Don't Buy Stocks Yet

Over the long haul, investing in stocks has been the best way to preserve wealth and earn strong returns. Though the market turbulence has given investors an unusual opportunity to buy stocks at low prices, there are several reasons why you shouldn't put more money into the stock market until the rest of your financial situation is stable.

The big picture
Personal finance is about much more than just investing. After all, investing is just one step in a long chain of things you have to do to put together a viable financial plan. For instance, without taking control of your spending, you probably won't have any money to invest in the first place. And at the other end of the spectrum, even if you successfully invest your money for decades, it won't do you any good if you squander it on things you don't need and can't afford.

With this big picture in mind, here are a few things you should take care of before you start adding to your investments.

Dealing with debt
Many financial problems that families face today come from badly managed debt. Some credit card rates have started to fall, but several card issuers, including American Express (NYSE: AXP  ) and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM  ) , have bucked the trend in recent months.

Yet unless you have a remarkably low rate, it usually makes more sense to pay down a card balance than to invest. Consider: If your card charges 15% interest, paying it down is like getting a 15% return on an investment. If you put that money into stocks instead, you'd have to earn even more than 15% -- because in most cases, you'll have to pay taxes on capital gains and dividends.

An umbrella for April showers
Even if you have your debt paid off, unexpected problems can jeopardize your finances. With the economy on shaky ground, having an emergency fund to cover several months of living expenses if you lose your job can make a big difference.

Unfortunately, high-yield savings accounts at online banks like E-Trade's (Nasdaq: ETFC  ) banking division or ING Direct (NYSE: ING  ) don't pay the rates they used to. Nevertheless, they're still a good way to stay smart with your cash.

Big-ticket items on the horizon
As recent market drops have shown, the stock market is no place to put money you'll need shortly. So if you're saving money for a large purchase, such as a car or a down payment on a home, keep it safe and stay out of stocks.

In particular, the credit crunch has led many lenders to require higher down payments for mortgage loans. For instance, Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC  ) now requires 25% down payments in some hard-hit areas. That means you'll need to have even more cash on hand before you buy a new home. It may be tempting to invest in stocks and hope big returns will make saving for your down payment a little easier. But you could easily see further losses in the short term -- putting your dreams on hold even longer.

Your time will come
If you have all your other bases covered, then now's a great time to invest. But with a recession, you want to make sure you've protected yourself from other economic problems before you commit precious cash to the ups and downs of stocks.

To learn more about getting your financial ducks in a row, read about

Read/Post Comments (0) | Recommend This Article (2)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

Be the first one to comment on this article.

Compare Brokers

Fool Disclosure

Sponsored Links

Leaked: Apple's Next Smart Device
(Warning, it may shock you)
The secret is out... experts are predicting 458 million of these types of devices will be sold per year. 1 hyper-growth company stands to rake in maximum profit - and it's NOT Apple. Show me Apple's new smart gizmo!

DocumentId: 610318, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 10/22/2016 9:46:00 AM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...

Today's Market

updated 12 hours ago Sponsored by:
DOW 18,145.71 -16.64 -0.09%
S&P 500 2,141.16 -0.18 -0.01%
NASD 5,257.40 15.57 0.30%

Create My Watchlist

Go to My Watchlist

You don't seem to be following any stocks yet!

Better investing starts with a watchlist. Now you can create a personalized watchlist and get immediate access to the personalized information you need to make successful investing decisions.

Data delayed up to 5 minutes

Related Tickers

10/21/2016 4:00 PM
AXP $67.36 Up +0.58 +0.87%
American Express CAPS Rating: ****
ETFC $29.50 Up +1.30 +4.61%
E*TRADE Financial… CAPS Rating: ***
ING $12.84 Down -0.11 -0.85%
ING Groep CAPS Rating: ****
JPM $68.49 Up +0.23 +0.34%
JPMorgan Chase CAPS Rating: ****
WFC $45.09 Up +0.16 +0.36%
Wells Fargo CAPS Rating: ****