What comes to mind when you think about making more money? Asking for a raise? Getting a second job? While these are obvious options, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get that raise, and getting a second job would probably mean you’ll have to say goodbye to your social life.
But there’s something else you can do to steadily grow your nest egg: invest your money.
But I don’t make enough money…
Think you can only invest when you’re loaded? That’s a misconception.
“Many young professionals put off making investment decisions as they think they should wait till their financial situation is more stable. However, the sooner you start, the more time you’ll have for your investments to grow,” says Chung Shaw Bee, Managing Director, Head of Singapore and Regional, Deposits & Wealth Management, United Overseas Bank. “Time also helps to smooth out the impact of economic and market volatility.”
Also, there’s no such thing as “too small” when it comes to the amount of money to set aside for investments and Shaw Bee recommends starting with an amount you can afford.
Here’s an example: if you set aside $100 every month for the next 20 years, you’ll get $24,000 at the end of it. But if you continually invest the money during that period, the sum can grow to $46,766 based on a relatively low dividend payout of six percent each year. That’s almost double the original amount.
“While you may not have a large sum of money to invest early in your career, you have the advantage of time. Small amounts, if invested over a long period, can grow significantly,” she adds. “The key to building wealth is in maintaining good habits such as putting aside money to invest regularly.”
She points out that if you start setting aside $500 every month for investment at 25, you’d have more than $1 million by the time you’re 65, based on a six percent return every year. This is compared to getting about half that if you start doing the same at 35.
Of course, there are basic concepts you have to understand about investing before getting into it. Shaw Bee says these include:
The importance of diversification: Basically, don’t put all of your eggs in the same basket. Because the market can be volatile, allocating your investments in different categories can reduce your risk of loss.
The power of compound interest: This involves earning interest on your savings and investment returns, and then reinvesting the interest so your money grows at an ever-accelerating rate. As shown in the examples above, this cycle can significantly grow your money. Naturally, the more frequently your money compounds, the greater your returns.
The benefit of time: Time is the key factor in making compound interest work. The longer you let your money compound, the higher the value will be, so the earlier you start saving and investing, the bigger the snowball effect will have on your money.
How to start
Ready to start investing? There are many ways to do it but, for a start, you can consider doing it through a bank.
Most banks offer investment services, and when you open an investment account with one, you’ll usually be assigned a banker or financial adviser who will offer advice on how you can better manage your money. They’ll talk to you about your “risk appetite” (how open you are to taking risks) and goals, then propose the suitable financial products and solutions.
A common misconception is that savings plans are similar to investment plans, but there are several differences between the two. Savings plans are stuff like your savings account, fixed deposits account, and endowment insurance (where you set aside money every month over a designated time period). Investment plans involve a different combination of products. For example, at UOB, their investment products include:
Most organisations need money to fund new projects. When you buy bonds, you’re basically loaning them part of the cash and getting IOUs in return. The bonds ensure you not only get your money back (provided the organisation doesn’t go bankrupt), but also earn some interest.
2. Dual currency investment
In this setup, you choose a base currency and an alternate currency. Then you pick the investment tenure (from one week to a month), how much to invest, and your preferred exchange rate. How much you make (or lose) depends on the relative strengths of the currencies at the end of the tenure.
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3. Gold and silver
The value of gold and silver stands the test of time, so you can buy gold (whether in the form of bars, bullion coins or certificates) and sell it back to the bank based on the daily buy-sell market quote. For convenience, you can also sign up for accounts to buy and sell gold and silver without the need for physical delivery.
4. Unit trusts
A unit trust pools investors’ money together to form a single fund. These units are usually managed by fund managers who are able to recommend you the ones that meet your specific investment needs.
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Confused by all these products? You can start with an investment package. Most banks have their own versions – at UOB, they have something called the Young Professional Solution. It combines the rebates you earn from your credit card spend with the interest you earn from your savings, and invests in a unit trust on your behalf.
There are many options when it comes to investing. At the end of the day, it’s most important that you only do what you’re comfortable with. Be sure to do your research and understand the risks you’re taking in a bid to make your money grow.
An earlier version of this article first appeared in the August 2018 issue of CLEO magazine.
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