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How To Invest - A Beginners 10 Step Guide To Investing
If you are thinking about starting investing and don't know where to learn to invest, we've put together a simple 10 step guide to "investing for beginners".
In our "learn to invest" guide we'll cover everything you need to know from where to invest, how to invest, what to invest in and the major mistakes to avoid when making your first investments.
1. How do you start investing?
The first thing you need to start investing is an investment account, of which there are lots of different types. Some are specialists for specific types of investment, whilst others let you invest in a wide variety of investments in different ways.
When you start to invest and as we will go on to explain, diversity is a major part of successful investing. So when you pick your first investment account, you should aim to choose one that offers low costs, access to a wide range of investment types, and most importantly, offers investing through tax-free accounts like stocks and shares ISAs which you can use our comparison tables to find the best account for you.
When we compare investment accounts we also interview the companies CEO and ask other investors to review their experiences. All these things can help you choose which broker to choose when you start investing and make smarter initial investment decisions.
Pros and cons of investing
Advantages of investing
Disadvantages of investing
|You can make money||You can lose money|
|Profits can be tax-free||Successful investing takes time|
|Better potential returns than savings accounts||Can be hard to research investments|
How do I start investing FAQ:
Q. How much money do I need to start investing?
A. You can open most investment accounts with as little as £1
Q. How much should I invest the first time?
A. Keep it small and diverse. Never risk all your money by putting all your eggs in one basket.
Q. When should I start investing?
A. As soon as possible. There is never a perfect time to start investing, but the earlier you begin to invest the better.
Q. How do I start investing?
A. You need to open an investment account. That's the first step.
2. What do you need to start investing?
There are three main things you need to have when you start investing:
It may sound obvious but, there is no point starting to invest if you don't have any money. But more important than that you need to decide how much money you want to invest. Should you invest all your spare money, some of it or very little? Deciding how much of your money to invest really depends on your attitude to risk and your investment objectives which we'll cover below.
Risk appetite means how much of your money are you prepared to lose. Which is an unfortunate side effect of investing. Whilst investing gives you the opportunity to make money, you can also lose it in equal measure. Decide which of the below risk categories you fall in to:
Before you start investing you also need to figure out why you are investing. Are you investing for your retirement, where you want low-risk investments to grow over time? Perhaps you investing for a deposit on a house in five years, where you want to take a little more risk? Or do you simply want to try and make some money in the short term by speculating on the financial markets with high-risk investments?
With all investing objectives and risk appetites, it's important to note that the quicker you want to make money from investments the higher the risk is you may lose money.
What do you need to start investing FAQ:
Q. Where should a beginner start investing?
A. You should start investing in the things you understand the most. If you want to buy shares in a company make sure you understand what it does. The FTSE 100 is an index of the biggest 100 companies in the UK, many of which are household names.
Q. How can you start investing with little money?
A. There are many zero commission brokers where you can invest a very low initial deposit.
Q. Can I invest with £10?
A. Yes, you can invest as little as £10, but be aware, you may not make a great return on it. You may be better of paying off debt instead of investing.
Q. How do I start investing for income?
3. What different types of investment account can you open?
There are a few different types of investment account you can open and it's important to choose the right type of investment account when you are learning to invest. Below we'll talk about the benefits and risks of the various different type of investment account you can open.
This should really be the first investment account you open as with a Stocks & Shares ISA as you don't have to pay capital gains tax or income tax on any profits you make on investments held in it.
Despite the name stocks and shares ISA account, you can also invest in other asset classes such as bonds. We explain the rules about what you can and can't hold in an investment ISA and provide more information in our guide and watch our video discussion on Investment ISAs.
If you want to start investing for your retirement a Self-Invested Personal Pension (SIPP) allows you to keep control of what is invested in your pension. You decide how much of, and what to buy and sell and can keep a close eye on the costs of doing so.
There are significant tax benefits to investing in the long term through a SIPP, but also keep in mind that any money you invest in a SIPP cannot be withdrawn until you are 55. For more information on SIPP accounts and to watch our video discussion read our guide to investing with SIPPS.
Standard investment account
Most stockbrokers offer standard investment accounts, which you can hold your investments in. They are useful for when you have invested your Investment ISA allowance or don't want to add investments in your SIPP account. You can compare stock brokers in the UK and read our guide which explains more about how to invest.
