Last week we discussed how to start direct investment plans. The more important issue is when to start.
There's an ad floating around the Internet that poses the question, "Is this the right time to invest?" For folks new to investing, this single question often seems about as daunting as the Riddle of the Sphinx.
Here's the situation (insert hypnotic, time-warp music here):
Let's say that you are ready to make the move up from Fool Junior Grade to Fool First Class. The 13 Steps to Investing Foolishly have been read and committed to memory, those pesky credit cards are all paid off, and maybe you've given a little bit of thought to what to do for retirement. Check, check, check.
A little bit of dedicated research about stocks and investing might not be a bad idea at this point. You might read some good books, find out what those stock valuation ratios are all about, form some opinions about a few companies that have caught your eye, and share what you have learned with others on the Fool discussion boards. These are all good things to do.
Meanwhile, days pass, weeks sail by, seasons turn, TV sitcoms come and go -- pretty soon, it's months later and still no stocks. Is this what everyone around here means by Foolishness? Is it supposed to take this long to get started on this investing thing? And, more importantly, is there a point to all of this rambling?
What all this boils down to is the following: Take your time when you are getting ready to invest. If you can't tell a balance sheet from a balance beam, then set aside some time to figure out the difference between the two before plunking your money into your first stock. Learn as much as possible about your investment before it actually is your investment. That way, there is much less chance that your first investment will also end up being your dumbest investment.
Second verse, same as the first: Take your time. If you're Foolish and you want to become an owner in an excellent business for a long time, then there is no rush. Great businesses don't just appear and disappear overnight, of course. And, here's a newsflash -- neither do great investors.
I can hear the collective yawn of long-time Fools at this point, but for investing beginners these things are worth emphasizing (and for the veterans seeking new stocks, a little reiteration never hurts). Unfortunately, the Wise on Wall Street often tend to gloss over ground-breaking concepts such as "learning." Sure, learning all this investing stuff takes time and perseverance. But, like trays of meat by-products being ground into a high-quality sausage, all of your learning will form a solid basis for what kind of investor you want to be. It's a messy process, but it's worth it.
If you are struggling to find your "inner investor," there are lots of places right here at the Fool to seek solace. Take a look at the links in this article -- besides adding some needed bursts of color, they actually lead to some great investing insights. It all starts with the 13 Steps to Investing Foolishly. In the Fool Community, veteran Drippers are helping newbies along on the Drip Investing discussion boards all the time. And, for more guidance, rookie investors can look to the Ask a Foolish Question discussion board for helpful tips to get going on investing or anything finance related. You could also take one of our crash courses or online seminars, where thousands of Fools have studied together and become better investors (or gotten started!).
So, if you're trying to answer that "When should I begin to invest?" question, start by clicking these links! But take your time. And Fool on.
Brian Graney is a former Fool writer who did his homework, took his time, and decided on a career in the investment industry. The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.