What every investor needs to know
At the very least, before you do anything, you have to ask yourself, "How much can I afford to lose?" Answering that one question will guide you into the right portfolio.
To focus your thinking, draft a written answer declaring how you want your money invested. The result can be a flexible, risk-adjusted portfolio, with diversification that will save you from being tempted to constantly react to market conditions.
Should you not want to go it alone, get help. Contact a fee-only certified financial planner, registered investment adviser or any fiduciary — someone who's legally required to put your interests first. That means avoiding brokers, insurance agents and others who sell on commission and aren't really in the advice business.
A fiduciary adviser can also help you craft an investment policy statement, rebalance your portfolio when needed and generally keep you out of trouble.
Putting together a portfolio is complicated. Here's a list of websites that can help you track down specific investments or create a portfolio with a professional.
- Yahoo Finance is fairly easy to use. Check out its "Investing Ideas" section for specific stocks and funds.
- Inflation-protected securities. The government sells them directly in the form of TIPS and iBonds.
- Folio Investing. This site does most of the work for you by selecting from more than 100 "ready to go" portfolios that can best match what you want to do.
- MyPlanIQ. Similar to Folio Investing, this site allows you to tailor your portfolio even more to your risk profile.
- The 7Twelve Portfolio. Employing 12 asset classes, this is a diversified, moderate-risk portfolio designed by Craig Israelsen.
- BankRate.com. A highly useful site for finding the highest-yielding insured savings products.
- Imoneynet.com. A source for money market fund rates.
- Find a Credit Union. This site will help you locate a credit union near you.
- Annuity Quotes.
- Financial Planner Referrals. Try the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors or the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, which can also tell you whether a financial adviser is a certified planner.
- The Motley Fool. A good site for stock pickers.
- Morningstar.com. Offers a wealth of information on stocks, mutual funds and ETFs.
John F. Wasik is a personal finance columnist for Reuters and the author of 13 books, including The Cul-de-Sac Syndrome.