Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Why you aren't investing

Inspired by this recent Get Rich Slowly entry, I wanted to talk about all the reasons I hear from friends and family about why they don’t invest. People miss out on incredible opportunities to grow their money, and are so often left scrambling later in life to save enough money for retirement. I hope that this list will help people feel a bit less intimidated, and a bit more motivated to get started.

“Investing is just gambling”

I really don’t like this statement, primarily because of the word “just.” With this statement you are saying investing in the market is no better than blackjack or the slot machine. The truth is is not so simple. Investing CAN be similar to gambling, if you pick stocks based on “gut feeling” or a “hot tip.” But if you follow a well-studied investment strategy, like investing in broadly diversified index funds, the risk is far less than gambling. In fact, gambling (at least in a casino) is guaranteed to be a losing game in the long run, whereas index investing historically is a net positive over time. Check out this Vanguard study of index-based investment over time.

“I’ll invest when I have more money”

A lot of people put off investing until they feel like they have enough money. But ask yourself: how many times did you go out to dinner last month? Or go out for beers? Or drink a latte? Well, if these are greater than zero, you have some spare money to invest. 

Vanguard index funds let you contribute ANY dollar amount per month once you get past the minimum. Their target retirement funds only require $1000 to start (if that's too much you can buy shares of the Total Stock Market ETF for about $100, but I recommend the mutual fund). If you get this fund started and contribute even $10-$20 at the start of the month, you will be surprised to find out that you DO have enough money to invest.

“Investing is for the rich”

Do you really think only the rich deserve to see their money grow and have a comfortable retirement?

“Investing is too complicated”

I really empathize with this statement. We are constantly bombarded with TONS of financial noise. We hear about people making a fortune betting on random stocks. We hear about all the types of investment accounts and stock brokers and financial products, not to mention stock “picks” from relatives and friends. It makes us feel that unless we are smart enough to “beat the market” then we shouldn’t even try! It all seems so complicated. But the it doesn’t have to be. It really IS easy to get started using the index fund approach. 

The Bogleheads wiki pages are a great place to get started!

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