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Jason Kelly

Author of The Neatest Little Guide to Stock Market Investing

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Top 5 Things to Do

Investing can be frightening—after all, you’re entrusting your money to a third party in the hopes that it won’t all disappear! Having a plan is the difference between investing and smart investing. Here are the five things any smart investor can do in order to be informed and in control.

1. Get out of debt.

You will never achieve your financial goals if you owe others. Only after you’re debt-free should you consider investing. Meanwhile, you can start setting aside a small percentage of each paycheck as an "emergency fund" so that you're not racking up additional debt if the unforseen occurs. And if the unforseen never happens? You'll have a nice chunk set aside to start investing wisely once you get out of debt!

2. Use your 401(k).

If your employer offers a plan and you’re not taking advantage of it, you’re throwing away free money! Many companies match their employee's investments dollar for dollar—talk about smart investing! Talk to your boss or HR rep today. If your company doesn’t offer a retirement plan, there are other options available to you for personal investing, such as a ROTH IRA.

3. Talk to a financial planner.

Most banks and financial institutions offer at least one free session with a professional. This is a person who can answer all your questions about investing, from defining stocks and bonds to how best to meet your personal savings goals. If they’re really good, you may want to consider having their help on a long-term basis!

4. Do your research.

With every investment opportunity comes an opinion (and another, and another.) Look at all sides of the coin before you commit, whether it’s stocks, mutual funds, real estate or small business. You want to be as informed as possible about what you might gain—and what you stand to lose.

5. Take it slow.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your financial portfolio will take some time to look the way you want it to. Avoid get-rich-quick schemes. A smart investor knows that anything worth having is worth waiting for—even more money. So relax, don’t look at your account every few minutes, and know that if you’ve done all of the above, you’re doing all you can.


Posted: 7/17/08