CFD trading & spreadbetting
These are both high-risk types of trading and not really suitable for beginner investors. However, they do provide the facility to make money when the market is going down. Or protect your long term investments in the short-term if you think the market is going to crash.
They are mainly used for speculation by investors that want to take big risks in the hope of quick profits. If you are new to investing they are best kept away from, however, if you are curious as to how they work and want to read about the main advantages and disadvantages you can read more about CFD trading and find out more about financial spread betting, both of which come with video discussions on the pros and cons.
Different investment account types FAQ:
Q. What type of investment account should I open?
A. This really depends on what you want to invest in. But the best place to start is a stocks and shares ISA as your profits are tax-free.
Q. What are the different types of investment accounts?
- SIPPS are for pensions
- ISAs are for everyday tax-free investing
- Share dealing accounts are for investments when you have used your ISA allocation
Q. What are the three different types of investments?
A. There are essentially high, medium and low-risk investments. Bonds and funds are considered low risk, main market stocks and shares are considered medium risk and small-cap stocks, forex, commodities and index trading are considered high risk.
Q. Which bank has the best investment account?
Banks offer very light investment services. If you want to start investing you are better off with an investment account at a stock broker.
4. What are the different types of investing?
This is where learning to invest gets really interesting. There are so many different types of investment that you can make and so many different ways to do it. Some come with very high risks, others are seen as safe havens. But keep in mind that even the safest types of investments come with risk. Here is a rundown of some of the most common things you can invest in:
Stocks, also known as shares or "equities" are publicly listed companies that you can buy and sell bits of. The biggest 100 public companies in the UK are listed on the London Stock Exchange and grouped in an index called the FTSE (Financial Times Stock Exchange) 100. The next 250 in the FTSE 250, the top 100 and 250 are combined into the FTSE 350. These 350 stocks are generally household names and you will have heard of them, or used them (knowingly or unknowingly) at some point during your life.
Great investors, such as Warren Buffet always say to only invest in things you understand. Whereas Peter Hargreaves, the founder of one of the biggest stockbrokers in the UK, Hargreaves Lansdown says in his book "In for a penny" that he likes to invest in things he loves.
There are also stocks listed on the AIM Market (Alternative Investment Market), which are generally smaller, riskier, higher-growth stocks like mining companies or new tech firms. For more information on investing in AIM stocks, read our guide on how to invest in AIM stocks here.
If you don't want to invest in individual stocks you can invest in a group of stocks through a fund managed by a fund manager. The advantage of doing this is that when you buy a fund you are buying a lot of different stocks in one go, therefore spreading your risk and diversifying instantly (i.e. not putting all your eggs in one basket).
Funds generally focus on specific things though. Some funds focus on investments that generate income and contain more bonds and dividend-paying stocks. Others focus on tech and have lots of risky tech stocks, some on commodities, whereas global growth funds focus on just investing in the biggest companies in the world, giving you a diverse portfolio of global companies.
You can hold funds in SIPPs, ISAs and general investment accounts.
If you want to buy an investment trust when you start investing there are a few things to be mindful of. Investment trusts are favoured by slightly more experienced investors and there are only roughly 400 available in the UK. If you are interested in investment trusts it's worth reading more about investment trusts. A relatively new type of investment trust is the REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust) which as the name suggests focuses on owning and managing rental properties for shareholders and can be bought and sold on the stock market just like shares. Read our guide on how to invest in Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT)
If you are an investment beginner, open-ended funds are the largest and most popular choice of investment fund. There are nearly 60,000 different open-ended funds to choose from. However, as there are so many, picking the right one could be harder than picking a stock. In our guide, how to invest in open-ended funds we cover the main advantages, the risks, and also the top ten providers to potentially start investing with.
ETFs & Index Funds
ETFs (exchange-traded funds) and Index funds are like funds, in that they contain a diverse basket of stocks or commodities, but they are pre-set and not actively managed, instead, they are a form of passive investing. As such the fees are cheaper. We go into greater detail about the difference between index funds and ETFs in our index fund guide. You can also read about the pros and cons of Exchange-traded funds and compare ETFs investments here.
IPOs & New Issues
IPOs and New Issues are not really for beginner investors either, but they are definitely a good way to start investing if you want to buy shares in a household name that is just about to list on the stock market like Aston Martin, Telsa, Uber or Zoom. You can read more about how to invest in IPOs which also covers the benefits and risks of doing so.
