Starting to invest for the first time might feel a bit like running a marathon without any training. You may not have a lot of money, and, even if you did, you may not know where to start. The thing is, just like starting a run requires taking that first step (and then another step, and then another), starting to invest requires the investment of that first dollar (and then another dollar, and then another).
So how can you start investing? Here’s the training plan that we’d recommend.
First, find a service that works for you
Investing can seem overwhelming when you’re starting out. Should you buy stocks or bonds? What’s a TFSA? And who has time to figure out what’s happening with the stock market anyway?
The first step to investing is finding a service that fits well with you and your goals. A robo-advisor like RBC InvestEase is a great option for folks who may not have a lot of money but they’re ready to start with an easy, convenient and hands-off (article: Why Did the Investor Cross the Road?) solution online. Why?
- You don’t need to have tens of thousands of dollars saved – you can start investing with as little as $100
- You don’t have to pick stocks or understand the stock market – our team of experts will buy your investments, monitor your portfolio, and do their investment homework (article: Leave the Investing Homework to Us) so you don’t have to
- You don’t have to do any complicated calculations to figure out how much you should be saving – you can call our team of experts anytime you have a question
All you have to do is answer a few questions online to get started. As soon as you’re done answering our questions, our smart technology will recommend a personalized investment portfolio that’s designed for you. Then you can stop thinking about your investments and focus on the things you actually enjoy doing.
Second, hack your savings
It’s natural to want to spend on Present You (a new shirt, a dinner out, the latest phone) even though you know you should be saving for Future You (retirement, a house, your dream vacation). One of the best hacks we’ve found to force Present You to save for Future You is to set up an automatic transfer from your chequing account to your investment account at regular intervals.
Pick an amount to save and a frequency to save it – any amount, and any frequency. It doesn’t have to be a lot: even small amounts (article: How to Start Investing: Make a Mountain Out of a Molehill) can make a big difference over time given market returns and the power of compounding (article: If There’s One Thing to Know About Investing, It’s This) . Once you’ve decided how much you can set aside, set up an auto-deposit that automatically moves that money from your chequing account into your investment account at the frequency you’ve chosen (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly). A strategy some of our own advisors use themselves is to set up an auto-deposit to transfer on payday so that the money they’ve earmarked for savings is in their investment account before they can even miss it.
Third, think about your values
Investing isn’t always just about making money – you might also want your investment dollars to make a difference in the world. If that’s the case, you should consider a Responsible Investing portfolio. Responsible investing describes an investment approach that measures how companies or issuers manage environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks like carbon emissions, water management and data security. A Responsible Investing portfolio allows you to make a positive impact without necessarily giving up your financial performance. Learn more about the differences between Responsible Investing and Standard portfolios here.
Fourth, gradually increase the amount you save
Small amounts of money can grow into big investments if you start early (article: If There’s One Thing to Know About Investing, It’s This) . Over time, though, you still want to try to increase the amount you’re saving.
Save any influx of cash you receive: overtime pay, extra-large tips, your tax refund, a bonus. If you get a raise (lucky you!) increase your auto-deposit by the same amount (i.e. if you get a 5% raise, increase your auto-deposit by 5% too).
At the same time, reduce any expenses you can. Dig into your bank and credit card statements and take a look at where you spent your money.
- Are there any fees, subscriptions or memberships that you’re paying for that you don’t really need?
- Are there recurring expenses you could reduce with some planning (e.g. making your lunch rather than buying, taking public transportation rather than a taxi)?
- Are there things that you’re buying new that you could borrow or repair?
- Are there regular treats you buy yourself that you just don’t enjoy enough to justify the cost?
If you find a way to reduce your expenses, increase your auto-deposit by the same amount (for example, if you decide to cancel a streaming service that costs $15 a month, increase your auto-deposit by $15 each month).
Take the first step towards investing today! We bet that pretty soon you’ll think that investing is less like running a marathon, and more like a walk in the park.