We are now a few weeks deep in 2017. The new year buzz should be wearing off, if not gone, by now and regular schedules should be in full swing. Now that we are comfortable with the year, it is time to start looking into some other projects we can do to help ourselves financially. This is a great time to start learning about investing and if you’re ready for it, it’s a great time to start to invest.
BUT WHERE DO I START?
Excellent question. First, let me preface this by saying that I am not a financial expert. I dabble with investing and so far it has paid off for me with my limited funds.
Where to start? The first thing you need to ask yourself is what kind of investing do you want to do. Are you in it to make profits from selling or do you want steady income from the dividends? I tend to stay away from turning over stocks purely for profits because it involves too much watching and waiting when I could be spending time with my three year old.
Dividends are great because your money is making you MORE money. How great is that? I love it. But what is a dividend? A dividend is a sum of money paid regularly (typically quarterly) by a company to its shareholders out of its profits or reserves. Companies pay dividend largely for the tax benefits they receive and as a shareholder, you reap the benefits of making money. Unfortunately, you will have to pay a portion of your income to the tax man yourself, but the extra income benefit outweighs the tax strain.
So now you’ve decided you want dividend stocks. You want your money to make more money with less effort. That’s great. (Or if you’ve decided you want to buy and sell to make profits, unfortunately, this post is not for you.) And now you’re not sure what you need to do to get started.
STEP 1: SET ASIDE FUNDS
If you’re strapped for cash, start setting some aside. Set aside $20 a week and in one year you’ll have a nice $1000 to start off your investing. Maybe you’re thinking $20 sounds like a lot of money. It’s really not. Do you make frequent trips to Starbucks every week? Or a few trips through a drive-thru? Skip them and put that money aside for investing instead. It adds up much quicker than you might expect.
Already have some money ready to invest? Good, let’s move on.
STEP 2: DECIDE WHERE TO INVEST
There are many options and reputable places to invest. Most have specific requirements involving amount of money to get started. They also have commission fees for trading through their services. Here is a list of these types of places:
Don’t like the idea of minimum start costs or paying commission fees? Check these options, especially if your funds are limited:
I have not used all of these options. Currently, I work through Fidelity, Charles Schwab, and Robinhood. Fidelity is where my IRA sits from my previous employment rollover. It just sits there and grows a little. I honestly don’t mess with it too much. I chose Charles Schwab to hold funds from my side projects to help track income and expenses. It also is a convenient way to invest the money I make from these extra projects.
My biggest use goes to Robinhood. I use it to do 95% of my trading and investing. I chose Robinhood due to its lack of fees and ease of use. It only works as an app on my phone which means I can check into whenever I want wherever I am. Free, use anywhere, easy interface. It’s great for beginners with limited funds.
STEP 3: RESEARCH STOCKS
You have money and you have a platform to trade on, but now you need stocks. There are a few sites that are great for starting your basic research. My favorite place to start is with this list of Dividend Champions. Dividend Champions are companies that have been paying dividend for 25+ years. There are also Dividend Contenders who have given their dividends for 10-24 years and a list of Dividend Challengers who are in the 5-9 year range.
Ok, that’s a big list and overwhelming to see at first. For those wanting to play it safe, you’ll want to look at the stocks that have a Dividend Yield between 2 and 4. These are extremely stable stocks and ones you generally don’t have to worry about what’s going on with them and you will make steady income from their dividends.
Now you’re thinking, those are great but what about XYZ Company. You have a company whose products you like and a business model you approve of, etc and you want to invest in them. There is still some research to do before you try to buy their stock. My favorite place to snapshot stocks is through Yahoo! Finance.
Now you want to look at a few things: financials, historical data, and prices over last 5 years. In financials, you want to see if the company is continuing to make profits. Are they making money, are they continuing to have income growth? If you answer yes, then this is a great sign. Then look at their historical data and filter it to dividends for the maximum amount of time. Do they give dividends, do their dividends continue to increase? If yes, this is another great sign. Then look at their prices over the last 5 years. You want to find a common low spot on the graph to indicate your buying point.
Why do I need a low buying point if I’m just in it for the dividends? Truthfully, you don’t. However, you may decide that you want to sell it when it hits the common high peak and reinvest when it drops down again to make a few bucks. It’s also a great point for when you want to buy more of the same stock and don’t want to spend too much money.
STEP 4: MAKE A WATCH LIST
You did all the research and you know your buy-in points. Create a spreadsheet or document for yourself to keep track of the stocks you want to buy and the price you want to buy them at. This will help you keep track so you don’t have to try and remember a lot of symbols and numbers. I have mine set up for the column to change colors when the current price goes under my watch price. My watch list is set up through Google Docs and the use of an app called Intrinio.
STEP 5: BUY A STOCK
You saved up money and you found a trading platform. Research has been done and watch list made. Now one of your stocks has dropped under you buy price. This is your time. Buy the number of shares you’re comfortable buying. Then you can sit back, relax, and wait for your dividends to roll in so you can reinvest them in more stock shares.
STEP 6: DIVERSIFY
Try to diversify your funds. You don’t need to spread too widely, however, you don’t want all of your eggs in one basket. This is also a great way to take a little risk if you’re not sure what a stock may do for you.
Good luck with your investing and may your new dividends bring you some joy!