Whilst extremely popular in the UK, equity crowdfunding, is extremely risky. Equity crowdfunding is a type of new issue where start-up companies issue new shares to raise money to either build a product or accelerate their growth. We have a guide on equity crowdfunding which covers the main risks and rewards, but essentially, you will generally be investing in companies with little to no revenue or profits and sometimes given a high valuation on the back of an idea that hasn't even come to fruition. You will also have no way to sell your shares until the company lists on a public stock exchange or is bought by someone else.
Investing in bonds is often seen as a relatively safe place to hold your money compared to stocks. Bonds have a set lifespan and pay holders regular income payments. However, they are not always safe and secure. Compare bonds and find out more about how and where to invest in bonds. There is also a video discussion about the risks and rewards of bond investing.
Ethical & ESG investing
A growing trend amongst investors is looking for investment types and products which fit in with recognised ethical principals which they may have. This might mean that investment activity focuses on sustainable energy production over investments in oil or ethical food production over tobacco.
ESG investing (Environmental, social and governmental) is similar to ethical investing in that investors look to grow their assets in ventures which benefit the community in which these investments exist.
What to invest in FAQ:
Q. What is the safest thing to invest in?
A. It's important to remember that no investments are safe. You can lose money with all investments. If you want no risk, you are better off with a savings account. Generally, the safest types of investments in the UK are Government-backed bonds and gilts which you can buy through a bond broker.
Q. What is the best thing to invest in?
A. The best thing to invest in is lots of different things. By building a diverse portfolio you spread your risk.
Q. What type of investments make the most money?
A. High-risk investments make the most money. But, they also lose the most money. When you start investing it's important to understand the more money you want to make the more you must be prepared to lose. However, generally, long term, slow and steady investments generate the best returns in reality.
Q. Can I double my money in a year investing?
A. Realistically you cannot do this without speculating on high-risk investments. An investing attitude where you try and double your money this way will most likely results in you losing your investment.
Q. What are the best investments for beginners?
A. The best things for beginners to invest in are low-risk investments that you are familiar with. Start small and invest in things you understand and can buy and sell with ease such as FTSE 100 stocks.
5. Who should you ask to help you invest your money?
If you have an idea of what you want and where you want to invest your money in. You have to decide how to invest your money. In other words, do you want to do it on your own or do you want help? How much help you get really depends on how much you have to invest. Here are a few of the different ways you can invest;
On your own
This is the most common way to invest. Once you have your investment account open you make all the decisions on what to invest in. Investing on your own is known as self-directed investing or execution-only.
Through an IFA
IFAs (Independent Financial Advisors) can help you find the most appropriate type of account to invest in. They are generally helpful for small amounts of money you intend to save or invest for specific things like buying a house, investing for your children or help with tax issues. If you need help finding an IFA, use our Independent Financial Advisor Finder to compare IFAs.
With a wealth manager
At some point after you start investing, you may find you need more help and for someone else to manage your investments and wealth for you. This is where a wealth manager can help. Wealth managers can help you choose what to invest in, assist with your pension, and advise on tax. We have a guide to choosing a wealth manager, as well as interviews with leading wealth manager CEOs and a finder tool to help you contact the right wealth manager, should you require one.
Q. What should I ask an investment advisor?
A. It's important that if you are asking for investment advice it is impartial. One of the first questions should be "how do you get paid?" Sometimes investment advisers may advise on investments they earn the most commission on which is a clear conflict of interests. You can read more about what to ask a wealth manager here.
Q. Who should I get investment advice from?
A. You should always seek investment advice from professional financial advisors if you don't fully understand an investment opportunity. It always pays to get a second opinion on any investment as investments that seem too good to be true, often are.
Q. Do you need a financial advisor to invest?
A. No, you do not need a financial advisor to invest. However, when you invest it's important to do it in a tax-efficient manner. A financial advisor can advise on how to invest in a tax-free way.
Q. Should you use an investment advisor?
A. There are times when you should use an investment advisor. Normally, when you have come into some money, had a life moment like a marriage or a divorce or are withdrawing money from a pension. You can compare wealth managers for advice on large investments here.
6. What should your basic investment strategy be?
Before you start investing there are two things to consider in your strategy.
Putting all your eggs in one basket is a bad idea. You should have a wide range of investments across various asset classes and with varying degrees of risk.
Have a plan
This is is the key to invest well is planning. Investing always starts off fun but then becomes incredibly boring. One key to successful investing is about knowing your own strengths and weaknesses, another its patience.
