- The idea of investing has always terrified me, because I worry that I don’t know what I’m doing.
- I still wanted to try, so I planned, talked to loved ones about it, and invested in passive vehicles.
- I’m glad that I faced my fears, because now I feel like I’m really planning for my long-term future.
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The idea of investing my money used to absolutely terrify me. Even though it’s a necessary tool to build wealth and it ensures that your money doesn’t lose its value due to inflation, I was determined not to do it.
Part of the reason for that, I think, is because personal finance wasn’t taught in my high school or college, and I thought that investing meant that I had to know how to analyze data, graphs, and trends — things I didn’t have the time or resources to figure out.
I also felt like I would be giving up control, which is something I’ve never been good at. But mostly, I worried I wasn’t smart enough to make choices that wouldn’t result in losing all of the money that I’d worked so hard to earn.
Ultimately, all of these fears were just excuses — but it took time and effort to figure that out. We all have our own reasons, but I know I’m not the only person who’s approached the stock market with trembling hands. Luckily, I’ve gotten past my anxiety about investing over the last year after taking the following three steps to get there.
1. I talked with people in my own life about investing
When you look at the historical performance of all three major US stock indexes, you’ll find that they’ve all trended upwards since their inception. While you can’t guarantee that every individual stock will rise forever, the market as a whole is supposed to. On average, it rises about 10% every year.
I’d read about this in books and articles and it helped me understand passive investing. As long as you’re diversifying your portfolio and not putting all of your eggs in one basket, your overall returns can be predicted fairly well because they should mirror the market.
I realized that investing doesn’t have to be about playing or beating the market, it’s just about being in it so you can take advantage of those average returns. Tools like index funds make it really easy to do this.
I was still nervous, though, and worried that I was missing something. So, I spoke to my mom about my desire (and hesitancy) to invest, and she reassured me that the stock market always rises between about 8% and 10% — and that it was a smart thing to do.
Her reassurances instilled more confidence in me than any book or article could. She’s lived through both Black Monday and the 2008 Recession, and she’s still confident in the overall upward trend of the market. Hearing her lived experiences reminded me that the stock market is a tool for everyone.
2. I made room in my budget for investment contributions
Once I felt more comfortable, I determined what my contributions to my portfolio would be, and I worked it into my monthly budget.
While it was definitely helpful to ensure I was consistent with making my investments, this also had a psychological effect on me. Instead of thinking of my investment accounts as unpredictable and risky homes for my money, I thought of them as long-term savings accounts.
I wasn’t worried that I was going to “lose” the money anymore — I just wouldn’t be able to touch those funds for a while. So, all I needed to do was make sure I could survive without them in the short-term.
Every time I was paid, I put about 20% aside specifically for investing. I worked out this number after tracking my spending for a few months, and figuring out how much I could comfortably live without.
I also continued to save another 20% in a high-yield savings account for some short-term goals aside from my long-term investments. It calmed my nerves knowing I had some money set aside that I could still easily access if needed.
3. I found safe, passive investment options that helped me learn through doing
I wanted to start with something easy, so I opened a Roth IRA as my first investment vehicle. I liked that it was geared towards retirement, and I wanted to take advantage of a tool that would help me stop working one day.
I opened an account through Fidelity, and maxed it out this year at $6,000. Currently, it’s worth about $6,500.
Seeing my investments grow boosted my confidence even more. I loved looking at the prediction tools that showed me what my account may be worth when I’m ready to retire. Even in a weak market, my account should grow by $362,500. In an average market, it should grow by as much as $1,348,500. If all I have to do is wait to get that money, it’s not a bad deal in my book.
Fear is powerful, but so is education. And when it comes to something like my money, I’d rather empower myself to learn than be too afraid to try.