If you’re investing money in the stock market, you’re somewhat unusual — unusually smart, we would say, but unusual nonetheless.
According to a recent survey by Bankrate, more than half (52%) of American adults have no money invested in the stock market. The numbers are even worse for younger adults. Only a little over a quarter (26%) of those under 30 are investing in the market.
Among the reasons people gave for not investing were lack of knowledge and fear that stocks are too risky.
With so many people missing out on what is arguably their best opportunity for building wealth, chances are good that some of those people are your own family members, friends, neighbors, or co-workers. While money is often a taboo topic to bring up in polite company, your willingness to bring it up might just change someone’s life.
Who do you know that could benefit from your knowledge and experience with investing? Think especially of today’s younger people who, as a group, are surprisingly risk-averse. Ask some non-threatening questions about investing to see if they spark a conversation. Sometimes, the most casual comments can provide openings.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met someone, had them ask what I do, and upon hearing my answer, respond with, “Boy, could I use some help with my finances.” I might follow that comment with, “I’d be happy to help. Just let me know if you’d like to talk further.”
If anyone shows interest in learning more about investing from you, the following topics might help guide your discussion.
- Compound interest is a wonderfully powerful force. Albert Einstein reportedly once described compound interest as the eighth wonder of the world. And no wonder. The combination of money, plus a decent rate of return, plus time can turn a little bit of money into a lot.
- The stock market is the best place to capitalize on the power of compound interest. Over the long haul, the stock market has provided average annual returns of more than three times the average annual inflation rate — higher than gold, real estate, bonds, or cash.
- Emotions must be controlled. One common way inexperienced investors shoot themselves in the foot is they get scared by a market downturn and sell. Successful investing requires emotional self-control, and a little knowledge of market history can help.
The market moves in cycles. Bull markets turn into bear markets which turn into bull markets and on it goes. Historically, bull markets have lasted longer than bear markets and they’ve added more value than bear markets have taken away. So, investing in the market requires a willingness to ride out the ups and downs, while keeping an eye on the distant future.
- Risk is manageable. Diversification is a principle that dates to biblical times. As King Solomon put it, “But divide your investments among many places, for you do not know what risks might lie ahead” (Ecclesiastes 11:2, NLT).
One of the simplest ways to “divide your investments” is to use mutual funds. When you invest in an individual stock, all of your eggs are in one basket. Your success is dependent upon the success of that one company. But when you invest in a mutual fund, you’re contributing to a pool of money that is invested across dozens—sometimes hundreds—of companies.
- There are advantageous investment vehicles available — in some cases, very advantageous. You’re likely eligible to open an IRA. Additionally, many workers have access to a 401(k) plan at work. In many cases, their employer may match a portion of the money they contribute to their 401(k) plan account. It’s so important to take advantage of that opportunity. It’s the easiest money they’ll ever make.
- When selecting specific investments, think systematically. The headlines on many financial magazines and websites often focus on “Buy This Year’s Top Mutual Funds” or “Why You Should Invest in Gold Now.” But these magazines don’t take into account anyone’s personal situation, nor do they follow up and let investors know when it’s time to sell.
Successful investing requires the use of a trustworthy decision-making process that takes into account the pros and cons of an investment. For example, if you’re coaching someone with very limited investment options available to them, you might tell them about target-date funds. Explain that such funds offer an easy way to handle asset allocation decisions, but also warn them that all target-date funds are not alike.
Suggest working with an investment advisor — and discuss the importance of choosing one who works as a fiduciary. Explain how advisors will typically tailor a plan to each client, how their fees usually work (a percentage of assets under management, typically 1%), but also how they may require clients to have a large sum of money for them to manage (often at least $100,000).
And, of course, I hope you would tell them about Sound Mind Investing, explaining that a membership offers a cost-effective way to get time-tested, objective investment recommendations.
- Put something profitable under their tree. Consider giving your student The Sound Mind Investing Handbook as a Christmas gift. Throughout the month of December, we’re offering it for half off its normal retail price. We’ll even insert a coupon, giving your recipient a steep discount on a Sound Mind Investing membership.
At SMI, we’re not only proponents of our approach to investing. We’re proponents of investing generally, and we’re concerned about people’s seeming lack of investing knowledge and lack of market participation, especially among young adults. Would you help us champion the cause of wise investing? Would you take a risk and open up a conversation about investing with some of the young adults you know?
In doing so, you’ll be making an investment that’s sure to pay dividends in both of your lives.
“Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too” (Philippians 2:4 NLT).