Investment Questions and Answers: Investing Safely and Smartly

Q: I recently received a call from an unfamiliar stock brokerage. The guy was offering some unbelievable interest rates I would earn if I were to investment some money there. He wasn’t representing one of the nationally known brokerage firms I’d ever heard of. I told him I’d have to think about it.

Then he said, “Why waste time? Invest your money now so you can start earning immediately!” I was still a little leery and politely declined again, stating I’d call him back in a day or two.

He then said, “You have to act now. The deal won’t be available after today. You’ve got to do it right now.” I eventually had to hang up on the guy because he just wouldn’t quit.

Do you think I missed a golden opportunity to earn big money? Did I make the wrong decision?

A: You did the right thing by declining to give the caller any cash.
I suspect you didn’t miss any “golden opportunity to earn big money.”

Although we don’t know for sure if it was a scam, all the signs are there. You didn’t know the person who called. He made a “cold call,” probably out of the phone book or off of some phone list he obtained.

The caller used high pressure tactics to try to coax you to invest your money. And he promised interest rates that were too good to be true. Then, when you declined more than once, he made one more last ditch effort to pressure you to invest by telling you the deal was now or never.

To avoid financial scams, it’s important to know the person who’s offering you an investment opportunity. Check out his credentials.

It’s wise to go with a well-known investment firm. These firms usually hire educated and experienced financial professionals.

Avoid investing any money with anyone who calls your home or knocks on your door without an invitation from you.

Plus, if someone’s pressuring you to put your money into an investment, that’s another clue it could be a scam. And if the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Finally, although there are some legitimate investments that are time-limited, if that’s the case in conjunction with these others signs, it’s best to decline the offer. It’s wise to be cautious when considering investments in today’s financial environment to avoid scams.


What’s in Your Investment Portfolio?

April is Tax time, and with it, a great opportunity to think more about your finances, and in particular, your financial goals and investment portfolio.

Here is an example that might help you with planning your own portfolio:


Michael and Janice are a couple in their early thirties. They don’t have any children, nor do they plan on having any. While they’ve started saving and investing for retirement, they haven’t made a lot of progress to date. They currently invest 3% each in their respective 401(k)s. Their employers match contributions at 50 cents on the dollar, up to 6%. The Stuarts also have a few thousand dollars in savings bonds that Michael got from his grandmother. They make over $150,000 a year combined and have minimal debt.

They do, however, have a rather extravagant lifestyle. Janice is a major shopper, and while Michael doesn’t buy things frequently, he likes his expensive toys.

Clearly their priorities are not conducive to having a prosperous retirement. Their 401(k)s offer a great opportunity to amass a lot of wealth over the long haul, but they aren’t taking full advantage of it.

Everyone should make every effort to get the full match from his or her employer. It’s free money; no one in their right mind should leave free money on the table. You might think you are barely able to make it from paycheck to paycheck, but if it is tax free and taken out before you ever get your hands on your money, then you will hardly miss what you never saw, but it can add up to big dividends long term.

While savings bonds are better than nothing, they are a very poor choice for someone with a long-term time frame. This couple would be much better served with more growth-aggressive investments.

Appropriate stocks and some bonds for diversification would be more in line with their goals.

Their combined income is quite high, but it is largely being wasted on non-essentials and luxury items, as it often is when people are young and have no real financial goals yet.

Considering they don’t have children and minimal debt, saving 15+% of every paycheck should be easy for this couple. They would be well served to examine their spending and eliminate the excess.

This couple still has time before they retire; they certainly have every opportunity to turn things around to provide for a wonderful retirement and any other goals they might have, especially if they do not have any children.


Finances: The Importance of Creating a Budget for Yourself Part 2

Part 2.


To get you started with saving your money, to help relieve the stress and other issues often associated with debt, you will want to start by outlining all expenses that you must pay for on a monthly basis.

These expenses are ones in which you cannot go without paying, like rent, mortgage, homeowners insurance, auto insurance, auto loan payments,your utility bills, and finally, groceries.  These are the expenses that must be paid, no matter what.  If you have any money left over after all these obligations are met, you are fortunate.

Once you have a detailed list of important expenses, the next items are luxuries you have to decide upon. There is no right or wrong answer. You just need to remember that everything involves a sacrifice. So try to keep your long-term financial goals in mind when deciding on whether or not to spend money on these luxury items.

