This economic crisis better end soon so you can stop worrying about issues you couldn't care less about. All this talk about money and financing has put you on the defensive: You're being chastised for not saving enough; you're being blamed for not monitoring your 401(k) plan; and now everybody expects you to actually know what to do when the stock market goes back up! Well, the good news is you don't have to be a financial guru to invest successfully. (To learn more, check out our tutorial: Investing 101.)
Finding the Time
Dealing with money may not be a natural talent for most people. The average individual's financial situation has become increasingly complex. Managing the basic necessities of food, housing (including utilities) and clothing costs is just the beginning. Most people also have student loans, auto loans, insurance, credit cards and taxes to worry about. And they don't even realize the interrelationships of all these different elements. You can't possibly be expected to build and manage your own investment portfolio on top of all of that. (Learn more in Measure Your Portfolio's Performance.)
Americans feel forced to become frugal, bargain savvy experts when it comes to personal finance. The truth is you're good at whatever it is you do, not what banks and creditors and brokerage companies expect you to be good at. You're too busy living your life to sit around analyzing your finances. You don't have to. There are painless ways to build and maintain an investment nest egg.
What if you avoid investing because you think it takes too much time? It doesn't, you can do it online in just minutes. If you think you have to do a bunch of calculations, there are tools to do it for you. If you believe you have to learn a whole new "finance language", you don't. Easy to understand websites like Investopedia translate finance lingo into every day English.
Tips on Getting Started
If you're afraid you'll make a mistake, follow the simplified advice of experts like David Bach, author of "The Automatic Millionaire". Bach teaches easy steps to invest, reinvest, and monitor your investments with little effort. Here are a few basics:
- Start a savings account. Some banks let you do it online, and it takes five minutes. (Find out what you need and how to get it with these tools and investing techniques, read Fundamentals Of A Successful Savings Program.)
- Have your employer directly deposit your paycheck into your checking account with a small amount directly deposited into savings. You just created an emergency fund that will grow over time.
- Enroll in your company's retirement plan. Regardless of what you've heard about the plight of those plans they are still the best chance for building a retirement fund for those who don't enjoy investing. Don't waste time trying to figure out the forms, just call your benefits coordinator and have them walk you through it.
- If your company doesn't have a retirement plan, start your own retirement account. Again, you can do this online. Check out www.fidelity.com , click on retirement and look for IRAs. It takes 10 minutes.
- Select the lifestyle funds. The lifestyle funds allow financial experts to select and manage investments for your benefit based on your estimated date of retirement. You don't have to scrutinize each and every investment and evaluate its impact on your portfolio. It's done for you. If you've heard about lifestyle funds in the news lately, you can best believe they are under close scrutiny and regulators are watching them for you.
- Defer the maximum amount allowable into your retirement plan. Most plans list the maximum annual amount right there on the enrollment form, but if not, call your benefits counselor. For online accounts, most websites have easy tools that allow you to select the amount to invest each pay period based on the annual maximum. Once you've set it up, that amount will be automatically deposited and invested for you. (Learn more by reading Ten Tips For Financial Security.)
Part of freedom in America includes managing your own finances. It's not about setting things up once and forgetting. It's about simple ways to ensure your financial success without all the stress.