This article comes to us from Tori Galatro, a personal finance and food blogger.
It's easy, in our information-saturated lives, to gain a passive knowledge of investing. Personal finance podcasts, budgeting blogs, and money savvy friends can give us a good grasp of the basics. The standard mantra of "diversify your portfolio" can make it's way into our financial lexicon. We learn to ignore our fantastical notions of hitting it big by investing in the next Apple. Instead we learn to invest early and resist the urge to touch our money in a down market. But when it's time to pick where your money should actually go, things can start to get really confusing. If a business can wedge itself between a person and what they want, they stand to make a profit. With investing, those businesses will make a lot of promises they can't keep to stay there.
The Greatest Investing Lesson You Can Learn About the Market
Learning about finance can be intimidating and overwhelming. Financial advisers and managers stand to make a lot of money by keeping it that way. This is not single to them out as the bad guys. Everyone from wine connoisseurs to car mechanics wants to make their trade seem as esoteric as possible. That's how they keep their value up. Sometimes this extra knowledge is valuable and worth our money, but oftentimes it isn't.
Investors (meaning average people like you or I) are increasingly catching on. We're learning the simple fact that no matter how much expertise someone claims to have, their real expertise may be in hiding how little they actually know. The fact is that there are so many factors that go into how the market behaves. So many variables control what companies succeed and fail, and who comes out on top. These factors are cultural, technological, political, environmental... We all have a confirmation bias at work in our minds. This bias has the power to make us overconfident. Consequently, we overvalue our abilities and that of the experts we've chosen to trust.
The truth is that no one really knows what will happen.
How Investors Get Cheated Out of their Money
In fact, it's been proven again and again that actively managed investments rarely beat the market. That is to say that a collection of balanced investments in a broad selection of the world's largest companies (also known as index funds), no matter what their industry, are more likely to earn you money than a person whose job it is to buy and sell stocks! Just like a slot machine or the lottery, the expert could hit the jackpot, but the chances are extremely low, and probably not worth betting your retirement on.
Not only are these experts no better at making you money than your passively managed index funds, they also cost you a lot more.
How have they gotten away with this? Well, from the investor's standpoint, the various fees they are paying their adviser look small because they are typically represented as fractions of the total amount invested, but, when represented as fractions of the total amount earned, they could be taking as much as 40%! Initiatives to make this process more transparent are underway, but advisers are going to do all they can to hide the truth about fees in the meantime.
The Light at the End of the Tunnel
If investing has one foolproof strategy, it's that starting early is always better. Unfortunately, many of us don't have any income we would consider "extra" until at least our mid-twenties if not much later, or ever! Investing is often most alien to the class with the least disposable income, who could use the extra money the most, especially in retirement. Even investing a small amount, especially regular amounts each month, can add up to a lot over time, so no matter how much your responsibilities may be getting in the way, consider investing as a top priority.
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- Monthly budget form
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Latest posts by Tori Galatro (see all)
- The Journey to Investing: Tori Shares What She’s Learned - September 6, 2017