Q: One of my New Year’s resolutions is to finally start investing in 2018. How should I get started?
The first thing you should do is decide if you want to invest for retirement (in an IRA) or not (in a regular brokerage account). The main difference is that you can’t use the funds in an IRA until retirement, but you get some nice tax advantages.
Once you’ve decided the type of account you want, compare some of the major online brokers, such as Schwab, TD Ameritrade, E*Trade, and others. Not only should you pay attention to the differences in pricing, but look at the features each one offers as well. As a new investor, you’ll want access to educational resources that can help you learn more.
After you find a good fit, open an account with the brokerage of your choice and make a deposit. With all of the major brokers, this is a quick and easy process.
Now it’s time to invest. Although your new brokerage account gives you access to thousands of stocks, bonds, and funds, I always suggest that new investors start with basic index funds. These generally have minimal fees, and spread your money around to a bunch of different stocks. For example, the Vanguard S&P 500 ETF (NYSEMKT:VOO) invests in the 500 stocks that make up the S&P 500. Index funds like this one can form a great core portfolio while you learn. Pick one or a few high-quality index funds and buy your first shares.