Why do so many people never obtain the financial independence that they desire? Often it's because they just don't take that first step--getting started. Besides procrastination, other excuses people make are that investing is too risky, too complicated, too time consuming, and only for the rich.
The fact is, there's nothing complicated about common investing techniques, and it usually doesn't take much time to understand the basics. The biggest risk you face is not educating yourself about which investments may be able to help you achieve your financial goals and how to approach the investing process.
Saving versus investing
Both saving and investing have a place in your finances. However, don't confuse the two. With savings, your principal typically remains constant and earns interest or dividends. Savings are kept in certificates of deposit (CDs), checking accounts, and savings accounts. By comparison, investments can go up or down in value and may or may not pay interest or dividends. Examples of investments include stocks, bonds, mutual funds, collectibles, precious metals, and real estate.
You invest for the future, and the future is expensive. For example, college expenses are increasing more rapidly than the rate of overall inflation. And because people are living longer, retirement costs are often higher than many people expect. Though all investing involves the possibility of loss, including the loss of principal, and there can be no guarantee that any investment strategy will be successful, investing is one way to try to prepare for that future.
You have to take responsibility for your own finances, even if you need expert help to do so. Government programs such as Social Security will probably play a less significant role for you than they did for previous generations. Corporations are switching from guaranteed pensions to plans that require you to make contributions and choose investments. The better you manage your dollars, the more likely it is that you'll have the money to make the future what you want it to be.
Because everyone has different goals and expectations, everyone has different reasons for investing. Understanding how to match those reasons with your investments is simply one aspect of managing your money to provide a comfortable life and financial security for you and your family.