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Investing has become increasingly important over the years, as the future of social security benefits becomes unknown.

People want to insure their futures, and they know that if they are depending on Social Security benefits, and in some cases retirement plans, that they may be in for a rude awakening when they no longer have the ability to earn a steady income. Investing is the answer to the unknowns of the future.

You may have been saving money in a low interest savings account over the years. Now, you want to see that money grow at a faster pace. Perhaps you’ve inherited money or realized some other type of windfall, and you need a way to make that money grow. Again, investing is the answer.

Investing is also a way of attaining the things that you want, such as a new home, a college education for your children, or expensive ‘toys.’ Of course, your financial goals will determine what type of investing you do.

If you want or need to make a lot of money fast, you would be more interested in higher risk investing, which will give you a larger return in a shorter amount of time. If you are saving for something in the far off future, such as retirement, you would want to make safer investments that grow over a longer period of time.

The overall purpose in investing is to create wealth and security, over a period of time. It is important to remember that you will not always be able to earn an income… you will eventually want to retire.

You also cannot count on the social security system to do what you expect it to do. As we have seen with Enron, you also cannot necessarily depend on your company’s retirement plan either. So, again, investing is the key to insuring your own financial future, but you must make smart investments!

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Knowing what your risk tolerance and investment style are will help you choose investments more wisely. While there are many different types of investments that one can make, there are really only three specific investment styles – and those three styles tie in with your risk tolerance. The three investment styles are conservative, moderate, and aggressive.

Naturally, if you find that you have a low tolerance for risk, your investment style will most likely be conservative or moderate at best. If you have a high tolerance for risk, you will most likely be a moderate or aggressive investor. At the same time, your financial goals will also determine what style of investing you use.

If you are saving for retirement in your early twenties, you should use a conservative or moderate style of investing – but if you are trying to get together the funds to buy a home in the next year or two, you would want to use an aggressive style.

Conservative investors want to maintain their initial investment. In other words, if they invest $5000 they want to be sure that they will get their initial $5000 back. This type of investor usually invests in common stocks and bonds and short term money market accounts.

An interest earning savings account is very common for conservative investors.

A moderate investor usually invests much like a conservative investor, but will use a portion of their investment funds for higher risk investments. Many moderate investors invest 50% of their investment funds in safe or conservative investments, and invest the remainder in riskier investments.

An aggressive investor is willing to take risks that other investors won’t take. They invest higher amounts of money in riskier ventures in the hopes of achieving larger returns – either over time or in a short amount of time. Aggressive investors often have all or most of their investment funds tied up in the stock market.

Again, determining what style of investing you will use will be determined by your financial goals and your risk tolerance. No matter what type of investing you do, however, you should carefully research that investment. Never invest without having all of the facts!

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“Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket!” You’ve probably heard that over and over again throughout your life…and when it comes to investing, it is very true. Diversification is the key to successful investing. All successful investors build portfolios that are widely diversified, and you should too!

Diversifying your investments might include purchasing various stocks in many different industries. It may include purchasing bonds, investing in money market accounts, or even in some real property. The key is to invest in several different areas – not just one.

Over time, research has shown that investors who have diversified portfolios usually see more consistent and stable returns on their investments than those who just invest in one thing. By investing in several different markets, you will actually be at less risk also.

For instance, if you have invested all of your money in one stock, and that stock takes a significant plunge, you will most likely find that you have lost all of your money. On the other hand, if you have invested in ten different stocks, and nine are doing well while one plunges, you are still in reasonably good shape.

A good diversification will usually include stocks, bonds, real property, and cash. It may take time to diversify your portfolio. Depending on how much you have to initially invest, you may have to start with one type of investment, and invest in other areas as time goes by.

This is okay, but if you can divide your initial investment funds among various types of investments, you will find that you have a lower risk of losing your money, and over time, you will see better returns.

Experts also suggest that you spread your investment money evenly among your investments. In other words, if you start with $100,000 to invest, invest $25,000 in stocks, $25,000 in real property, $25,000 in bonds, and put $25,000 in an interest bearing savings account.

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There are certain things you must understand about bonds before you start investing in them. Not understanding these things may cause you to purchase the wrong bonds, at the wrong maturity date.

The three most important things that must be considered when purchasing a bond include the par value, the maturity date, and the coupon rate.

The par value of a bond refers to the amount of money you will receive when the bond reaches its maturity date. In other words, you will receive your initial investment back when the bond reaches maturity.

The maturity date is of course the date that the bond will reach its full value. On this date, you will receive your initial investment, plus the interest that your money has earned.

Corporate and State and Local Government bonds can be ‘called’ before they reach their maturity, at which time the corporation or issuing Government will return your initial investment, along with the interest that it has earned thus far. Federal bonds cannot be ‘called.’

The coupon rate is the interest that you will receive when the bond reaches maturity. This number is written as a percentage, and you must use other information to find out what the interest will be. A bond that has a par value of $2000, with a coupon rate of 5% would earn $100 per year until it reaches maturity.

Because bonds are not issued by banks, many people don’t understand how to go about buying one. There are two ways this can be done.

You can use a broker or brokerage firm to make the purchase for you or you can go directly to the Government. If you use a brokerage, you will more than likely be charged a commission fee. If you want to use a broker, shop around for the lowest commissions!

Purchasing directly through the Government isn’t nearly as hard as it once was. There is a program called Treasury Direct which will allow you to purchase bonds and all of your bonds will be held in one account, that you will have easy access to. This will allow you to avoid using a broker or brokerage firm.

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Before you consider investing in any type of market, you should really take a long hard look at your current situation. Investing in the future is a good thing, but clearing up bad – or potentially bad – situations in the present is more important.

Pull your credit report. You should do this once each year. It is important to know what is on your report, and to clear up any negative items on your credit report as soon as possible. If you’ve set aside $25,000 to invest, but you have $25,000 worth of bad credit, you are better off cleaning up the credit first!

Next, look at what you are paying out each month, and get rid of expenses that are not necessary. For instance, high interest credit cards are not necessary. Pay them off and get rid of them. If you have high interest outstanding loans, pay them off as well.

If nothing else, exchange the high interest credit card for one with lower interest and refinance high interest loans with loans that are lower interest. You may have to use some of your investment funds to take care of these matters, but in the long run, you will see that this is the wisest course of action.

Get yourself into good financial shape – and then enhance your financial situation with sound investments.

It doesn’t make sense to start investing funds if your bank balance is always running low or if you are struggling to pay your monthly bills. Your investment dollars will be better spent to rectify adverse financial issues that affect you each day.

While you are in the process of clearing up your present financial situation, make it a point to educate yourself about the various types of investments.

This way, when you are in a financially sound situation, you will be armed with the knowledge that you need to make equally sound investments in your future.