Question of the week: How do I get started with investing?

Unfortunately, there is no one blue print to follow to get started with investing or a one-size-fits-all plan. There is no magic formula or steps you can follow to ensure you’ll become a successful investor. Remember, the adage, if it sounds too good to be true – it probably is? That rings true for investing as well.

That all being said there are initial steps you can take when you start investing to make sure you invest wisely and safely.

When you’re ready to start investing you must ask yourself some questions. And, most importantly you must answer them factually and honestly.

1. What are your financial goals?

Before beginning your investment journey you need to know where you want to end up. This should include short-term (new car, vacation) and long term (college, retirement) financial goals.

2. How old are you, and how long do you have to meet your goals?

Your age plays an important factor in your investment strategy. Investing at a later age could have very different impacts upon reaching your financial goals, such as having to save and invest more when starting at 35 versus 25 for retirement.. Your age will almost always determine your “time horizon,” or how long you have between when you start investing and when you would like to reach your goal.

3. How much do you have to invest now and in the future?

What is your current investment cash-flow? How much can you afford to put toward investing right now and in the future? Will the portion of your income you can put toward investing grow, shrink or be maintained as you age?

4. Are you knowledgeable about investing or will you require help?

How much do you really know about investing? Do you know the difference between different types of investments? What is more beneficial for meeting your short-term and long-term goals? There’s plenty of information out there for someone who wants to tackle investing on their own, but that’s not always the best option. Most investors need outside help from an adviser due to a lack of expertise and information, or they lack the time that is needed to be a successful investor.

Even doing something as simple as answering these four questions can make your start in investing easier, safer and hopefully in the end, more lucrative. One other thing you should do when beginning on your investment journey is be informed and educated. No matter if your investment decisions are coming from you alone or with the assistance of an adviser always be informed as to where your money is going, how it is performing and where you are on the path to your financial goals.