An important question for all investors is: Can I afford to invest?
America always has been a land of promise. Whatever the course of our economy in the years immediately ahead, it is likely that opportunities for investment will be both numerous and attractive. Energetic new companies will emerge, looking for venture capital. Solid old companies will come forth with exciting new products. One industry or another will enjoy a boom period relative to the rest. And, of course, there will be casualties, too. There inevitably are.
For the observant investor this activity, properly evaluated and properly timed, will bring rewards. There will be chances to buy stocks before they have called attention to themselves and begun to rise, or to buy a Blue Chip, temporarily out of favor, at a depressed price. There will be stock splits, dividend increases, new issues, mergers, spin-offs, as well as the tidal rise and fall of stock prices all of this characteristic of the restless life of the market as a reflection of American business.
If you have never invested before, you are bound to be tempted.
Whether or not you yield will depend on your answer to the first hard question about investing: Can you afford it?
It is a lonely question and only you can answer it, for it involves not only how much money you feel able to invest, but what kind of person you are. Actually, it is several questions wrapped into one. You are asking, first, whether your financial condition permits you to invest; second, whether you can assume the risk implicit in stock investment; and, third, whether the market is a safe place for you to be.
Let’s take them one at a time.
Your Financial Position: One point should be made clear at the outset: you don’t have to be wealthy to invest. Among outsiders you can hear it said that stock ownership is a rich man’s game. This can mean any of several things: that the market is too complicated for the little man, that brokers aren’t interested in small orders, that only the person who can lose a bundle without feeling it should invest. However persuasive these arguments, they are all untrue.
The fact is—according to a recent New York Stock Exchange Survey—that almost half of all shareowners are in the $5,000—$10,000 a year income bracket. The median income of the 3,860,000 people who have become stockholders since 1956 is $6,900.
This would seem to suggest that an understanding of market operations is not too difficult to acquire, and that an attentive, interested broker is not too hard to find. It can also be assumed that these are shareowners with a fair appreciation of the value of a dollar and in no position to laugh off losses.
The goals a small investor can hope to achieve and the pattern of investment possible within the limits of a modest income will be outlined further on. The conclusion to be reached here is that investment is not a matter of enlarging a fortune you already possess, but of making available some money, however small the amount, to start with.
Regardless of your salary or income level, investment is possible if three conditions can be met:
- If you are assured of a steady income.
- If you are meeting your current running expenses and obligations.
- If you have a cash reserve with which to meet unforeseen emergencies.
These conditions are, first of all, safeguards made necessary by the inescapable fact that stock prices fluctuate. Your judgment of when to buy, when to sell, and how long to hold should never be dictated by outside circumstances. Investment should be undertaken only with funds you can honestly and legitimately earmark as extra. With a regular income and your monthly bills paid, you know where you
stand and what amount can be put aside, in reserve, for any investment opportunity that arises. Or, of course, for emergencies. A sudden demand for ready cash—to pay a hospital bill, an insurance premium, or your income tax—should come, if possible, from your reserve, not from cashing in your investments. Whether your stocks are up or down, you are likely to take a loss—on the downswing because you may be selling at less than you paid, on the upswing because you may be selling at less than the potential.
A reserve also enables you to pick and choose. The fact that you have a few hundred dollars lying idle does not automatically mean the time is ripe to buy stocks. There’s no hurry. As the professionals say, “The market is always there.” If the trend of the market isn’t to your liking, or the price of a stock is higher than you want to pay, a reserve allows you the luxury of waiting for a more favorable situation.
Finally, a reserve permits investment over a period of time rather than all at once. As you learn more about the market, you will hear both sides of this argument. Some experts feel you should back what seems to be a good situation with all the investment funds at your command. Others will warn against getting greedy, and advise partial investment here and there, at different times, to spread the risk. This is not the place to discuss the merits of these techniques. The point is to give yourself the flexibility of moving either way your judgment dictates.
Remember: your income need not be large, so long as it is regular and enables you to put aside a surplus after you have taken care of your bills and the possibility of trouble. The surplus need not be large, either. Saving, as has been said many times, is a matter of regularity. No one considers $5 too small an amount to put into a savings bank; don’t worry if that’s all you can save each week for your accumulating investment reserve. In most markets, brokers usually can suggest a number of sound, solid stocks, offering liberal yields, that sell for less than $20 per share.
There is no rule about the number of shares an investor must buy. If you can afford a single share (plus commissions), a broker will get it for you. As a matter of fact, through the Monthly Investment Plan you can buy a fraction of a share, although the Plan requires a minimum investment every month.
To invest in the Forex, you will probably need a float of around $400 and invest from $1 to $10 per pip to start with, then reinvest your profits.
So there is a much smaller outlay required to invest in Forex, although it is more speculative.
Good Forex software will help to reduce the risks involved.