For many people, the thought of investing seems overwhelming. From complications involved with brokerage accounts to the misconception that investing requires a lot of money, people may dismiss the idea altogether. Unfortunately, doing so can lead to financial harm down the road by robbing individuals of the opportunity to obtain compounded interest on their investments. Over time, even a small amount of money will grow exponentially to help people meet their goals. While a learning curve certainly exists, a number of tools have been created to help people learn about investing, and many of these options are actually free. The following are some free investment tools that people may want to investigate.
People may not think of the federal government as a resource for investing, but two regulatory bodies have been created to oversee the market and develop various tools for investors. These bodies are the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Moreover, FINRA has set up an Investor Education Foundation that individuals can explore online at SaveAndInvest.org. The website features various videos and quizzes, as well as research findings. The SEC maintains its own website, Investor.gov, where you can find various walk-throughs related to different products and investment terms. Tutorials on retirement strategies, how markets work, and other topics are available for free.
Another resource that people may not initially consider when they get started in investing is their employers. When employers offer 401(k) retirement accounts to their employees, they team up with account providers that typically offer free educational tools. Employees should speak with their human resources department to figure out what resources are available and how they might access them. Many retirement account providers have various articles and videos available that walk people through the process of saving for retirement or even just creating a budget that makes it possible to invest. These resources are a great way to create and refine an investment strategy as it relates to retirement or other financial goals. Some account providers have even created podcasts for employees.
A number of nonprofits have been created to provide free advice to people who are just getting started in investing for the first time. Many of these nonprofits provide resources that cater to specific demographics. For example, organizations such as Savvy Ladies and the Women’s Institute for Financial Education both assist female investors looking for advice on a range of different topics. These organizations provide money clubs and even free help lines that enable people to speak with an expert. Another resource is the Foundation for Financial Planning, where you can obtain pro bono advice through local chapters.
When it comes to using social media as a source of education on investing, you should exercise some caution and make sure that you vet the people that you listen to before following any advice. However, some people on websites like YouTube have created excellent tutorials to introduce others to the world of investing and get them started with the basics. Ideally, these videos are created by registered financial advisors who are held to a high ethical standard by their regulators. While social media websites geared toward professionals, such as LinkedIn, can also provide great resources, people still need to conduct their own research before accepting someone else’s advice.
People are increasingly turning to apps in their everyday lives. Apps provide a lot of assistance when it comes to getting started with investing although, just as with social media, individuals need to investigate developers prior to using them. A variety of apps exist for a range of different uses. For example, Robinhood is a free app that people can use to minimize the fees associated with starting and maintaining an account. Acorns is another popular investing app that allows people to round up their purchases and literally invest their change. People who want more power over their investments can use an app like E*Trade. When it comes to using these apps, people should make sure that they understand the fees involved. While not all apps charge, fees can sometimes be involved after a certain period of time or set amount is invested.
As people get started in investing, reading through financial news may seem impossible. However, when individuals devote just a few minutes to it each day, they can quickly develop a sense of larger trends. Moreover, a number of these sites have educational materials available for free so that people can get a head start when it comes to understanding the content. Reading through posts and looking up unfamiliar terms is one of the best ways to dive into the market. One excellent option is Napkin Finance, which offers quick, 30-second videos on a range of topics, such as compound interest, ETFs, trust funds, and even blockchain and its applications in investing. People may also wish to download the apps of various news outlets in order to have financial news pushed directly to their phones.