- A lot of people are intimidated by investing, but chances are it's easier than you think.
- A financial adviser can help you manage your investments for a fee, but there's some basic investing advice they dole out at no cost.
- In brief, the best way to start investing is through retirement accounts and the best strategy for success is keeping it simple, staying invested over the long term, and starting early.
- Need a little help getting started investing? SmartAsset's free tool can help find a financial planner near you »
In order to build wealth effectively, you need to get comfortable investing.
While you have to assume some level of risk with any stock market investment, you don't have to put everything on the line to be successful. In fact, the best strategies balance risk and reward — and it's probably easier to achieve than you think.
Here are a few pieces of advice from financial planners to help you invest wisely.
1. Start in your retirement accounts
The easiest way to start growing your money in the stock market is through an employer-sponsored retirement plan, certified financial planner Michael Anderson of Maranantha Financial previously told Business Insider.
"The reason I love utilizing a 401(k) plan as a vehicle to start investing is because money will be automatically taken out from your paycheck each pay period," Anderson said. "You don't have to think about it, it's automatic once you decide to participate, and you can adjust your contribution level at any time."
Your employer has already chosen a selection of safe bet investment options in your plan, he said, so all you have to do is decide where to invest your money based on your risk tolerance and time horizon. Plus, your employer may offer to match your contributions, which can be motivation to save even more.
2. Keep it simple and low cost
The average investor looking to build wealth over a long time doesn't need a complicated strategy to be successful, said Renee Kwok, a certified financial planner and the CEO of TFC Financial.
"Low-cost index mutual funds and ETFs (exchange-traded funds) from companies like Vanguard, BlackRock (iShares), Schwab, and Fidelity are an excellent option for young people investing their first few thousand dollars in the market," Kwok previously told Business Insider.
Index funds are particularly attractive for their low fees. These funds are not actively managed — you're not paying someone to buy and sell your shares in order to beat the market. Instead, each fund is designed to match the market, so total operating costs — otherwise known as an expense ratio — should be less than 0.50%.
3. Don't micromanage
There's very little to be gained from micromanaging your own investments, according to San Diego financial planner Taylor Schulte.
When you're investing for the long-term — think: more than five years — you don't need to concern yourself with daily market fluctuations. You'll never give your strategy a chance to work properly if you're tinkering with your investments every time the market drops, Schulte told Business Insider.
Even smart people can get thrown off course when the stock market goes haywire, but it's never a good idea to act on heightened emotions, certified financial planner Shelly-Ann Eweka wrote in an article for Business Insider.
"Avoid impulsively selling an underperforming investment and stay the course with a diversified portfolio that is able to withstand inevitable short-term rises and dips in the market," Eweka said.
And if you can't trust yourself to employ a hands-off approach, consider paying a financial adviser to manage your investments for you.
The surest way to be successful in the stock market is to avoid putting all your eggs in one basket. In other words, diversify your investments.
"The importance of diversification is that when the markets work — and they work in cycles — certain asset classes or certain pieces of the world economy are going to be up when others are going to be down," Bob Gavlak, a certified financial planner and wealth adviser with Strategic Wealth Partners previously told Business Insider.
He continued: "The goal is to minimize your overall exposure to one asset class so if that asset class does not perform as well, there are others holding up the portfolio or keeping you more in line with your long-term investment goals."
Gavlak recommends investors ask themselves, "What do I need my investments to do for me in order to be successful?"
And if you're not confident in your ability to diversify on your own, consult a financial adviser or invest in a fund that will do the bulk of the work for you. A target date fund, for example, automatically chooses a blend of investments based on your age and rebalances itself to become more conservative over time.
5. Just start
Investing — and money in general — is an emotional puzzle. Many of us grow up with preconceived notions about the stock market, and it holds us back from taking necessary risks. But Erika Safran, certified financial planner and principal at Safran Wealth Advisors, said in order to make it work, you have to overcome hesitation.
"It's all about beginning with whatever you begin with — just start," Safran previously told Business Insider. "Analyzing your options is not the entire step. You have to move beyond that. Take the risk of taking action."
Whether it's $100 a month or $1,000, the beauty of investing is that it favors those who simply start. Compound growth will take the lead. "Whatever amount you pick, you can change it. It's not finite. No one gets this right at the beginning," she said.
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