There is an excellent book, by Lee Freeman-Shor, called The Art of Execution. It tells the story of how (in real life) Lee gave 45 of the world's best investors £15m to £100m each to invest and then evaluated their investment styles, pre and post investing.
Investment strategy FAQ:
Q. What are the major investment strategies?
A. There are three types of investment strategy, low, medium and high risk. Depending on your risk threshold you should build a portfolio of investments that contain all three in different percentages.
Q. What is the best investment strategy for beginners?
A. The best investment strategy for beginners is definitely low risk. Don't risk money you can't afford to lose and always be tax efficient.
Q. What's the difference between growth and income investing strategies?
A. When you invest for income you invest in low-risk stocks that pay dividends. Or bonds that pay regular interest coupons. With growth investing you are buying stocks with the hope that they will go up and increase in value.
7. What things should you avoid when investing?
Investing is the easy part, however, there are a few things that all investors get wrong when they are learning to invest. Here is a quick rundown of what to avoid whilst you first start investing.
There are so many investment scams to be aware of here are some guides that can help you identify what to look out for and how to avoid being scammed when you begin investing:
- ISA scams
- Pension scams
- CFD scams
- Investment educator scams
- Cryptocurrency scams
- Online financial advertising scams
- Bond scams
- Social media investment scams
Taking on too much risk
When you start to invest never try and run before you can walk. You will almost definitely make poor decisions and as with anything becoming a good and confident investor takes time. Make small investments, with a small percentage of the money you intend to put into your portfolio. Some types of investments have lock-in periods, others have hidden costs. So make sure you fully understand what you are investing in before you do.
Putting all your eggs in one basket is tempting if you think you have picked an investment you are really keen on. But no one can predict where the stock market will go. No one can spot the next financial disaster or know if a company is about to be finned, banned, or if the accounts have been faked. Never risk all your portfolio on a single investment.
Investing versus saving
The other thing you need to consider when you start investing is if you are actually ready to start investing. If you have £1,000 to invest, but also have £1,000 on a credit card making minimum payments it would make more sense to pay off the credit card first. Over time, that £1,000 may make 5%-10% a year in the stock market, but if you are paying 15%-20% a year interest you are actually losing money investing, instead of paying off debt.
Common investing mistakes FAQ:
Q. How can I avoid making investment mistakes?
A. Leave emotion at the door. If an investment is losing money, sometimes the best thing to do is sell it and move on. Sticking with an investment or investment advisor because of being emotionally attached is a big mistake.
Q. What investments should I avoid?
A. You should avoid any investment that you do not understand, or does not fit in with your risk profile or investment objectives.
Q. Why do most traders fail to make money?
A. Over trading and not diversifying are usually the reason most traders lose money. Plus guessing, rather than researching and not understand the risks of what they are investing in.
Q. Should I expect to make a lot of money investing?
A. No, this is a major investing mistake. Successful investing takes time and you won't normally get better returns than 10% a year.
Q. Is past performance a good thing to look at when investing?
A. It's a good place to start, as it shows if a stock or fund manager has done well in the past. But past performance is not an indicator of potential future performance.
8. What are the main costs associated with starting to invest?
There are three main types of costs when it comes to investing. It's important to remember that no investment is free. You will be being charged for using the services of a broker to invest somewhere. So even if a broker claims to offer you free investing be mindful of what that means.
This is a fee charged by a broker when you buy or sell shares. It is usually a fixed fee, but can also be a percentage of the value of the investment you make. You can compare the costs of various types of account using these links
- Compare Stocks & Shares ISA charges
- Compare SIPP fees
- Find out more about stock broker charges
- Compare trading costs
Some brokers now offer free stockbroking, but what you can invest in is limited, and "free investing" is usually a marketing ploy to get new customers to sign up. Other brokers charge a monthly subscription instead of a per trade commission.
When you buy shares there is a 0.5% stamp duty charged as tax. This however is not applicable to new issues or spread betting.
Ongoing product and platform charges
Most platforms will charge additional fees for holding your account. These fees are often capped at a certain amount and based on a percentage of your investments. All providers, ETFs and funds etc. are different so whilst these funds won't put a dent in big accounts. However, if you are only investing a small amount it can make a huge difference over time.
The costs of investing FAQ:
Q. What are investment costs?
A. Investment costs are the commission you pay to buy and sell shares and funds. Fees can be charged, per trade, monthly or quarterly.
