Your First Stock Investing Choice Should Be This One

Strong portfolios are built on diversification, so before you start picking individual stocks, you would do well to "buy the market."

Motley Fool Staff
Motley Fool Staff
Jul 2, 2019 at 9:16AM
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It would be hard to find a podcast-hosting duo more fully invested in answering your financial questions than Alison Southwick and Robert Brokamp -- they even put "Answers" in their show's name! This week they're at it again, combing through theĀ Motley Fool Answers mailbag in search of conundrums to address for their listeners. But because three heads are better than two, for this episode, they have recruited senior analyst -- and frequent podcast guest -- Ron Gross to help out.

In this segment, they hear from a listener who is preparing to begin his investing journey. Should he start with an S&P 500 mutual fund, he asks? The Fools chime in to explain why he's on the right track.

To catch full episodes of all The Motley Fool's free podcasts, check out ourĀ podcast center. A full transcript follows the video.

This video was recorded on June 25, 2019.

Alison Southwick: All right, Bro. The next question comes from Mike. "I'm 37 and I know I have too much money in a savings account -- about $200,000. I want to eventually be a homeowner again, but the timing isn't right to buy because of my job. I don't want to buy more individual stocks because I look at them as only a long-term play and I don't want to get crushed on capital gains taxes if/when I sell. What suggestions do you have on making my liquid money work for me? It's already in a savings account earning 2% interest. There has to be better options that won't lock my money away for two-plus years. Also, when do you suggest individuals start working with a financial advisor?"

Robert Brokamp: Mike, I totally agree that if your job is in any sort of flux, you don't want to be buying a house. We've talked about that on a couple of episodes now. It's definitely a long-term proposition, so I agree with you waiting on that.

You said you want to avoid stocks because you don't want to get crushed by capital gains taxes. Just so you know, for most people the capital gains rate on long-term capital gains is only 15% and, of course, you're only paying that because you made a profit, so I wouldn't let taxes, necessarily, prevent you from investing. I would say if you do think you're going to need the money in the next two years, I wouldn't invest it. But anytime I hear someone say I don't want to do something because of the taxes, it raises a yellow flag for me.

Now as for what to do with your cash, you're already earning 2% which is great, because the vast majority of people are letting their cash sit in their bank where they're earning nothing, so that's good. Unfortunately I don't have too many other great options. There are some credit unions that will pay very attractive rates on a certain amount of money that you have. I looked this morning. A credit union called Consumers Credit Union pays 5.09%. But...

Ron Gross: There's a but. There's got to be a but!


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Southwick: Oh, no! Never mind!

Brokamp: It's only on balances up to $10,000. After that it pays like 0.2%.

Gross: There you go!

Brokamp: But plenty of other things. Like you have to make 12 debit card point-of-sale purchases without using the PIN. You have to log in once a month. So there's some criteria. That said, I think it's still worth looking at what credit unions are offering in your area which you can do by just visiting MyCreditUnion.gov. You might find something there for at least a little bit of your money.

Beyond that we have The Ascent, which is a site owned by The Motley Fool which will help you find higher-yielding accounts. You can get a savings account yielding upwards of 2.4%. One-year CDs upwards of 2.8%. I think those are worth looking at. But generally speaking you're not going to get anything like 4-6%.

Southwick: What are CDs doing these days?

Brokamp: 2.8%.

Gross: If you could never get 4-5% for cash, that means the stock market's in trouble, so be careful what you wish for!

Brokamp: I think it was Will Rogers who said this. "You're more interested about the return of your money than the return on your money if you're looking for something that is safe and liquid." And your final question. When do you get a financial advisor? As soon as you ask the question. If you think you might need a financial advisor, it's certainly worth doing. Just based on what you've told me already, it sounds to me like you certainly have complicated-enough finances where a financial advisor could probably give you some good advice.