by Charlotte Wood
(last updated February 21, 2009)
Say you have a bit of extra cash that you'd like to see turn into a bit more extra cash and you want to do that by investing. The problem is however you don't know how to get started. Investing can understandably seem a bit scary and a bit overwhelming. There's so much jargon, so much busyness, so many suits. It can easily appear that investing is for those who already know what they're doing. Never fear however, because if you really want to invest in the stock market you can and you don't have to be a business MBA to do it.
First things first: do you have your debt under control? If you don't, then this is not the right time for you to invest. Your debts (specifically your credit card debts) need to be (a) not in excess and (b) not carrying an interest rate of above ten percent. In this day and age it's hard to be completely without debt, but if you're serious about investing you need to have a good handle on your debt and be well on your way toward being free of it. Another thing you should make sure you have is an emergency fund in case of a medical emergency, job lay off, or natural disaster. You should also make sure you have a stable 401(k) plan before you start seriously investing.
If you don't have much money to start off with, do remember that you can invest in a mutual fund of some kind with as little as $500 and that's money that could be found in your tax refund, bonus check, or even just some extra money in your savings account. Set some goals when looking at investments. Are you saving for something like a car, college, or a house or do you just want to play the market and see how much extra cash you can make? Being able to answer this question will have direct bearing on how risky your investment will be.
You can proceed by either calling up a stock broker and working that way or you can check out investment sites whose job it is to help you find the stocks that best suit you. If you choose to go the Internet route, peruse and when you've made a list of what interests you most, call the number listed and they'll be able to get you set up. Examples of reputable investment sites are Morningstar, E-Trade, and Scottrade (just to get you started).
Investing actually isn't that hard and once you jump in you'll better be able to learn the tricks of the trade. Also, don't be afraid to ask for advice from other investors you know or an investment counselor. It's your money—you want to make sure you're doing the right thing!
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