The investing industry does endless surveys to try and figure out how to get new clients and they all come back with more or less the same answers. Those already investing are, to a large degree, fairly confident in either their knowledge or their brokers. Results vary of course, depending on the wording of the question and the current market performance. Those that can invest but are not yet doing so also shows consistency. Many are reluctant to dive in because of their lack of knowledge. In a survey done by something called “Nerdinvesting” the results are similar and unsurprising. While the veracity of this survey over others is debatable, it is essentially meaningless in that there is no doubt that this segment of the population exists:
Fear of Investing Among Non-Investors: Just over a quarter of those not currently investing online say they don’t invest because of either uncertainty on how to get started (13.6%) or risk aversion (12.8%).
I tend to think that the number is actually much higher than 25%, in that people generally don’t like to admit when they don’t know something. It is easy to imagine that a more common answer would be something along the lines of not getting around to it or uninterested, something like that. But, let’s take that 25% and assume it is somewhere in the ballpark. The truth is there are an awful lot of people that just don’t know where to turn. And if they have begun to dig into the subject, it is certain that potential investors have run into articles, videos, etc. that claim that all “smart” people should be able to invest on their own and by the way make sure to look for low fees.
This is helpful certainly, but only for a fraction of those on the sidelines. If these people really wanted to do it themselves, they would already have done so, especially in this day and age where doing business online is hardly intimidating to most. Further, massive amounts of research is available in just a few keystrokes, so anyone with an interest will find it easy to get started. But what if all of this “easiness” is just not that appealing? What if you just want some guidance? Does that make you stupid somehow? No, it doesn’t and it is much more common than you might think from perusing the internet. The commenter(s) and advice columnists are all on the same page which is that they are smart and cool and therefore anyone not doing it their way is dumb and uncool.
But ignore them the same way you would ignore those very same type of people telling you how easy it is to install a new garbage disposal or water heater. It very well may be true, but for now there is no shame in calling a plumber. The same applies with investing. There is no shame in asking for help.
For the beginner who just wants to get started look up your local investment advisors and pick one. OK, it’s preferable that you interview a few, but realistically, that probably won’t happen. Make sure that it is a giant firm when you are just starting. They have the resources of course, but most importantly you never have to worry about them stealing your money. If somehow there was a problem with your broker being dishonest (highly, highly unlikely, I must add) these firms would reimburse you for any money gone missing. Not investment losses, I’m talking Bernie Madoff type fraud here. So, pick out a big brokerage firm or nowadays, a big bank that you have heard of and go in and get a plan set up.
And that’s it. You will learn as you go and gradually get more and more comfortable with investing. Down the road you may even decide to join all of those “smart” people and do it all on your own. In the next post I will go into more detail on what ot look for in your future broker.