Join the 2% of Americans Who Make Their Money Work for Them
by The Ascent Staff | Updated July 21, 2021 - First published on Oct. 21, 2019
Investing a small amount of time every day could make all the difference.
While over half of Americans believe they're disciplined or highly disciplined when it comes to financial planning, only 1.8% use professional financial and banking services each day. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data analyzed by The Ascent, people spend an average of just 36 seconds a day using professional and banking services.
What's interesting is that the small percentage of people who do put time into using those services spend almost half an hour doing so every day. So, what are they doing with that time? And is it something you should be doing, too?
It's likely that some of that time will be spent on making sure they have a budget and sticking to it. Having a budget lets you plan the amount of cash you want to put into savings, debt repayment, and investments each month. Reviewing it regularly means you can adjust your spending if you're not meeting your financial goals.
Those who are spending about 14 hours a month on professional financial and banking services are probably doing a lot more than tracking their budgets. They're probably also investing their money to grow their wealth. Depending on your current financial goals and situation, investing could help you earn a bigger return in the long run.
Taking the plunge
The misconception that investing requires huge amounts of time and knowledge puts a lot of people off -- as evidenced by the small percentage of people who use professional financial services each day.
Investments can be riskier than putting your savings into a high-interest bank account, especially in the short term. Stocks can increase and decrease in value rapidly. However, the stock market has averaged a 9% annual return for decades. If you've built up an emergency fund and are already making contributions towards your retirement, perhaps it's time to consider adding some investments to your portfolio.
As long as you're willing to put in a bit of effort and you can wait out any dips in the market, there are a lot of ways to invest. It's best to start with low-risk investments. In terms of how you invest, a lot comes down to the type of person you are and how involved you want to be in selecting and managing your investments.
Which of these applies to you?
- You're a do-it-yourselfer: Investing on your own could mean putting in many hours evaluating stocks, mutual funds, and other securities. You'll spend time buying, selling, and following the ups and downs of the market. But if you're a hands-on individual, this approach might be for you. You can make trades through an online broker, but you'll need to shop around to find the best deal, as platforms have varying fees, commissions, and account minimums. Some online brokers offer more services -- such as customer support, research, and better mobile apps -- than others.
- You like the high-tech approach: If you already go online to handle some of your financial services, such as banking and tax preparation, you might feel it's a natural next step to do your investing that way, too. Consider using a robo-advisor, a digital platform that provides financial planning services. Using algorithms based on your risk profile and goals, robo-advisors pick investments for your portfolio. Generally, robo-advisors are quite affordable, but many require a minimum investment of $10,000 or more.
- You prefer the personal connection: If you'd like the opportunity to regularly discuss your investment portfolio and how it's helping you progress toward your long-term goals, you may want to work with a human financial advisor. You'll get personalized investment recommendations and have someone available to answer questions about your 401(k), IRA, and other investments. When choosing a financial advisor, be sure you know how she or he is getting paid, whether through fees, commissions, or a combination of both.
Smart money management is time well spent
Managing your money may never be your favorite activity, but it will always be one of your most important ones. You need to devote some time to this task -- and the more you do, the easier and more autonomous it will become. The rewards will be apparent.
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About the Author
We're firm believers in the Golden Rule, which is why editorial opinions are ours alone and have not been previously reviewed, approved, or endorsed by included advertisers. The Ascent does not cover all offers on the market. Editorial content from The Ascent is separate from The Motley Fool editorial content and is created by a different analyst team.