Whether you have just earned some money from an upcoming inheritance or have a little extra to put away for retirement, learning how to invest can make the difference between a lackluster financial future and a financially secure future. As a beginner, it can be hard to know where to start and how to invest. In this A-Z guide, financial journalist Rodney Hobson provides essential advice for making smart investments. The idea behind investing is to set aside a portion of your money each month and let it grow at a faster rate than inflation. While it can be exciting and lucrative, you must remember that this is not a get-rich-quick scheme or gambling. Although you might see a great short-term gain, there is also a high risk of loss.

Once you’ve saved enough money to open a brokerage account, you can start investing in the stock market. The first step is to deposit a portion of your money into the account, which you can do through a bank account. Depending on your risk tolerance and goals, you’ll want to determine how much you’re comfortable losing. While stock prices typically increase over time, there are short-term market fluctuations that can make investing difficult.

As a beginner, you need to figure out where you want to invest. In the United States, there are various retirement tax shelters, like 401(k)s, IRAs, and TSPs, and in other developed countries, there are different tax systems. Whatever your investment goals, make sure you keep taxes to a minimum. Taxes can crush your investment returns. Make sure you understand how much risk you’re comfortable with and choose a suitable account to fit your goals.

Diversification is an essential part of investing, as it minimizes risk and helps you keep your portfolio growing steadily over time. Diversifying your investments is important, but you also need to track them regularly. By doing this, you’ll be able to stay on track with your investments. In the end, diversification is the key to building a profitable financial future. Don’t forget to invest in REITs, which are like mutual funds for real estate.

If you’re new to the stock market, starting with small amounts can be an excellent way to gain experience. Using an online broker will allow you to set your own level of risk and invest in various types of securities. If you’re new to investing, you can also try out mutual funds, ETFs, and index funds. There are many online brokers available today that allow you to invest in stocks and bonds. You can even set up automatic transfers from your checking account or paycheck.

Once you’ve mastered the fundamentals of investing, it’s time to focus on a specific investment strategy. Warren Buffett, for instance, invests in industries in which he is familiar or has personal experience. A mechanic might, for instance, look for stocks related to automobiles while a dentist might want to invest in medical companies. Buffett also suggests keeping an eye on the future and not constantly changing stocks. The goal is to buy a quality stock at a discount, and then wait for it to grow to a fair price.