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Investing - 10 Common Mistakes You Should Avoid

Aug 19, 2008
While it can seem very difficult to put money away each month for retirement or savings, not doing so can leave you with a lifetime of living paycheck to paycheck with no possibility of retirement. Just putting the money away, though, is not enough. You have to invest that money in something that will put your money to work for you, earning money on its own. The stock market, retirement plans, mutual funds, and other investment vehicles offered through banks and investment companies are great ways to do this. Be sure to avoid these common pitfalls when considering how to invest that money:

1. Don't ignore your employer's 401k plan, if it is offered. Most employers do have such a plan, and many match the funds you put in in some way. By not taking advantage of the 401k, you may be giving up free money, and you are definitely giving up one of the best possible investment vehicles around. If this is available to you, be sure to take advantage of it as soon as you are eligible.

2. Lack of some kind of investment and savings plan. Your age, budget, family situation, and other economic factors will determine how much you can invest each month, and what kind of investments you should make. Familiarize yourself with basic investing philosophies and then invest according to your needs and situation.

3. Being too conservative with your investments. If your timeline to retirement or other financial need is more than 20 years away, you need to consider maximizing your returns through riskier investments. While you may lose some money, at least on paper, in the short term, history has proven again and again that you will make significant returns over the long term. Riskier investments invariably provide higher returns.

4. Taking too much risk with your investments. As you get closer to retirement, you will need to start taking a different outlook on your investing. The name of the game here will be capital preservation, rather than high returns. As a result, you will want to start moving your portfolio to less risky investment vehicles such as money market funds, bond funds, and CDs.

5. Investing too heavily into one sector or type of investment. The best way to preserve capital, while at the same time earning high returns, is to diversify your portfolio. This will allow your money to grow regardless of current economic conditions and keep you from suffering the consequences of knee-jerk market reactions to short-term economic factors.

6. Getting involved in get rich quick scams. Once you've established investment accounts, you will be continually bombarded by less-than-honest people trying to get you to buy into their "hot stocks" tip sheets, and other investment advisory information. Don't fall for it. Chances are, these opportunities are outright fake or just short of impossible to get them to actually work.

7. Hanging on to a hot investment for too long. From time to time, you will find a stock or other investment that pays very high returns. Keep in mind that it will not stay that way, and set a goal to get out before you lose money on it (double or triple your money, whatever makes sense). Once you're out, don't look back. Be happy that you made good money on it, not sad that you might have made more.

8. Information overload. You can spend way too much time on analyzing an investment, and by the time you are ready to make a move, it's too late. Don't let this happen to you. Lots of money is lost everyday because people were unwilling to make a move in time. Get just enough information to confirm your hunch and then just do it. If you don't know enough about the investment or the industry, use an investment advisor to limit any mistakes you might make.

9. Investing while being saddled with debt. Your debt will accrue interest charges much faster than your investments will make money. Before investing your first dollar, get out of debt, particularly credit cards and other revolving debt instruments. A mortgage is just fine, as that will likely make you money in the long term, but revolving credit is just not necessary for most people.

10. Paying too much in commission fees. Few things will eat into your investment returns faster than commissions. Unless you are already very rich, and you're constantly trading in and out of stocks and bonds, you should not be paying high commissions. For most people a discount broker is the way to go. For the cheapest possible commissions, consider using one of the online investment brokers, and be sure to compare commission structures before deciding which broker to use.
About the Author
For more information about general investing and other personal finance subjects like 401k, CDs, and budgeting be sure to visit http://www.personal-finances-blog.com today.
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