If you’ve never considered investing in stocks before, then now might be the time to think again. Why? Because it can be an excellent way of getting inflation beating returns on your investments that would be difficult, if not impossible, with other means of saving. Stocks grow in value over the long-term and regular income can be enjoyed from dividends. Investing in businesses is a positive way to build a substantial retirement fund.

When the financial crash hit in 2008, it deterreda lot of would-be stock market investors. With share prices crashing, many preferred what they considered the safer alternative ofbasic savings accounts, where returns from the interest paid were not high but the money was safe.

However,since then the stock market has rebounded and has been generating good returns for investors. So is it a good idea to dip your toe into investing in stocks and, assuming the answer is “yes,” do you know how to invest in stocks?

It may surprise you, but the process is not that difficult. Yes, you have to have some spare money to invest, but to start with it doesn’t need to be a hugeamount and you don’t have to be an expert. Here are some ideas to consider about gettingstarted.

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Finding the initial money

If you’re not from a wealthy background, and most of us aren’t and don’t have much spare cash, you can still start investing after saving up enough just to get you on the ladder. While you are accumulatingthat money get on with some research about investing in stocks and start to map out a plan that suits your circumstances. Some stocks require a minimum amount for you to buy and some don’t, so look into what will work with the initial investment money you have available.

Deciding how much to invest

To begin with it comes down to how much you have available and how much of that you want to put into stocks. You’ll be aware that there are risks involved with investing in this way but if you approach it properly, with research and information in place, there’s no reason that you can’t build up a profitable portfolio, especially if you are looking at this as a long-term investment plan. If you are a risk taker, then you might want to go all out with what you have, but it’s probably best to spread your bets and go for a mix of investments that range from safe to medium risk, and if it suits you, higher risk.

Building a portfolio

You’ll know the adage “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” And that is the key to successful stock investing because there’s always the danger that one company or fund that you invest in loses value for somereason and if you haven’t spread the risk it could be painful. That iswhy developing a diverse portfolio can protect you as well as help you to achieve capital growth and enjoy regular dividend payments. So what’s the best way to do that?

Mutual funds

This type of investment means you buy into what’s known as a basket of securities rather than buying individual stocks. It means that fund managers handle the investments and you will be charged a fee for that management. It can take a lot of the hassle out of investing, especially if you have good fund managers who continue to grow the funds through judicious investment decisions. If you have a 401(k), your plan will likely have access to mutual funds or an Exchange Traded Fund (ETF).

Individual Stocks

This can take more time and effort, and you’ll need to use an online broker or find a commissioned broker in your neighborhood. There isa plethora of online brokers so it’s important to research what they have to offer and the fees they charge. Sometimes having an experienced person helping you with your decision making can be not only useful but also comforting. When mutual trust and respect is built up it could be the right choice for you. It’s perfectly possible to keep an eye on individual stocks you’ve invested in with an online broker, but you do need to take some extra time out to monitor how your stocks are doing. You should also keep an eye on the financial news to see if there are any positive or negative signs aboutthe stocks you own.

Developing your portfolio

Once you’ve taken the decision to investin stocks, you’ll want to look around to findthe best options for your portfolio development. When you begin you might want to shy away from tech start-ups (unless you have a highly developed knowledge of how the tech industry works) and plump for more mundane offerings.

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There are many stablecompanies that have been around for decades, making things that people want to buy and delivering reliable annual performances and dividends. You could also consider investing for the long-term in index funds, a basket of stocks that follows a particular index such as the S&P 500 or the Dow Jones. Never be shy abouttaking professional advice. It will cost you but it is better to be in the know with experts who want to help you make the best out of your money than struggle in a field you’re not comfortable with.

Follow your instincts

Some people think that investing in stocks is a game, a gamble you take where you win or lose. Let’s be clear. It’s not a casino where the odds are stacked against you. Shrewd investing in stocks is based on knowledge and information and can be safely accomplishedso that you grow your money and not lose some or all of it. There are always some risks attached, but the house is not biased against you. If anything, it’s probably stacked in your favor.