Whether you’re a first-time investor or have been investing for many years, there is some basic information you should know about investing. Below is a list of thirteen pieces of investing-related information that may help you make informed financial decisions and avoid common scams.
Details on an investment professional’s background and qualifications are available through the Investment Adviser Public Disclosure website and FINRA BrokerCheck. If you have any questions on checking the background of an investment professional, call the SEC’s toll-free investor assistance line at (800) 732-0330.
Expenses vary from product to product, and even small differences in these costs can translate into large differences in earnings over time. An investment with high costs must perform better than a low-cost investment to generate the same returns for you. In addition, some products are designed to be long-term investments. If you need your money early, you may need to pay substantial surrender fees.
By picking the right mix of investments, you may be able to limit your losses and reduce the fluctuations of your investment returns without sacrificing too much in potential gains. Some investors find that it is easier to achieve diversification through ownership of mutual funds or exchange-traded funds rather than through ownership of individual stocks or bonds.
Few investments pay off as well as, or with less risk than, eliminating high-interest debt on credit cards or other loans.
Every investment carries some degree of risk and the potential for greater returns comes with greater risk. Ignore so-called "can’t miss" investment opportunities or those promising "guaranteed returns" or, better yet, report them to the SEC.
Registration is important because it provides investors access to key information about the company’s m anagement, products, services, and finances. While many companies that do not register or file reports with the SEC may be legitimate investments, you assume more risk when you invest in a company about which little or no information is publicly available. Smart investors will always check whether an offering is registered with the SEC by using the SEC's EDGAR database or contacting the SEC's toll-free investor assistance line at (800) 732-0330.
In particular, you should think twice before investing heavily in shares of your employer's stock. If the value of your employer's shares declines significantly, or the company goes bankrupt, you may lose money and there's a chance you might lose your job, too.
According to researchers, other common investing mistakes include focusing on past performance, favoring investments from your own country, region, state or company, and holding on to losing investments too long and selling winning investments too soon.
Common tactics include phantom riches (dangling the prospect of wealth, enticing you with something you want but can't have), source credibility (trying to build credibility by claiming to be with a reputable firm or to have a special credential or experience), social consensus (leading you to believe that other savvy investors have already invested), reciprocity (offering to do a small favor for you in return for a big favor) and scarcity (creating a false sense of urgency by claiming limited supply).
For example, employer-sponsored retirement plans and individual retirement accounts generally provide tax advantages for retirement savings, and 529 college savings plans also offer tax benefits. Individuals who are interested in learning about the tax impact of their investment decisions should consult their tax adviser or visit the IRS website.
This is true even if you buy a mutual fund through a bank and the fund carries the bank's name.
We see too many investors who might have avoided trouble and losses if they had asked questions from the start and verified the answers with sources outside of their family, community, or group.
Whether checking the background of an investment professional, researching an investment, or learning about new products or scams, unbiased information can be a significant advantage for investing wisely. A good starting point for this information is the SEC's Investor.gov website.
The Office of Investor Education and Advocacy has provided this information as a service to investors. It is neither a legal interpretation nor a statement of SEC policy. If you have questions concerning the meaning or application of a particular law or rule, please consult with an attorney who specializes in securities law.