I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to start investing in stocks as a teenager. That early start is what led me to pursue a degree in finance. When I began modeling at the age of 15, I quickly started thinking about the future, and I knew that my interest bearing savings account was not going to be the answer to my financial freedom. I often wondered,”How do I start Investing?”
I overheard a conversation between my mom and her friend about investing in stocks and hearing them discuss double-digit returns had me very intrigued. That conversation cracked the door to the whole new world and connected me to a financial advisor that opened my first investment account. If you are looking to start investing, but are unsure of the path to take, my advice below may be the guide you are looking for. Before you show up at the New York Stock Exchange with money in hand, you need understand your desired outcome from investing. I recommend you ask yourself these three questions to gauge what type of investor you are:
- What are your investment goals?
- How risk adverse are you?
- How much money would like to invest?
The answers to those questions provide insight into which investment strategy is right for you.
Investment Goals- Are you looking to create an ongoing income stream, are you building a portfolio of assets that you can depend on throughout retirement, or do you want to save money to pay for college education? Knowing what your plans are, will help you to determine what to invest in.
Risk- Do have the stomach to take the ups and downs of the market? If you lose money, how much time do you have to regain your losses? With anything in life, higher risk means a higher return but sometimes slow and steady wins the race; knowing where you fit in will be an important guide when investing.
Show Me the Money – Do you have significant savings that you are ready to throw into the market or will you be making monthly or quarterly contributions to your investments. The amount of money you have or will have can determine what types of financial instruments are right for you.
Self Managed Vs. Managed
If you choose to start investing on your own, you can utilize one of the many online brokerage sites to execute trades at a low cost. They make it very easy to use their systems to manage your portfolio from anywhere. Here is a link that helps break down the top 4 online brokers: Best Online Stock Trading Brokers for 2017. If executing your trades sounds less than desirable, then relying on the advice of a trusted financial advisor is the way to go. Advisors are educated professionals who can provide valuable information which can help you reach your financial goals.
Working with someone whom you trust and understands your financial goals is essential. My broker Joseph Kowalsky, Senior Advisor at Upstream Financial, who I have been working with for the past 15 years, seemed like the perfect expert to provide you with some tips on investing.
How should someone go about choosing a financial advisor?
JK: Be selective if you use a Financial Consultant. As with every field, there are good and bad advisors, ethical and unethical advisors, those trained in multiple areas and disciplines and those not trained much at all, experienced and inexperienced advisors, and those whose personalities mesh with yours better than others. FINRA (www.FINRA.org) is the industry’s self-regulatory organization. There is a good deal of information on their website including “BrokerCheck” which will tell you about a representative’s credentials as well as whether there are any negatives on his or her record. That may be a good place to start but be sure to do your own “due diligence” when selecting an advisor.
When people hear the words Stock Broker, they assume they need a lot of money to start investing, is that true?
JK: The term “Stock Broker” has become somewhat passé as investment professionals have expanded to a more holistic approach. Brokering stock is only a small part of what I do. I advise clients on investing in various areas including stock, bonds, mutual funds, insurance and other things. I try to help people determine what their short and long term financial goals are and what they can do to be more likely to reach those goals.
But to answer your question, PEOPLE NEED NOT HAVE A LARGE AMOUNT OF MONEY TO INVEST! While I have many clients with very large accounts, I have some clients that invest as little as $100 per month. If that is still too much, they could even do $100 per quarter ($25/month). Many people spend more on that on coffee each month!
How do you determine what risk level is right for your clients?
JK: Before opening an account I talk with potential clients for an hour or more to learn what I can about them, their needs, and their risk tolerance. I also have them fill out several forms that ask questions about income, age, dependants, their feeling about risk, and many other things. This gives me a start. But since each person has a different idea of what words mean, I continue to meet with clients regularly (in person or, more often, by phone) as I invest for them to ensure that we are on the same page. After a few years, I usually feel comfortable that I understand their needs. However, we still meet regularly as their needs and risk tolerance can change as their personal and financial situation changes.
What factors do you take into account when recommending an investment strategy for a client?
JK: There are far too many factors to list here. But some of them are age, income, marital status, the number of dependants that they have, their comfort level with different types of investments and whether they are more comfortable with me advising them on their investments before any change is made or managing their accounts outright. Of course, the clients are the final deciders on how things should be run, and they can change the management method if they choose.
Is there any other advice that you can give that would help my readers?
JK: Start early and invest “automatically”! Every month most people have bills that they receive and pay – phone bills, electric bills, etc. Most of us do not even think about them much. Make yourself a priority and a “bill” that you must pay EVERY MONTH! If you set up a systematic investment plan that comes from your paycheck or your bank account, you will be much more likely to stay on track! Depending on the kind of account you open, you may even get a tax deduction! (Be sure to consult a tax advisor; I cannot give tax advice).
Joseph Z. Kowalsky, J.D.
Senior Financial Consultant
Upstream Investment Partners 28250 Southfield Road Suite 210 Lathrup Village, MI 48076
1-877-255-1949 Fax: 248-557-3171
Securities offered through Sigma Financial Corporation, Member FINRA/SIPC.
Fee-based investment advisory services offered through Sigma Planning
Corporation, a registered investment advisor. Upstream Investment Partners
is independent of Sigma Financial Corporation and Sigma Planning
Did you find this useful? What are some tools you used to start investing?
I had dinner with my brother last week, and we talked about using our savings to start investing. I’m glad you explained how we’d know about a financial planner’s credentials and past records, so I’ll call my brother later and suggest we follow your tips. Thank you for the insight on how we’d start investing by working with a financial expert.