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Is It Better to Save or Invest Your Money?

When building wealth, it is important to understand the similarities and differences between saving and investing your money. Knowing when to save and when to invest your money is a key part of your wealth building plan.

Let’s start from the top. Basically, saving money is putting money aside on a regular basis. You spend less money than you earn and put the rest in a savings account at your bank. This should be an automatic part of your monthly budget. Remember, saving money is an important part of being financially successful.

Investing is taking this a step further, and putting money into the stock market by buying stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or other investment vehicles. Investing is absolutely imperative in building long-term wealth.

What Is Investing?

Once you have a good amount saved, you can begin investing money. Investing is the way that you will begin to really grow your money and begin to build wealth. For example, if you keep your savings in a savings account, the amount of interest you will earn will be very small. However, if you invest in mutual funds or stocks, your rate of return will be much higher.

The big difference? The stock market fluctuates, and it’s never a sure thing that you’ll earn money. In fact, you can lose money in the stock market, so be sure to keep that in mind when investing.

You will eventually come to the point where your investments make more than you are contributing each month. Your wealth really begins to grow at that point.

What Should I Invest In?

When you begin to build wealth, it is important to spread your risk. Mutual funds are an easy way to diversify your portfolio. These funds are spread out over many different stocks so that if one company fails, you do not lose everything. Another good idea? You should have your money invested in more than one mutual fund. You don’t need to have 20 mutual funds, but three or four is a good start.

If you feel confident with investing in individual stocks, be sure that you spread your investments over a wide variety of companies, businesses, and sectors of the market (For example, do not invest all your money in tech.) It is not enough to invest in different companies if they all in the same industry because sometimes entire industries can take a hit.

You may consider investing in other things. One example is real estate. This can bring you a good passive source of income. Real estate also tends to increase in value over time. However, do not do this until you are ready to purchase in cash, and can pay for any repairs or unexpected expenses out of cash flow. It also may require more work on your part, depending on how you choose to rent it out and whether or not you use a property management company, which can cut into your rental property earnings.

Real estate can be a great investment, but it also has its risks. Much like the stock market, property values can go up and down.

When Should I Start Investing?

Most financial advisers recommend that you wait to start investing until you have paid off the majority of your debt. However, this really depends on your interest rate. If you are paying a 0% interest rate on your debt, it may make more sense to begin investing before it’s paid off, since you can earn a greater percentage in returns. (The average rate of return on the stock market is around 7%.)

It’s also a good idea to have a solid emergency fund saved before you begin investing. You should have money in your emergency fund that relatively liquid and easily accessible, without paying a large penalty. A money market account at your bank is a safe place to put this.

Investing can help you build wealth. But keep in mind that you won’t be able to truly build wealth – and increase your net worth – until you spend less than you earn and get out of debt. That’s why it’s still wise to stick to a budget, so you can save and invest effectively.

Who Can Help Me Start Investing?

So you’re ready to invest, but you’re not quite sure where to start. A good first step is to meet with a financial advisor.

A financial adviser can explain the different types of investments that are available to you. He or she can explain the risks and the potential gains to help you find investments that you are comfortable with.

Another option is to select an online brokerage site or robo-investor. The fees are lower and if you know the types of investments you want to make, you can save money in the long run.

One final thing to keep in mind: Investing is a long-term strategy for building wealth. It’s important to be patient, and ride out the times when the market is not doing well. Once you do this, then you can truly be on your way to building net worth.

Original – BY MIRIAM CALDWELL

10 Habits to Develop for Financial Stability and Success

Just like any goal, getting your finances stable and becoming financially successful requires the development of good financial habits. I’ve been researching this topic extensively in the last few years in my quest to eliminate debt, increase my savings and increase financial security for my family. I’ll talk more about these habits individually, but wanted to list them in a summary (I know, but I’m a compulsive list-maker).

Here they are, in no particular order:

  1. Make savings automagical. This should be your top priority, especially if you don’t have a solid emergency fund yet. Make it the first bill you pay each payday, by having a set amount automatically transferred from your checking account to your savings (try an online savings account). Don’t even think about this transaction — just make sure it happens, each and every payday.
  2. Control your impulse spending. The biggest problem for many of us. Impulse spending, on eating out and shopping and online purchases, is a big drain on our finances, the biggest budget breaker for many, and a sure way to be in dire financial straits. See Monitor Your Impulse Spending for more tips.
  3. Evaluate your expenses, and live frugally. If you’ve never tracked your expenses, try the One Month Challenge. Then evaluate how you’re spending your money, and see what you can cut out or reduce. Decide if each expense is absolutely necessary, then eliminate the unnecessary. See How I Save Money for more. Also read 30 ways to save $1 a day.
  4. Invest in your future. If you’re young, you probably don’t think about retirement much. But it’s important. Even if you think you can always plan for retirement later, do it now. The growth of your investments over time will be amazing if you start in your 20s. Start by increasing your 401(k) to the maximum of your company’s match, if that’s available to you. After that, the best bet is probably a Roth IRA. Do a little research, but whatever you do, start now!
  5. Keep your family secure. The first step is to save for an emergency fund, so that if anything happens, you’ve got the money. If you have a spouse and/or dependents, you should definitely get life insurance and make a will — as soon as possible! Also research other insurance, such as homeowner’s or renter’s insurance.
  6. Eliminate and avoid debt. If you’ve got credit cards, personal loans, or other such debt, you need to start a debt elimination plan. List out your debts and arrange them in order from smallest balance at the top to largest at the bottom. Then focus on the debt at the top, putting as much as you can into it, even if it’s just $40-50 extra (more would be better). When that amount is paid off, celebrate! Then take the total amount you were paying (say $70 minimum payment plus the $50 extra for a total of $120) and add that to the minimum payment of the next largest debt. Continue this process, with your extra amount snowballing as you go along, until you pay off all your debts. This could take several years, but it’s a very rewarding process, and very necessary.
  7. Use the envelope system. This is a simple system to keep track of how much money you have for spending. Let’s say you set aside three amounts in your budget each payday — one for gas, one for groceries, one for eating out. Withdraw those amounts on payday, and put them in three separate envelopes. That way, you can easily track how much you have left for each of these expenses, and when you run out of money, you know it immediately. You don’t overspend in these categories. If you regularly run out too fast, you may need to rethink your budget.
  8. Pay bills immediately, or automagically. One good habit is to pay bills as soon as they come in. Also, as much as possible, try to get your bills to be paid through automatic deduction. For those that can’t, use your bank’s online check system to make regular automatic payments. This way, all of your regular expenses in your budget are taken care of.
  9. Read about personal finances. The more you educate yourself, the better your finances will be.
  10. Look to grow your net worth. Do whatever you can to improve your net worth, either by reducing your debt, increasing your savings, or increasing your income, or all of the above. Look for new ways to make money, or to get paid more for what you do. Over the course of months, if you calculate your net worth each month, you’ll see it grow. And that feels great.

Original – By Leo Babauta