In the world of personal finance, there’s a long-standing debate that never seems to go away. Should you hire a financial advisor or can you just teach yourself how to invest? Some investing experts are even adamantly against hiring financial advisors and believe that an individual can learn everything they need to know on their own. Meanwhile, others insist on hiring a financial advisor who knows the market better than you do.
There’s also something to be said for knowing a thing or two about investing even if you decide to hire a financial advisor. At the very least, you should know enough on your own to determine whether or not an advisor is a good fit for you and can create a financial plan based on your goals. Fortunately, you no longer have to enroll in a college-level course to learn about investing (though you certainly can if you want to). The Internet has made it much easier for individuals to learn how to invest. It’s not just learning about stocks either – investors can now learn about real estate, dividends, companies and new investment products from the comfort of their homes.
Investing Isn’t Rocket Science
“Investing isn’t rocket science,” says Janet Tyler Johnson, certified financial planner and president of JATAJ Wealth Management. “The keys to long-term investment success are globally diversifying your money, keeping costs low, and rebalancing your accounts as needed. And don’t forget the Golden Rule of investing – if you don’t understand it, don’t invest in it.”
Johnson's advice rings true regardless of whether or not you DIY or hire somebody to manage your wealth for you. In this article, we’re going to lay out some of the ways people can give themselves a crash course in investing. But first, it should be noted that to avoid feeling overwhelmed you should pick an area that interests you and start there. For example, do you want to learn more about real estate investing? Then stick to that and avoid everything else for now.
Sometimes the best way to learn about investing is to learn from people who’ve done it successfully. Thanks to our culture of over-sharing on the internet, several successful investors have taken their secrets online to teach others how to invest for themselves. Some of these blogs include InvestorJunkie.com, FinancialMentor.com, TheCollegeInvestor.com and IWillTeachYouToBeRich.com. Some of these bloggers are advisors and well-known financial experts, others are former hedge fund managers, and even still others are just average joes with a penchant for investing.
What’s particularly great about these blogs is how simple they make everything. Often people are afraid to invest because they may not understand the jargon or believe investing involves complicated mathematical equations that are beyond their scope of comprehension. However, these blogs are written in ways that anyone can understand because their sole purpose is to demystify investing.
In order to find these blogs simply start searching on Google. Note that you may have searched for “financial independence” or “early retirement” blogs since they are very heavy into investing. You can also find databases like the attendee list for The Financial Blogger Conference.
These blogs also often lead to additional resources you can use to further your education. Generally, they mention other bloggers or books they’ve read to help them on their investing journey. This a method that Robert Farrington, investor and founder of TheCollegeInvestor.com recommends to his readers. "I highly suggest reading blogs and websites geared towards beginning investors," Farrington says. "There are a lot of amazing free resources out there for individuals looking to learn how to invest. For example, we have our free Learn How To Invest video training course, that goes through the basics of how to get started investing."
Farrington adds that many of the major investment firms also have free educational resources consumers can access at any time.
Before the rise of the internet, people had to learn stuff by reading books. Fortunately, there is no shortage of books about investing. The problem is deciding which investing books are worth your time.
In the case of books, it would be wise not to try to reinvent the wheel. If you know a book is excellent for investing, then pick it up and start reading. For example, if Warren Buffet says to read “The Intelligent Investor” by Benjamin Graham then you’d better find it and start reading. Admittedly, some of the older books on the topic of investing are very dry. In this case, it may be helpful to get the audio version.
Another way to find solid books about investing is to look for unbiased information. That's exactly what Johnson tells some of her wealth management clients to do when they are learning about investing in the marketplace. When asked about one of her recommendations for a book about personal finance and investing, she immediately mentioned a book written by a financial journalist because of the author's ability to just state the facts.
An increasingly good way to learn about investing is to listen to podcasts. It’s no secret that podcasts are very popular. In 2013, Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) announced that podcasts had surpassed 1 billion downloads in the iTunes store. The popularity has continued to grow since then, and it's paved the way for a rapidly growing educational resource: financial podcasts.
Unfortunately, you can’t use iTunes to find the best finance podcasts – especially when it comes to investing. Their ranking isn’t great, and some of their top-rated investing podcasts haven’t published an episode in decades. In this case, you’re far better off searching on Google and starting your search from there. Some investing podcasts of note are Radical Personal Finance, BiggerPockets and Good Financial Cents. Podcasts are especially great for audio learners or individuals who learn best by hearing the experiences of others. Their portability also makes them very accessible – listen to them on your commute, while you cook or while you clean.
The Bottom Line
You may have noticed a common thread in these suggestions – they are all either free or very low-cost. In the age of the Internet, there is no need to spend thousands to learn how to invest. If you so choose to step up your game by taking a class or hiring an advisor down the road, you certainly can, but know that you can learn a lot for free.