4 Tools I’m Loving as a Newbie Investor
Well, it took me nearly halfway into the year but I have finally met my 2019 goal: get started with investing. To be clear, this actually isn’t my only investment experience as I’ve had 401(k)s and IRAs in the past as well as purchased a few individuals company shares with Robinhood, but only recently have I made efforts to take things to the next level. Along the way, I’ve encountered several tools that have helped push me forward in my pursuit and have added a few others to my daily resource list.
That’s why, today, I thought I’d share some of these tools that I as a newbie investor have been enjoying and learning from:
I’ll admit that, while I wasn’t exactly scared of investing, I certainly didn’t know where to start. Funny enough, I actually know a little bit about options trading and technical analysis from attending Investools seminars with my father many years ago, but had no idea what an index fund was or what fees were associated with brokerage accounts. Thankfully, there were a few books I read in the past year that helped set me on the right path.
The first was a book that wasn’t specifically about investing but about achieving a “work optional” lifestyle, aptly titled Work Optional. In that book, author Tanja Hester devotes a healthy chunk of one chapter to breaking down various investment options and defining some key terms newbies like me need to know. I’ll credit Hester with first really introducing me to the pros of index funds — although it would take a bit before I was 100% sold.
Next up, Erin Lowry’s Broke Millennial Take on Investing was a book I was looking forward to reading given my growing interest in the topic at hand. Sure enough, I learned a lot from this “beginner’s guide” and ended up opening my Vanguard account not long after (although, as I lamented at the time, I didn’t quite have enough to buy into the fund I wanted). To be honest, I haven’t considered myself to be a “broke millennial” for some time but, thanks to this helpful read, hopefully I’ll never have to.
Speaking of Vanguard, it’s hard to say exactly what made me choose this discount brokerage over several of the others except that I had seen several people I respect highlight it as their favorite. Okay, I guess that’s actually a pretty good reason and it seems to have worked out well enough so far. Since reaching that magic $3,000 number that allowed me to buy into their super-low-fee 500 Index Fund Admiral Shares ($VFIAX), it’s been exciting to see that value rise to more than $3,100 thanks to a still-growing economy. Of course I know that doesn’t mean much since this will be a long-term investment and the market is sure to go through many ups and downs before I’m every ready to start selling, but you have to admit it’s pretty cool to see your money grow before your very eyes — especially when you’re just starting out.
Currently, our plan is to contribute to this particular fund on a monthly basis, while also ensuring we max out our Roth IRA. Eventually I’d also like to diversify more by buying into other funds as well, but I think this is definitely a good solid start. By the way, as you’ll see momentarily, our taxable account actually isn’t the only account type I now have with Vanguard…
Before creating a Personal Capital account for myself, I was fairly confused about exactly what this service was. While most of the FIRE bloggers I had seen mention it made it seem like an investment version of Mint, I had also read that they offered a roboadvisor platform as well as wealth management services. Incidentally, just last week they also launched a high-yield cash management account, so you can understand my lack of clarity.
As it turns out, my first instinct was mostly correct as Personal Capital allows you to connect multiple banking and brokerage accounts and serves as a fantastic financial hub. Since joining, I’ve been really motivated by the net worth calculation it posts front and center (or the upper left corner, as it were) and was excited to reach what I viewed as quite a milestone: $50k. Sure, Mint actually has a net worth calculator as well but I was able to add all of our accounts — including ones like Robinhood that I’ve had trouble connecting to Mint in the past — thus giving us a truer and fuller picture.
Another mini-win I’ve had since joining Personal Capital is that I decided to move my IRA from Wells Fargo to Vanguard. Thanks to a helpful fee assessment tool PC offers, I realized that the expense ratio on my target date fund was awfully high. By choosing a different but seemingly similar fund with Vanguard, I’ll be paying one-quarter of what I have been paying in fees.
I should probably mention that Personal Capital also does all those other things I noted too. However, the tools I speak of are all free to use. Apparently they might give you a call and try to sell you on their other services once you cross a certain wealth threshold but I still have quite a while before that ever happens.
In the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to establish a better morning routine. This includes trying to get up a bit earlier than I had been, looking through my RSS feed to find content worth sharing on social media for the day, and catching up on some overall news. You may notice none of that really has anything to do with investing, but that’s where Morning Brew comes in.
I first heard about this free newsletter just a few weeks ago from of my fellow finance bloggers, Michael Dinich (whose site I actually just wrote a guest post for). Since signing up, I’ve found that I really enjoy the style and humor of the newsletter, including the quizzes that often accompany their outros. Truth be told, since my investing strategy doesn’t involve many individual stocks aside from Disney, it’s not as though my portfolio is really informed by what I read in Morning Brew. Nevertheless I do enjoy the “Markets” update attached to the top of each dispatch and tend to feel just a teensy bit smarter by knowing what else is happening in the world of business. Therefore, it’s been a nice addition to my day and a worthy read for sure.
As someone who’s only recently started investing outside of retirement savings, there have been several resources I’ve relied on to help get me to this point and even more that I’m not using to help me stay on track. From great books to discount brokerage accounts and FinTech apps to insightful newsletters, all of these have played a role in my financial journey. So, whether you’re just starting out like me or are always on the lookout for something new, I definitely recommend checking each of these out.
Also published on Medium.