend anyone going into the market without spending the time to learn how it works first. But, with that being said, if you do not have the time to learn to trade individual stocks, then there is an easier way, and it just so happens to be one of the best strategies that I have read (based on its simplicity and how it performs). This method is the Money Sense magazines "Couch Potato Portfolio". The concept behind this method, is to invest in broad market indexes and ETFs, I highly recommend taking the time to read through the couch potato articles which are located here to get the full picture. (I am not affiliated with Money Sense in any way). By sticking to Index Funds and ETFs you are minimizing your costs as well as getting a diversified position across the whole market, so by doing this, you can expect to match the total return of the market. Generally the MERs for Index Funds and ETFs are usually below 0.5%, so compared to your average mutual fund you could be receiving an extra 1.5% to 3.5% to your investments return. The time that this strategy requires is about 15 or 20 minuets a year to re-balance your holdings back to the allotted weightings.
If you want to spend the time to learn how the market works and think you can handle a little bit of extra risk then you are in luck, because I am going to be putting up book reviews for some of the investment books that I have read, I have a whole stack of them that have been read and are waiting for reviews. Before I made my first trade, I spent a lot of time (almost 2 years) researching the market and reading as much as I could about it, now, I don't recommend you taking this much time, and the only reason I spent that much time, was because my financial situation at the time did not allow me the extra money to invest (I was a poor university student). But if you are interested in investing in individual stocks I do recommend you spend some time reading a book or two and signing up for a 'paper' account to make some 'fake' trades to get the hang of how things are done. What is a paper account? well, it is basically like play trading, they'll generally use real market data, but you make trades with fake money. So, the benefit that you get is that you can try out investments while you are learning without actually spending your own money. I think this is an invaluable way to learn, since you play around with your 'system' without the risk of loosing your money in the process, and once you are comfortable with your investing strategy you can bring it to the real market and hopefully make yourself some real money.
If you ask 10 different investors, whats the best way to invest you'll get at least 12 different answers. Everyone has their own opinions based on their past experiences, I personally prefer investing in companies that have a long history of increasing their dividend payouts. I am sure I'll articles up here on Info Barrel about why I think dividends are important so stay tuned in to my future articles. I hope this gives you a bit of an idea of why you should take investing into your own hands.