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How to Start Investing (When You Don’t Know How)

Ellie is a Glasgow-based writer who loves to write about a variety of topics, including travel, business, finance, DIY, beauty and fashion.


If you’ve seen the legendary comedy Trading Places, you’ll know how Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd manage to beat the evil investors by investing money in the futures for orange juice.

It’s quite a simple ending: they bet on a thing, and the other side doesn’t. The ending has one simple problem though: most people watching have no idea what’s going on. A quick search on google shows there are over 43 million results alone for “trading places ending”.

The reason for all the searches is because the world of investing can be confusing. For most people, unless you actively keep track of what is going on in the investment world, dipping your toe in can seem dangerous.

So what can someone do if they feel like they want to start investing? Well, there are a few accessible routes to take to get you going, and I’m going to explain some of them in this short post. Now, this isn’t all about how to become a great investor. It’s merely highlighting a few ways to start investing if you want to give it a go in a safe manner.

Listen to How Investments Do (or Don’t) Pay Off

Not all of us will have an investor close by who we can lean on for questions, or the time to spend reading the books on the Dos & Don'ts of investing. It doesn’t mean you can’t digest relevant information and build a picture for yourself over time.

The easiest way to listen to what experts are saying requires nothing more than your earphones. Spend some time every day listening to investment podcasts. Because they have to be timely and informative, you can give yourself a crash course in investing and come away with five new things to look up and learn.

Some of the best podcasts to try out include:

  • Planet Money
  • The Indicator
  • Wake up to Money
  • Money for the Rest of Us
  • Stacking Benjamins

Make a habit of listening to them, just like catching up with the news, and you’ll gain knowledge from experts that is usually reserved for courses and books. There’s a great list by The Balance on investing podcasts, which you can read here if you want to find the podcast for you.


Get Someone Who Knows What They’re Doing

When people want to get serious about investing, they don’t get a copy of the Financial Times and a pen to start making notes. They have someone find suitable investments on their behalf. There are companies like FinnCap who have teams dedicated to, as they put it, “advising, promoting and raising capital for…investment companies across a wide range of asset classes and geographies.”

Anyone with a keen interest in investing needs to have all bases covered (I’m going to talk about risk below) and having someone look after their investment as a service is one way to guarantee all bases are covered.

It’s a rather obtuse way to put it, but think of serious investing like making a pizza. You can get all the ingredients ready at home and hope your oven can cook it properly, or you can take your ingredients to a company with a proper oven (infrastructure) in place and have them help you make a pizza how you envision it.

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Start Off Extremely Small

Speaking of pizza, fancy investing in Dominos? Or are you more of a Pizza Hut kind of person?

In the past, if someone wanted to invest in these companies, they’d have to put down a good “chunk of change” to buy shares. In recent years the playing field has levelled out as mobile trading apps mean you can make tiny investments in big companies.

Buying parts of shares in giant companies may not move the needle, but it can essentially gamify the experience of trading with minimal risk, as opposed to investing a lot when you don’t know what to do.


Understand Risk

At the time of writing this post, much of the world is under lockdown to combat COVID-19. Even if you don’t take much notice of the markets, you’ll have seen in the news that significant indicators are fluctuating quite erratically as investors around the world are holding on to their money, as they don’t know what is going to happen next.

Having a good knowledge of risk, or at least knowing that every investment carries a risk, is essential. Case in point for pretty much all of the entertainment industry right now. Big companies like Disney, Time Warner etc. don’t know what to do as they’re having to push back the release of all their major movies. Anyone investing in these studios to see a return after Fast & Furious or James Bond get released are now wondering if their previously sound investment now has significant risk.

Interestingly, one big company on the fringes of the entertainment circle is taking a gamble as the risk this time of year is so high. WWE holds their annual Wrestlemania extravaganza just before Easter every year. It usually takes place in a stadium with thousands in attendance and millions watching live. It’s the one day of the year that pretty much pays for the rest. They need to make sure investors don’t jump ship, and unlike the movie and TV studios, are going ahead with Wrestlemania (minus a live audience) in the hopes people will still watch, spend money, and investors will see the return they expected.

Again, it’s a risk and has to be thought of as such. Still, it’s an example of how investors can look at a bizarre situation like the one we’re all currently in and see where ethical investment opportunities exist.

Always Have A Plan

Much like the ending of Trading Places, investments need to go somewhere. You want to have a plan in place where you can utilise good investments and cover yourself when others don’t pan out as hoped.

The most important thing is to make a start. You can’t become an investment expert in a week, but building up confidence from knowledge will help in the long-term.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


Marcy Bialeschki from Cerro Gordo, IL on April 27, 2020:

I appreciate the podcast recommendations. Great advice all the way around. Thanks!

Liz Westwood from UK on March 31, 2020:

I heard recently that orange juice futures are set to rise.

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