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How to turn $100 into a six-figure nest egg.

You don't have to be rich to invest, but you do need a little know-how. Here are a few tips on how to grow your income.

WITH ALL THE MONEY ADVICE YOU HEAR these days, it's sometimes difficult, if not impossible, to make critical choices that will secure your quality of life during those golden years. If you haven't given retirement a second thought, consider this: Let's say you put away a mere $100 each month starting today. In 25 years, you would have a six-figure account waiting for you, if you know how to work it. The sooner you start, the more you'll be able to take advantage of the single most powerful investment weapon there is: time.

Face it. No one understands your financial situation and needs better than you. So you need to adopt a hands-on approach to managing your finances. After all, it's your money, and knowing an inside tip here and there can help steer you down a path of financial freedom for the rest of your life.

Start with the basics. If you think that pouring your money into a savings account or money market fund is the safest way to invest, you've made your first mistake. Certainly, a portion of your money should be held in safe, liquid investments such as money market funds. And you shouldn't venture beyond money markets until you have three-to-six months' living expenses in reserve. But when it comes to your retirement nest egg and other hefty investments, keeping all your cash in money markets, CDs and bank savings' accounts is just plain risky.

So-called safe investments have a major downside: they rarely earn enough to beat inflation. Like termites in a basement, inflation slowly eats away at your nest egg, year after year, practically without you even realizing it. It's insidious, and if you include the effect of taxes, you could actually be losing money--which, of course, defeats the purpose.

The best way to build a nest egg is by putting a healthy portion of your assets in growth investments, namely stocks and mutual funds. Over time, stocks have outperformed money markets, bonds and other fixed-income vehicles, turning in an average return of 10.3% every year since 1926 (see chart). Just watch how your money multiplies when you invest a set amount each month, earning 9% yearly. Even with a low investment of $50 per month, your money would grow to more than $56,000 over a 25-year period.

The amount you put into stocks clearly depends on your investment time frame. The longer you have before you need to use the money, the more you can invest. When saving for retirement, a good rule of thumb is to take your age and subtract it from 100. Invest that amount in stocks. Therefore, if you're 20 years old, you can invest 80% of your retirement money in stocks. If you're 50, half of your retirement money should be in stocks or stock mutual funds.

As a plus, an automatic investment plan will allow your money to increase even if you forget about it. A number of fund families will waive their minimum initial investment requirements if you set up an automatic investment plan to have a fixed amount, say $50 or $100, debited from your paycheck or bank account every month. Consider these fund families:

Twentieth Century (800-345-2021) waives its minimum initial investment requirement when you sign up for the automatic investment plan (equity funds, excluding gift trust and internationally emerging growth funds). Minimum investment: $50 a month.

T. Rowe Price (800-638-5660) waives minimum initial investment requirements for participants in the Automatic Asset Builder Plan. Minimum investment: $50 per month.

Invesco (800-525-8085) waives its minimum initial investment requirement through the EasiVest plan. Minimum investment: $50 a month.

Many other fund companies offer this service, and some that don't have established plans will agree to waive the minimum if you invest automatically.

LEARN FROM THE PROS

As you get started, consider that most successful investors aren't necessarily any smarter or better at analyzing financial data than the rest of us. They don't necessarily have degrees in business or financial planning but they do utilize common sense. Their guidelines are simple, and the advice is standard for novices and pros alike:

1. Successful investors have a plan, and they stick to it. It's easy to get tempted by the latest hot stock touted by a business magazine or Wall Street whiz. But that isn't the way successful investors operate. They assess their own needs first. They look at their goals, time frame and knowledge of investing to come up with a plan to suit their needs. If they are 50 years old, for example, and have 15 years until retirement, they set up a 15-year plan. They read whatever they can get their hands on and invest in what they understand. If, for example, they hear about the terrific return potential of zero coupon bonds but don't really understand how they work, they simply don't buy them.

The pros don't get sidetracked by hot tips. Instead, they buy investments they've researched or that a trusted colleague has recommended, all the while shutting out the noise of so-called experts. Thus, they can be sure of sticking to the plan they've developed.

2. Successful investors invest smartly and regularly. Successful investors do not expect to hit home runs with their investments every single time. They know that one home run plus lots of strikeouts adds up to a lot of time on the bench. To succeed year after year, successful investors know they must keep their money growing. They use two methods to do this. First, they invest in stocks and/or stock mutual funds, recognizing that stocks are the only investment with the long-term power to grow their money year in and year out. Second, they invest regularly, a method guaranteed to work for everyone. Even spendthrifts can grow a fortune just by socking a way a little on the side every month. It's a powerful edge that's virtually guaranteed. You're always adding more to your principal; therefore, your nest egg can't help but grow.

3. Successful investors are patient. Often, it will take time for a good investment to show its true value. Successful investors understand this and, consequently, they don't get caught up in the daily ups and downs of the market. They know that to succeed in the long run, they have to be patient. Instead of jumping in and out of investments, trying to time the market perfectly, they buy investments that have good value and hold on to them until the market realizes that value. They don't expect to see instant growth and are not disappointed by temporary setbacks.

4. Successful investors do not marry investments.

To be successful at investing, you must be unemotional. No matter how much they like a stock or a mutual fund, no matter how promising that investment was when they first bought it, successful investors know that selling at the right time is as important as buying. It's hard to sell something that has done nothing but lose money, but successful investors don't try to recoup their losses. They know that if an investment is not panning out, holding on to it will not help. They cut their losses and move on.

Likewise, if an investment has made a lot of money, they know how to protect their gains. It's emotionally hard for someone to part with something that has done nothing but go up, yet that's precisely the best reason to sell. Nothing goes up forever.

RELATED ARTICLE: CUT COMMISSIONS ON INDIVIDUAL STOCKS

Smart investors know that using a full-service stockbroker can be a mighty expensive way to play the market. Fortunately, there are a number of excellent ways to invest in stocks without paying big commissions.

Ask for a discussion. As simple as it seems, few investors negotiate commissions with their brokers. Instead they accept the rates as set in stone and don't even bother to question them. This is unfortunate since most brokers will gladly discount commissions, especially if you have a large portfolio. Just ask; all you have to lose is a couple of hundred dollars in brokerage commissions.

Use a discount broker. Shop around. There's a slew of discount brokers who will execute trades at 25%-75% less than you'd pay with a full-service broker. You won't get the same level of research and advice you'd get from a full-service broker, but some discounters do offer services that come close, including free research materials, no-fee IRAs and branch offices. And many offer services you can't get from a full-service broker, such as no-commission trading on mutual funds. A few of the best:

Charles Schwab (800-435-4000) has a nationwide network of 200 branch offices and a 24-hour service.

Jack White & Co. (800-233-3411) offers low commissions and computer and telephone trading.

Barry Murphy & Co. (800-221-2111) specializes in foreign trades.

Fidelity Investments (800-544-6666) offers 24-hour telephone and computerized trading.

This excerpt is printed by permission of AMACOM Books from Money Secrets the Pros Don't Want You to Know by Stephanie Gallagher, copyright [C] 1995; $17.95 paperback. Published by AMACOM Books, a division of the American Management Association, 1601 Broadway, New York, NY10019. All rights reserved. To order, call 800262-9699.
COPYRIGHT 1996 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:B.E. Management Special; includes a related article on finding commission discounts; excerpted from 'Money Secrets that Pros Don't Want You to Know'
Author:Gallagher, Stephanie
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Excerpt
Date:Oct 1, 1996
Words:1554
Previous Article:Is your bank robbing you blind?
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