A:

There are only two ways to make money in our modern world:  by working, for yourself or someone else, and/or by having your assets work for you. If you keep your life savings in your back pocket or under a mattress, instead of investing, the money doesn't work for you and you'll never have more than what you save or receive through inheritance. Conversely, investors generate money by earning interest on what they set aside or by buying assets that increase in value.

It doesn't matter how you do it. Whether you invest in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, optionsfutures, precious metals, real estate, a small business or a combination of assets, the objective is the same: to make investments that generate additional cash. As the old expression goes, "Money isn't everything but happiness alone can't keep out the rain." So, whether your goal is to send your kids to college or to retire on a yacht in the Mediterranean, investing is essential in getting where you want to go in life.

Managing Investment Goals

Investment goals diverge, depending on age, income and outlook.  You can further sub-divide age into three categories, young and starting out, middle aged and family building, old and self-directed. These segments often miss their marks at the appropriate age, with middle-aged folks considering investments for the first time or the elderly forced to budget, employing the discipline they lacked as young adults.

Income provides as the natural starting point for investment planning because you can’t invest what you don’t have. The first career job issues a wake-up call for many young adults, forcing decisions about IRA contributions, savings or money market accounts, and the sacrifices needed to balance growing affluence with the desire for gratification. Don't worry too much about setbacks during this period, like getting overwhelmed by student loans and car payments, or forgetting that your parents no longer pay the monthly credit card bill.

Outlook defines the playing field on which we operate during our lifetimes and the choices that impact wealth management.  Family planning sits at the top of this list for many individuals, with couples figuring out how many kids they want, where they want to live, and how much money is needed to accomplish those goals. Career expectations often complicate these calculations, with the highly-educated enjoying increased earning power while those stuck in low level jobs are forced to cut back to make ends meet.

It’s never too late to become an investor. You may be well into middle age before realizing that life is moving quickly, requiring a plan to deal with old age and retirement. Fear can take control if waiting too long to set investment goals but that should go away once you set the plan into motion. Remember that all investments start with the first dollar, whatever your age, income or outlook.  That said, those investing for decades have the advantage, with growing wealth allowing them to enjoy the lifestyle that others cannot afford. 

Articles that will help you on your way: Basic Investment Objectives, Ten Tips For The Successful Long-Term Investor and Ten Books Every Investor Should Read.

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