It is essential to know which of the investing styles is the best for you.
This is the first step you have to take.
The thing is, you cannot follow a plan that does not fit your personality and current situation.
For example, you cannot be a short-term investor if you are always busy. Well, you could… but you would have to find a way to stop being busy all the time.
Whatever you do, it must make sense to you.
Investing is not rocket science. For the most part, you need some simple math. It also helps to understand compound interest. That is about it. No kidding.
Of course, you'd need more skills to analyze an investment opportunity (and I actually mean making the analysis itself).
But that is not your job. You can use your broker's research or buy the analysis from a specialized company.
Your job is to make the decisions, not the analysis.
Let's say you want to buy some stock.
If the stock is falling, waiting to buy the stock later is not a bad idea because nobody really knows how low the price would go.
When it stops falling, and if you still want to buy it, then you can go for it.
Another example is not to put all your eggs in one basket.
You need to think like: "What if I put all my money into one single investment and that investment goes south? I would be in trouble... so I better diversify."
Again, nothing very complicated, but you need to act logically, and it must make sense.
This point is pretty straightforward. As we already talked about, a short-term investor probably stays glued to a computer screen most of the time.
On the other extreme, a long-term investor might not check the markets every day or maybe not even every week.
If you have a lot of time, then you could day trade. It does not mean that you have to. It only means that it is possible from a time perspective.
For example, let's categorize this way:
What you want to do and how much available time you have must fit together.
Here is where your wishes and preferences come into play.
If you love action, long-term investing might be unexciting to you. If you are impulsive, short-term investing might not be the right choice for you.
You get the point…
The investing style you want to adopt must be a good fit for your personality.
You have to put together your math skills, your logic skills, how much time you have available, and your personality characteristics.
The outcome will be clear. You will know right away, which is the best investing style for you.
Yes, I am stating the obvious here. It is like “you have to study if you want to become a doctor.” Everybody knows that, right?
Sure... but many people try to skip the learning part and want to go directly to the being an investor part. It does not work that way.
To become a competent investor, you probably need to learn some new things.
Maybe you already have all the math and logic skills you need, but there are investing techniques and strategies you may have to learn.
Investing is a vast subject. It would take a long time to learn everything about it.
That is precisely why it is a good idea to know which investing style is the best for you.
If you know it, you will focus your learning efforts.
You do not need to learn quantum physics if you want to become a doctor. The same here regarding your investing education.
You will skip all the stuff you do not need, and that will reduce a lot the duration of your learning phase.
You might say, “Why to go through all the trouble. Just give me a great investment plan.”
It does not work that way.
I could give you my plan, but that won't work either.
Nobody can give you a perfect investment plan because it doesn't exist. What exists is a plan that is perfect for you.
The thing is, only you can build your perfect plan. I can sure help and guide you along the way, but you have to do your part.
At the very top level, these are the investing styles:
Adviser-assisted investors do not manage their money directly. They delegate that to an adviser, which can be a human adviser or a robo-advisor. But they still have to know quite a bit about investments. Otherwise, they will not be able to evaluate the adviser's performance.
Self-directed investors do everything themselves. They have to know more about investments, and it is more work, but they have full control of their money.
You might not find a good fit for you. Then what?
Well, maybe you are a Saver type: you hate taking risks. You prefer putting your excess savings into some low-risk savings instrument (hopefully not under the mattress).
You just need to remember that, when accounting for inflation, the value of your money may decrease over time.
You can go for the Saver type (nothing wrong with that), or you can decide to change your situation in a way that fits your desired investing style.
Of course, that is entirely up to you.
This one is clear. You cannot be an investor if you don't know much about investing.
If you are not, then you have no other option but to settle as a Saver.
You need at least a couple of hours per month to manage and/or monitor your investments. No matter if you are an adviser-assisted investor or a self-directed investor.
If you don't have a couple of hours, then you have no other option but to settle as a Saver.
If you have some time available, you might go deeper and see if you prefer a short-term or a long-term approach. But that is out-of-scope of this article.
Here it gets more complicated. There are lots of things that can influence the end result. But there are two significant factors:
If you answer "No" to either questions, then you better settle as an Adviser-assisted investor.
If you enjoy and want to manage your money, you have the option to settle as a Self-directed (DIY) investor.
You need to know if you are a conservative, moderate, or aggressive investor.
If your stomach turns just by thinking about the possibility of losing money, then you have to settle for a more conservative approach.
More specifically, don't add too many risky assets like stocks to your investment portfolio.
Also, if you decide to invest in a fund, make sure you understand how much risk the fund is allowed to take.
If you can handle a bit more risk, then you can be more "adventurous" and add a bit more stocks (or an index fund) to your portfolio.
Still, try to find a balance between safer and riskier assets (and investment funds) that makes sense to you.
If you can handle risk well, then you can pursue higher returns.
But don't forget that you would be taking higher risks trying to achieve higher returns.
If the market does something different than you expected, then you might end it up with losses instead of profits.
Some people prefer a passive approach. They build a portfolio that makes sense to them, and they stick with it for the long term.
Others are more active and change their portfolio composition more often.
Typically, they have a strategy in place to guide their decisions. These strategies can be systematic or discretionary.
One style is to invest for income. You can do that by investing in assets or funds that pay interest, dividends, rent, or any combination of the three. The main focus is the level of income the portfolio can generate. While the portfolio market value is still a relevant factor, it is a secondary concern.
The growth or value decision is about stocks. Some people prefer to invest in stocks that are growing fast, while other people prefer to invest in undervalued stocks.
Once you find out which is your style, you can focus your learning efforts.
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