2022 ranks in with lingering COVID-19, inflation, and rising interest rates. It’s enough to make a person want to hunker down rather than wade into the stock market. And yet, now is precisely the right time to take advantage of lower stock prices. All signs point to an economy on a slow mend, and as it improves, investments grow.
If all that’s standing between you and investing is gnawing anxiety that you may not know enough to make good decisions, that’s okay. Everyone who invests starts somewhere, and a touch of nervousness is natural at first.
Bonus Offer: Score up to $600 when you open this brokerage account
Discover: Best online stock brokers for beginners
But there’s nothing like knowledge to counteract the jitters. If you want to learn more about investing but don’t know where to start, here are six steps for you to take.
1. Read up
Not to sound self-serving, but reading The Motley Fool and basic investment books is a great way to get started. You’re in the comfort of your own home, you can read at a pace that allows you to absorb what you’re reading, and you can get your financial feet wet.
There’s nothing alien or strange about investing, and anyone can do it. Reading about investing demystifies the process. The more you read, the less foreign the concepts seem and the more you can picture yourself contacting a broker.
2. Make notes
What scares so many people off is the unfamiliar terminology associated with investing. Phrases like “dollar-cost averaging” and “index funds” sound downright weird if you don’t know what they mean. Here’s the thing: No matter how convoluted a word or phrase sounds at first, once you understand its meaning, you own that knowledge.
There are two essential things to remember:
- Almost all investors have been where you are, perched on the starting block.
- You never stop learning. Whether a person has been investing for decades or days, they’re both learning new strategies. All you need to concern yourself with right now are the basics.
When I was young, I remember buying an investment book and almost immediately tossing it aside because I didn’t understand half the words. I eventually learned to jot down those terms that sounded like gibberish to me so I could look them up and give them meaning. I’ve never actually stopped doing that because I still run across terms that don’t have a home in my vocabulary.
I’ve found (as I think you will) that investing is more accessible when the jargon used makes sense.
3. Take an online class
Truth be told, as much as I love reading, I learn best by hearing a process explained. Once someone has told me how it works, reading reinforces and builds on what I’ve learned.
What’s great about having access to technology is how many basic investment classes there are to choose from. For example, The Motley Fool’s Guide to Investing is available through Udemy, while The College Investor and Morningstar each offer their own investment classes.
Finding an online class that works for you is as easy as a Google search.
4. Have fun (and gain experience) with a stock simulator
The web is also home to some pretty great stock simulators. Even if you never plan to invest in individual stocks, a simulator gives you a real-world sense of how it works, from purchase to sale.
The best part is that you’re not risking real money. WallStreetSurvivor, ThinkOrSwim, and HowTheMarketWorks are all simulators designed for novice investors.
5. Maximize your retirement plan
If your company offers a 401(k) plan, that’s the easiest way to start, especially if your company matches a percentage of your investment.
The pre-tax dollars you put into a 401(k) are managed by a professional investment brokerage, with the most common investment being mutual funds. If you’re afraid of losing all your money, mutual funds are a great way to start. That’s because a single mutual fund is invested in various sectors. In other words, they don’t put all your eggs in one basket. If one sector stumbles, another is likely to soar. By spreading your retirement dollars out, a mutual fund reduces your risk.
Once you gain more confidence in your investing abilities, you may want to switch things up. For example, some 401(k)s have begun offering exchange-traded funds (ETFs).
If your employer sponsors 401(k) educational sessions, take part in those and ask questions when you have them. Be sure to read everything sent your way from the brokerage. And once again, note anything that’s not clear to you.
6. Start or join a club
If you have a few friends who want to learn more about investing, why not start a club? Like a book club, pick a topic in advance and discuss what you learned at your next meeting. Serve refreshments and make a fun evening of it.
When it comes to investing, it’s okay to dip your toe in the water. Slowly but surely, you’ll find the investment strategy that works best for you.
Check out The Ascent’s best stock brokers for 2022
We’re firm believers in the Golden Rule, which is why editorial opinions are ours alone and have not been previously reviewed, approved, or endorsed by included advertisers. The Ascent does not cover all offers on the market. Editorial content from The Ascent is separate from The Motley Fool editorial content and is created by a different analyst team. Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Dana George has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Alphabet (A shares) and Alphabet (C shares). The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.