Starting out as an investor can often feel like being thrown into the deep end without a life jacket.
I've been there.
In my early days of investing, there was a maze of options with very little guidance.
Like most of us, I didn't have a family background in investing to lean on.
The financial news was my guide, and hearsay from people around me served as “education”.
This was well before the era of crypto and tech stocks; investing wasn't as popular as today.
Back then, I, like countless others, gravitated towards what I knew: blue-chip stocks, high dividend-payers – the supposedly ‘safe' bets.
In Australia that would be the big banks and promising mining stocks.
After about 18 months, my promising investments had turned out to be more mirage than oasis.
My bank shares were flat, and the mining company had taken a downturn.
As a young adult, I was keen to keep hold of my hard-earned money.
So, I sold out and took what I had and took it back to the bank.
There was no social media to tell me to buy and hold forever.
Yes, the stock market had burned me but in reality, it did what it was supposed to do.
It was me who was expecting too big a result too soon.
Since then I've realised investing isn't a 100-metre dash but a marathon.
It's not about the breakneck race to the finish but understanding the route, pacing yourself, and finding comfort in the journey.
And that's why I have a perspective I'd like to share especially for the new time investor: instead of chasing rewards, how about we invest for comfort?
Let's unpack this further.
New Investors' First Hurdle
When you first get into investing, there's this huge temptation to jump on the latest trend or hot stock, right?
You hear stories of people making tons of money off Bitcoin or some tech start-up and you think, “I want a piece of that!”
But that's like trying to run before you can walk.
Think about it: Would you go never have ridden a bike to participate in a 250km road race, would you?
So why would you jump into investing in a complex, volatile asset like Bitcoin without understanding the basics?
But that's where your lack of experience or understanding of investing comes into play. You don't know that Bitcoin is one of the most volatile ways you can start investing.
People call handbags an investment so I do get it's nearly impossible to distinguish what they should be buying first.
The unfortunate truth is that many new investors are lured in by these shiny new objects (like Bitcoin).
They're drawn in by the appeal of one hot investment, buy in at the peak, and then get burned.
And so they get turned off investing altogether which is such a big mistake.
And it doesn't have to be this way.
The Comfort Zone: Your Safe Space in the Market
Here's where the concept of investing for comfort comes in.
It's about choosing investments that you understand and feel comfortable with, rather than chasing after the biggest potential rewards.
It's about investing in a way that aligns with your financial goals and risk tolerance, instead of getting swept up in market hype and frenzy.
Because when you invest in what you understand and are comfortable with, you're less likely to make impulsive decisions based on market fluctuations or panic selling.
Instead, you'll be more inclined to stick with your investment strategy and ride out the ups and downs.
But what does invest for comfort look like in practice? It starts with understanding your comfort zone.
Your comfort zone in investing is the connection between what you understand, what you can afford to invest, and what aligns with your financial goals.
A place where you feel confident in your investments and aren't constantly stressing about market movements.
For example, let's say you're interested in the tech industry because you work in it, and you understand how these companies operate.
Investing in tech stocks or a tech-focused ETF could be within your comfort zone.
Or maybe you're a real estate buff and you enjoy researching property values and market trends.
In that case, investing in real estate investment trusts (REITs) could be within your comfort zone.
Remember, there's no one-size-fits-all approach to investing.
Your comfort zone might look very different from someone else's, and that's okay.
The key is to find what works for you.
My Two-Year Rule: The Key to Investment Patience
To add to another layer to this concept, here's something I personally live by, and I suggest you consider it too: the two-year rule.
It's about holding onto any new investment for at least two years.
Why two years?
Well, the two-year rule is a kind of patience-investment pact.
It's about giving your investments room to breathe and grow, rather than making knee-jerk reactions to every market fluctuation.
The truth is, even the best investments can have a bad day, week, or even a couple of months.
But that doesn't mean you should bail at the first sign of a downturn.
Two years, in my experience, is a good timeframe to get a sense of how your investment performs under different market conditions.
It's long enough to weather market cycles, but not too long that you feel your money is tied up indefinitely.
And most importantly, it keeps you from making impulsive, emotion-driven decisions that you might regret later.
If you want to know if you are going to be comfortable owning an investment, then think about what you might do in the first two years of having it if things go good, bad, ugly.
Four Actionable Steps Towards Comfort Investing
Let's explore how you can kick-start a journey towards comfort investing. Here are some steps:
- Identify Your Comfort Zone: Your first task is to take a good look at your own knowledge. What sectors do you understand? Perhaps you work in healthcare, making pharmaceutical companies or health ETF a sensible choice. Or, maybe you're an IT gun with insights into software companies. Use this knowledge when deciding on your investments. Secondly, evaluate your financial situation. How much can you comfortably invest without causing yourself undue stress? Then keep your financial goals in mind. Are you investing for retirement, buying a house, or your kids' education? Make sure your investments align with these objectives and create a comfort zone.
- Start Small: The beauty of modern investment platforms is that you don't need vast sums of money to begin. Micro-investing and fractional shares now allow you to start with whatever you're comfortable with. If that's $100, so be it. Consider this a paid trial of your investing journey. As you grow more comfortable and confident, you can incrementally increase your investments.
- Apply Your Own Rules: Once you've selected an investment, consider how you want to measure your comfort with it. I mentioned I like to be investing in things I'm happy to hold for at least two years. Set your own method and commit. Suppose you've chosen a pharmaceutical company due to your healthcare background, determine how long you want to stick with it, even if the value drops a few months in. Remember, investing is a marathon, not a sprint.
- Gradually Expand Your Investments: Start with the familiar. Perhaps buying shares in a company whose products you use and love, like Apple. As your confidence grows, consider expanding your horizons. Maybe you're ready to explore climate change ETFs or dive into stocks in other sectors you're knowledgeable about.
When I started investing, I didn't know all this.
I began my journey investing in high-risk options, not fully understanding what I was getting myself into.
There were moments of doubt, moments I questioned if I was cut out for this.
But I didn't quit.
I didn't withdraw my money because things weren't working out as planned.
Instead, I learned from my experiences, adjusted my approach, and over the years, found my rhythm.
Now, I've landed in a comfortable spot, knowing my strategy aligns with my understanding, risk tolerance, and financial goals.
It's a strategy focused on building wealth for the long term.
And this comfort hasn't come overnight. It's a result of persistence, patience, and a willingness to learn.
So, remember, investing is a personal journey, with its twists and turns.
By focusing on comfort, you can make this journey less daunting and more rewarding.
It's easy to get carried away by the allure of quick gains and high returns. I've been there myself, and it's a road that often leads to stress, disappointment, and unnecessary risk.
The key, I've found, is not to sprint out of the gate aiming for the biggest reward. Instead, pace yourself, which is why I suggest we aim for comfort first.
Use your knowledge, lean into your interests, start small and gradually build up.
This approach keeps you grounded and in control.
Remember, you're not just investing for financial gain.
You're also investing in your knowledge, your patience, and your ability to make informed decisions.
So, consider your comfort at the core of your investing strategy, and enjoy the journey, step by step.
And who knows, like me, you might just find yourself settling into a groove that not only brings you comfort but builds you wealth in the long run.
After all, isn't that the ultimate reward?