A financial planner’s best tool to start investing has probably been in front of you all along

Investing in the stock market might sound intimidating, but getting started can be simple.

“For many people, the best way to start investing is to contribute money to their 401k or other employer retirement plan with a company match,” Ryan Cole, a CFP and private wealth advisor at Citrine Capital in San Francisco, told Business Insider.

If you go this route, your contributions will automatically be deducted from your paycheck and invested in a retirement account on your behalf. While retirement accounts might feel like savings accounts, they are actually invested in the market, meaning they can grow over time and take advantage of compound interest.

If you’re unsure of how to set up your employer retirement plan, Cole recommends consulting the human resources department at your company as they may be able to guide you through the process or connect you with financial planners who can help.

“You can also ask around and find out what your coworkers are doing,” he said. “You may find someone who is very knowledgeable about your employer retirement plan and investing in general.”

If you’d like to keep things simple, Cole suggests investing in a target-date retirement fund, which is an option in most employer retirement plans. A target-date fund is very straightforward: You pick a target retirement date (usually around the time you’ll turn 65) and allow the fund to choose investments that are appropriate for your time horizon.

“For example, if your target retirement date is 2050, your fund will likely begin by investing heavily in stocks and other high-risk investments that offer high rewards. As your retirement date gets closer, you’ll notice your fund will transition into lower-risk options,” said Cole, who uses target-date funds to help many of his clients break into investing and get comfortable with it.

If your employer does not offer an employer retirement plan with a company match, Cole recommends investing in a Traditional or Roth IRA, or SEP IRA if you’re self-employed.

If you’re still overwhelmed, “Don’t hesitate to reach out to a Certified Financial Planner who can help you determine the ideal investment strategy for your particular situation and lifestyle goals,” said Cole.

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