In The United States, a survey from online Bankrate found that 52% of Americans are not invested in the stock market, including in their retirement accounts.
Not investing is one of the biggest mistakes you can make if you want a wealthy retirement.
Some people probably have great excuses. Maybe they lost a job, or they don’t trust Wall Street. Maybe, money is tight. Or it’s just “too hard” to get started.
These excuses are all based on FEAR.
When it comes to investing, fear prevents most people from starting. Whether it’s fear of losing money or fear stemming from ignorance.
It’s common investor behavior to freeze in the face of fear. A tiny part of your brain called the amygdala kicks in whenever there’s a perceived threat.
The amygdala makes us want to avoid risk.
Money represents a sense of security.
We need money in order to obtain what we need to survive.
Any threat of losing money can trigger the amygdala to kick in full force.
But that fear is dangerous to your investments.
The “safest” thing for your amygdala is to follow the crowd, to stay out of the market until you hear that everyone is buying in, normally at the top.
For example, on September 29, 2008, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell nearly 7% in one day, investors left the market in droves.
By the end of 2008, trillions of dollars were pulled from the stock market.
Within a few months, a new bull market began.
But those who sold at the bottom, and were too afraid to get back in, robbed themselves of an incredible opportunity to make money.
In March 2009, the Dow has risen more than 163%.
Few months ago, I challenged a friend of mine to start investing.
She told me that the hardest part of getting started was finding where to open a brokerage account.
She told me: I approached the assignment like I would with any other research. I went through many different trading websites, only to find myself overwhelmed with forms and instructions.
For example, just trying to figure out how to fund my account was awful. I don’t live too close to a branch of my bank, so the process of setting up a wire transfer seemed tedious and time-consuming.
Worse, I only had a small amount to invest and many brokerages required minimum balances beyond my means.
After a few months of research, she opened her first brokerage account and started investing. And a lot of her initial fears are gone.
To help you get started, here are three simple things to know when looking for a brokerage account:
Figure out what the fees are for completing a trade.
Some places charge fees for fractional share transactions as well, which can affect your budget.
Make sure you know exactly how much each trade will cost before you start so you won’t get any surprises.
Some brokerages, like Fidelity, Schwab, TD Ameritrade, and Vanguard, offer commission-free funds.
2. Minimum balance
Some brokerages require a minimum account balance.
For example, Interactive Brokers has a minimum balance requirement of $2,000 and you need to spend at least $10 per month in commissions. On the other hand, TD Ameritrade offers a $0 minimum balance and you don’t need to spend a certain amount on commissions each month.
So, if you have a small portfolio or you don’t plan on trading often, this might be a better option for you.
Every brokerage will provide a form for tax time, but make sure you read the fine print. See if you are required to go online and request the form or if it will be automatically mailed to you.
Make sure you understand how it works and you’ll save yourself a headache.
If you still aren’t sure about taking that first step, remember that the most important step is the first one, getting started.
And if you know you should be investing but hasn’t started yet, kick the fear and get going on the road to building wealth today.