Such items include internet access or cable television.  If you are just looking to save money, possibly to put into a savings account, you should be able to continue paying these expenses without any problems.

On the other hand, if you are looking to dig yourself out of all of the unpaid debt that you have accumulated, it may be a good idea to go without internet access or cable television, if at all possible, even if it is just for a short period of time, to pay down that debt, so the interest doesn’t keep accumulating. Some credit cards can carry an interest rate as high as 30% and some sort cards, almost 50%.

There is no point in putting money into a savings account at 4-5% if you are paying 30% for debts.

You can also use your budget to determine how much extra money you will have each month.  You can do this if you regularly work the same hours or if your pay is salary-based.

Once you have totaled up all of the aforementioned expenses, you can subtract that from the amount of the money that you bring home each week.  Any extra is money that you may want to consider putting towards your debt or savings.  Once you are free of debt, then you can start to save.

We have other articles at the site on budgeting and on asset management and investing. The important thing to remember is to get out of debt as fast as possible, or never get into it. Then, once you are debt-free, you can start saving towards your long-term financial goals.

A budget is not meant to be a straight-jacket, but it will help serve as your road-map to a more successful financial future.


Determining Where To Invest Your Money, Part II

(Continued from Determining Where To Invest Your Money, Part 1)



With access to the Internet, you can actually play the stock market with fake money to start with at some sites, in order to get a feel for how it works. Then when you feel confident, you can move on to the real thing.

To start with make-believe investments, do a search with any search engine for Stock Market Games or Stock Market Simulations, and start studying.



Other types of investments outside of the stock market, such as foreign exchange, also known as FOREX, also have make-believe accounts and simulations.

The great thing about FOREX is you don’t have to worry about which stocks to buy. Currency is traded in pairs, and the main pairs you really want to look at all have to do with the American Dollar.

So for example, the  American Dollar trading against the Canadian, or against the Euro, or the British pound. You can look at only 6 pairs every day, day after day, and make money, IF you are patient and learn how to spot and ride a trend.

And unlike the stockmarket, you can also make money in FOREX whether your pairs are going up or down. ll you have to do is predict the trend.

As a potential investor, you should read anything you can get your hands on about investing, but start with the beginning investment websites first, and go through them methodically so you don’t get lost or confused. It can certainly be a maze, so if you want to keep it simple, but have some moderate risk tolerance, go for FOREX.



Finally, you might want to speak with a financial planner. Tell them your goals, and ask them for their suggestions–this is what they get paid for!

A good financial planner can easily help you determine where to invest your money, and help you set up a workable plan to reach all of your financial goals.

Many will even teach you about investing along the way–make sure you pay attention to what they are telling you, rather than thinking you know best. Resist the temptation to try to get rich quick as well.  And always make sure you are not risking more than you can afford.

Knowing your investment goals, and where you want to invest, are two of the cornerstones to successful investing.


Determining Where To Invest Your Money, Part I


There are several different types of investments, and there are many factors in determining where you should invest your money.

Of course, determining where you will invest begins with researching the various available types of investments, determining your risk tolerance, and determining your investment style once you have determined your financial goals.



Remember, without a financial goal, you will lack the clear vision to know what you want to achieve by investing. It would be a bit like starting to run a race, but not having any idea where the finish line was supposed to be.



So, what is your financial goal? Do you have a list of short-, medium-, and long-term ones? A new house will probably be more short to medium term than say, a college fund if your children are in diapers, or a retirement fund if you’ve just got your first job.

If you were going to purchase a new car, you would do quite a bit of research before making a final decision and a purchase. You would never consider purchasing a car that you had not fully researched, examined, determined if it was suitable for your overall lifestyle (eg, a two-seater sports car is not practical if you have 4 children and a Great Dane. Or even just the Great Dane!)

You will examine the details, look at the performance history of the car, and take for a test drive. You might even get recommendations from friends and review sites online.

The good news is, investing works much the same way.



You will of course want to learn as much about the investment as possible before plunking down your hard-earned cash, and you would want to see how past investors have done as well.



Learning about the stock market and investments can take a fair amount of time  depending on the kinds of investments you are interested in, and there can be all sorts of applicable fees, or even hidden fees you might not be aware of until you are actually investing online.

So any research you do before you risk one penny will be time well spent. There are numerous websites to help first-time investors, and you can even take courses online or at your local college.

Continued in:  Determining Where To Invest Your Money Part II