These top 10 investment rules are the path to build wealth. They are a simple but powerful way to save and invest. Here’s what really works in investing.
Investing seems so hard and complicated. The media tell us constantly that it is too hard for the average investor. Investment professionals always make it more complicated and less understandable. When I was younger, I read many investment books and articles. I watched CNBC and followed the market. Here is what I learned:
- No one knows the future.
- Simple investments are better.
- Low costs investments keep more money in your pocket.
- You need a plan.
- You can do it yourself.
Learn the Investment Rules
One of the reasons I started Finally Learn was to help investors learn to invest by managing their own investment portfolio. You can build an investment plan and a portfolio without an advisor. You just need some knowledge and a plan. These 10 investment rules are simple but sophisticated. They are based on actual returns. This is what really works in investing, not what professionals or the financial press can sell you.
Top 10 Investment Rules
These Investment Maxims are the foundation of Finally Learn. We believe you can manage your own portfolio. In future articles, we will expand on the basics presented here.
1. Start saving now
Today is the best day to start investing. Yesterday would have been better. Tomorrow is the worst day to start. Start today.
As Warren Buffett says, “someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” Start saving now. Your future self will thank you.
2. Save every month
Save something every month. Start with $100 and find ways to increase it. If you can start with more, do it. Start this habit and don’t break it.
Your goal should be to save 15% of your income. If you are saving less, try to increase your savings rate to at least 15%
Pay yourself first. If you save first, you won’t miss it.
3. Be your own portfolio manager
You do not need an investment professional to invest. Learn enough so you can invest on your own. It is much cheaper this way. Be your own investment manager.
4. Make a plan
Develop an asset allocation plan. Stick to the plan through thick and thin. This discipline will be very valuable to your portfolio.
An asset allocation plan is simple. You need to answer the question, “How much stocks and bonds should I have in my portfolio?” This is your first important decsion.
Stocks generally have long term returns higher than bonds. However, stocks are more risky. So, asset allocation is balancing risk and return.
For example, see the following three portfolios in the table:
The aggressive portfolio generally would have higher expected returns of the three portfolios. It would also have higher expected risk.
The conservative portfolio generally would have lower expected returns and risk. The moderate portfolio would be in the middle.
Pick a stock allocation percentage that fits your investment plan. For long term growth, you should start with about 50% stock and the remainder in bonds.
5. Buy low cost index funds
After, you decide on an asset allocation, you need to pick your investments. Buy low cost index funds. Index funds own hundreds of stocks that comprise the index.
The S&P 500 is most well-known stock index. It includes 500 of the largest U.S. companies. An index fund buys stock in all the companies in the index. This is a simple buy and hold investment that reduces cost and minimizes taxes.
Here are some of the largest stock index funds:
- VFIAX Vanguard 500 Index Fund
- SPY SPDR S&P 500 ETF
- FXAIX Fidelity 500 Index Fund
- VTSAX Vanguard Total Stock Market Fund
The first three funds track the S&P 500 index and hold about 500 stocks. The Vanguard Total Stock Market includes over 3,900 stocks.
Stocks are risky. You can lose all your money if a company goes bankrupt. So, diversification reduces risk. Diversify your portfolio by owning the entire market.
This is a boring strategy. This will not be exciting. You will not have great investment stories to tell your friends. But, you will do better than most investment professionals that charge high fees. Winning!
“Put 10% of the cash in short-term government bonds and 90% in a very low-cost S&P 500 index fund. (I suggest Vanguard’s.) I believe the trust’s long-term results from this policy will be superior to those attained by most investors – whether pension funds, institutions or individuals – who employ high-fee managers.”
7. Focus on your saving rate
Your saving rate is more important than your rate of return. You can control your saving rate but not your investment return. Increase your saving rate to 15% of what you make.
8. No peeking
Don’t let the gains or losses change your investment plan. So, check your investment balances every year. Less if you can manage it.
Jack Bogle, the founder of Vanguard, famously recommended people never look at their statement until retirement. Staying the course is a virtue!
To help you think long term, remember the rule of 72. This helps you estimate how long a percentage return will double your investment. An 8% return will double the investment in 9 years (72 / 8 percent = 9 years).
9. Ignore the experts
Don’t listen to investment trends and experts. Ignore the financial experts and their predictions. Stay fully invested.
As the quote says, “it is difficult to make predictions, particularly about the future.”
10. Resist the urge to do something
Resist the urge to change, trade, tinker, adjust or otherwise do something. Stay invested and stay the course.
These top 10 investing rules are really simple, but they are the golden rules for investors.
Jack Bogle’s Rules
Jack Bogle had even fewer rules. Here are Jack Bogle’s simple rules:
- Stay broadly diversified
- Keep costs low
- Keep transactions to a minimum
- Don’t look at your statements
A Random Walk Down Wall Street by Burton Malkiel (Amazon link)
The Little Book of Common Sense Investing: The Only Way to Guarantee Your Fair Share of Stock Market Returns by John C. Bogle (Amazon link)
John Bogle Interview: