5 Steps to Make Yourself a Smart Investor

Every now and then, you read a piece of news reporting about someone making a fortune overnight by investing in something most people don’t quite know or understand. The truth is: that’s good news for sensation. There hasn’t been anyone, even among the most knowledgeable investment professionals, that can consistently beat the market and achieve exceptional returns year after year.

It’s a fool’s errand trying to pick a stock that will consistently beat the market. All the time, effort, and stress will not make you earn more than someone who simply invests in diversified index funds that capture the whole market—the whole haystack with the needle in it. There’s no need to try looking for the needle (the “right stock”).

You can be a smart investor by taking some simple steps. With discipline and patience, you can become a millionaire and achieve financial freedom.

  1. Automate your savings. Set up an automatic transfer, monthly or quarterly, from your personal or business checking account to your investment account. This simple step can be empowering because it allows you to live well in the present knowing your future is taken care of. Many people have their 401k set up this way.
  2. Automate your investing. Set up the automatic investing with the same cadence of the saving, meaning as soon as the money is transferred into your investment account, it will be automatically invested into a pre-designed diversified portfolio. This is called Dollar-Cost Averaging.
  3. Keep it diversified. Using diversified index funds gives you a low-risk, steady return over time. Include some large-cap, mid-cap, small-cap, both domestically and internationally, a bit of energy fund, and a bit of real estate fund in your portfolio. That should capture the whole market.
  4. Stay disciplined. Don’t react to everyday market movements. The market will always move up and down daily, weekly, or monthly. But it always goes up in a longer timeframe. So stay invested. Don’t panic about whatever news shows up each day.
  5. Have patience. Overnight success is tempting but hard to achieve. Patience is one of the most important factors in achieving financial success. Most millionaires are self-made not by overnight success, but by patiently saving and investing over a long period of time. Someone who saves and invests $500 a month will be a millionaire in 30 years. The more is put away, the shorter time it takes.

Of course, life is not just about achieving financial success. It’s also about living with purpose, pursuing a passion, enjoying the present, and building meaningful relationships. Having the financial piece taken care of automatically lets you live that life you want with the peace of mind.