Beginning something new? Trying something you gave up on but want to try again? Not easy, is it? There is a lot to learn especially if you want to be good at it. Even if you just need to know the basics, there is still a learning curve.
When I went through a divorce there was so much I had to learn! As an identical twin who married the same month as my twin, I went from a female “partner” to a male partner. Now on my own I had to learn how to navigate life by myself. Talk about an awakening!
On Your Own
My husband was a car guy and had grown up working on motorcycles and cars so taking care of our vehicles was his responsibility. I knew that a car’s oil had to be changed and tire pressure maintained. Did I know how to do that? No. I had also never changed a tire, thanks to AAA. I could put gas in the car though and, even growing up, I washed and waxed and vacuumed our cars. A start!
I was determined, however, to learn how to take care of the mechanical parts of a car, not just the appearance. My motto was: if you take care of your car, your car will take care of you. In other words, it will last a long time without major issues and who wants costly overhauls or repairs?
I started by reading and learning as much as I could and then I set up a maintenance schedule. I learned about tires and the need to rotate and rebalance them. I learned about changing the car’s oil and the oil and air filters, and maintenance of the transmission and air conditioning, and a little about engine components. I also learned to listen to my car’s sounds so that I could recognize changes. I learned to read and decipher the electronic messages that appeared. I also learned when to seek help because I was in over my head, and then I sought experts who I knew I could trust.
The result? I am on my third car as a single woman. The first I traded in at about 150,000 miles and the second over 220,000 miles. My third is going strong. None have had major mechanical issues. I grew to love my cars and each was a big part of my life. Was this an easy process? No. Did I really want to learn about cars? No. Was it fun? Only when my car took me on wonderful road trips to new adventures.
It is the same with investing. You may be forced to learn because you are single, have just gone through a divorce, or became a widow or widower, or it is your delegated responsibility in your household. You may be anxious and fearful. (See my blog: Financial Fears) On the other hand, you may be eager to learn but do not know where to start.
First, be prepared for investing, like any other skill, to be a learning process. However you do not need to be an expert to start. Whew! That’s good news, right? It is a good idea, however, to have some basic knowledge and to be willing to continue to learn. Believe me, just as with a car and especially at first, it feels totally foreign and not much fun. It will get better!
Where do you find good information to begin? If you are like me, you don’t trust just any resource and you double or triple check the information. You look for resources that are recognized and have your best interests at heart. In the world of cars, Kelly Blue Book is a well-known resource for car values. The websites of car insurance companies provide maintenance tips and guidelines. There are also mechanic forums and YouTube videos. Car manufacturers set maintenance guidelines for their vehicles, but they also promote the services of their dealers, so I always cross-check their recommendations.
In the investing world, who are trusted resources? The entities that regulate the industry provide unbiased information: the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) whose website is investor.gov; the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), finra.org: and the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), nasaa.org. Any are a good place to start and have tips for investors. Non-profits focused on financial education may include information on other financial planning topics, such as managing debt, in addition to investing (search for non-profits offering financial education). You can also find lots of information on the websites of banks, brokers, mutual fund providers, and financial news organizations. Keep in mind that financial institutions sell products and services so confirm any data or recommendations you wish to rely upon from those sources.
A sure way to know that your best interest is being served is to work with a person who acts as a fiduciary. Fiduciaries have both an ethical and a legal responsibility to put your interest first. Believe it or not, that is not a universal requirement. Who are fiduciaries? CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals are fiduciaries as are Registered Investment Advisors. If you can’t tell, ask!
My New Beginning
With this blog you are part of my new beginning. It has been, and will continue to be, a learning curve for me. When I decided to write a book and follow it with blogs, I had no idea what I did not know about the writing and publishing process. So I signed up for online seminars on publishing, and blogging, and marketing a book. I talked to professionals and checked out web sites. I learned how to navigate new software (and am still learning). It is sometimes frustrating for me but, in the end, it is also very rewarding. Probably the smartest decision I made is to hire good guides, people who specialize in a particular aspect of publishing or web design or marketing.
The overriding reason for both the book and blogs is my desire to help financial beginners. Please feel free to share this website with those you feel may benefit. Sign up for a weekly email or check out my book: How to Dress a Naked Portfolio: A Tailored Introduction to Investing for Women. Through my website you can also give me feedback and suggest relevant topics.
Your learning curve may be short or may be long, but keep the goal in mind. I take care of my car so I can take to the road to smell the ocean or hike in the mountains. The value to investing is the “road trips” and adventures that your investing provides. Maybe your road will lead to college, or a vacation abroad, or a new house, or retirement so you can play golf or spend time with grandkids.
Where do you want to go?
~Beverly J Bowers, CFP®