Q. Are investment fees worth it?
A. Yes, no investing is absolutely free and it costs brokers to provide investment accounts so you have to pay to invest in some way. However, keeping your investment costs down is one key factor in successful long term investing. You can compare investment account fees in our stockbroker comparison table.
Q. How much does it cost to start investing?
Most investment accounts are free to open. If you are investing small amounts of money, you can use a zero commission broker to get you started. However, as your portfolio grows you will have to switch to a proper account with investment charges.
Q. How do you avoid investment fees?
You can never avoid investment fees, but you can reduce them. Passive investing for example is cheaper than active investing. Read our guide to passive, versus active investing here.
9. What you need to know about international investing?
If you want to invest in foreign stocks, it's now easier then ever. You may well have to fill in the dreaded w9ben-e form when you buy US stocks, but it's worth making sure that whatever account you decide to invest through allows you to invest in global markets for diversification.
However, when investing in foreign stocks there are a few things to consider:
Foreign exchange conversion costs
When you buy US stocks you have to pay for them in USD. Which means converting money from GBP to USD. Brokers don't charge a commission for this they widen the exchange rate, usually between 0.25% and 1%. Which means you could be losing 1% straight away, then another 1% when you sell the stock.
If you are buying a large amount of foreign stock you may want to consider using a currency broker for the conversion as you will get a better exchange rate.
International currency valuations
You also need to take into account the fact that is the USD weakens your USD investment will be worthless in GBP. Many have tried to make money trading the forex markets, but few succeed, so it's impossible to predict if currency exposure will cost you money or make you money.
You can, however, use a currency forward to protect against currency fluctuations. They are not really for beginner investors, but worth understanding for overall investment strategy.
Investing in emerging markets
One of the great things about investing in emerging markets, is they are generally considered growth markets, rather than established markets. This means there are more opportunities for companies to increase in value. However, with investing in emerging markets there is also the chance that the companies can fall quicker in value as they are considered higher risk. For more information read our guide on how to invest in emerging markets.
International investing FAQ:
Q. Are international stocks a good investment?
A. Yes, as with all investing, diversity is key. Having a diverse portfolio of asset classes as well as established and emerging markets is a good idea.
Q. What are the best international stocks to invest in?
A. The best stocks to invest in change all the time. But thankfully, the biggest and best performing global growth funds have to publish their top ten holdings. Read our review of the global growth funds that have consistently beaten the market and see what stocks they hold.
Q. What country should I invest in?
A. Ideally, mainly your own, but also have a balance of emerging markets like Asia as well as established markets like the US.
Q. How much should I invest internationally?
A. Investing in foreign markets is more expensive than in domestic markets. So when considering how much to invest abroad take into account that even if the investments perform better some of your profits will be eaten up in costs.
Q. How can I invest in foreign countries?
A. To invest in foreign markets you need a stockbroker that provides access to oversees shares and investments. You can also invest in foreign countries through ETFs and foreign exchange.
10. How can you choose the right broker for investing?
If you are now ready to invest you need to pick an account to invest in. You can use our comparison tables to compare brokers, read client reviews, see our CEO interviews, or use our investment account finder tool to find the best broker for you.
Compare investment account types
- Compare SIPP accounts
- Compare ISA accounts
- Compare stock broker accounts
- Compare trading accounts
- Compare currency accounts
Choosing the right broker FAQ:
Q. How do I choose a broker for investing?
A. Do your research first. Use our stockbroker comparison tables, read client reviews, read our CEO interviews. You can even test the broker by phoning them up first. If you can't get through or find them unhelpful initially this does not bode well for your future relationship.
Q. Should I open one or a few brokerage accounts?
A. It's always worth having back up investment accounts. Most investment accounts are free and whilst it may be a bit annoying getting them set up, if your main broker does not offer access to something you want to invest in, others might. If you have the accounts set up already, you won't miss out whilst you open new ones.
Q. What is the best broker for beginners?
A. If you are new to investing, it's best to go with an established and well-respected broker. The temptation is there to use flashy, new app-based brokers, but these offer little support or assistance. When you are starting to invest it's best to use a broker you know you can phone up and talk to experienced staff if you have any problems.
Q. Can you invest without a broker?
A. Yes, you can buy shares in certificated form and you can buy funds directly from providers. However, if you want to keep all your investments in one place it's easier to use a stockbroker.
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