My clients often tell me that investing is one of the scariest things about their financial life. They know that investing is a time-tested way to grow their savings. They’ve heard a dozen times that to retire, they’ll need to start saving now. And yet, they feel like the process and knowledge required to invest is daunting.
But seriously, who wouldn’t feel daunted?
You may be investing money that it took you years to save up. And there’s a LOT of confusing, jargon-filled information out there—like a club using its own secret language.
But the problem isn’t you. The truth is that the world makes investing seem a lot harder than it needs to be.
What if I told you that grocery shopping could teach you a lot about investing?
Just like shopping for groceries, you’re most successful with investing if you go in with a plan for what you want to ultimately cook. In grocery shopping, this is called your “meal plan.” In investing, this is called your “asset allocation.” Your asset allocation shows you the right-for-you mix of stocks, bonds and cash that will help you reach your goals.
You can think of stocks, bonds and cash as the investing food groups. Every food group has different nutrients to help keep you healthy. In investing, each asset class has different risk and return characteristics. Each asset class is important to your overall financial health, and it’s good to include a variety (bonus tip: that’s the concept of diversification!).
Cash savings is like the bread and butter of your portfolio. It’s low risk, but also low return. As you probably already know, keeping all of your money in savings won’t help you retire, but can sustain you when you’re in a pinch.
Bonds are like fruits and veggies. There’s a huge variety of bonds—from very risky to very safe.These are primarily used for providing income to investors. Bonds may help you grow your money some, but won’t really give you sizeable, long-term growth.
Stocks are like protein and dairy. They tend to be higher risk, higher reward and will historically help grow your money faster than most other types of investments. These are the fill-you-up, keep-you-growing fuel.
Now, before you get overwhelmed by the thought of picking individual stocks and bonds, check this out: there are mutual funds that invest in variety of stocks, bonds and cash on your behalf—like a pre-made meal at Whole Foods.
A common pre-made investment for beginners is the target date fund—which sets up an asset allocation for you based on your age and selects investments to match. While it’s not right for everyone, the target date fund can be an all-in-one option to help you get comfortable investing.
Your main goals should be to determine the right asset allocation for you and to pick investments that match. You may want a financial planner to help get you started, but once you’re on your way, it’s as easy as buying groceries.