Before You Invest A Dime, Read This

After years of analyzing the markets and doling out investing advice, I’ve been asked thousands of questions.

Some are seasonal. When can I expect a correction? What do you expect from earnings season?

Some are topical. Are you worried about China’s economy? How will this overseas conflict affect my investments?

But time has taught me there is one burning question that people wrestle with more than any other in the financial world.

Where do I start?

I recently received such a query from a new subscriber to my Game-Changing Stocks newsletter.

#-ad_banner-#It would be easy for me to assume this is the only one of my subscribers to ever have this question. But, it’s like your third grade teacher taught you: If you have a question, there’s probably a few others in the room wondering the same thing who were just too shy to put their hands in the air.

So, to someone asking how to even begin investing, the first thing I’d like to say is: Congratulations! The most valuable thing you have is not money. It is time. So starting now is a good idea.

Game-Changing Stocks has a unique approach to investing. We invest 80% of our portfolio in highly predictable securities, typically ones that track the market. The other 20% we allocate to stocks with a high potential for stand-out growth — the game changers.

The first thing to do is establish the 80% segment of your portfolio to track the broader market, which is highly predictable over time.

But, for new investors, the first step is not to decide how much to invest.

The first step is to make sure that you have a clear picture of where you stand financially. To some people, this might sound insultingly basic, but I have personally helped millionaires with stratospheric salaries take this first step, and I’ve learned to never make any assumptions.

First, how much money do you take home each month? Jot down your take-home pay. (Please don’t tell me. It’s none of my business!)

Now set that number aside for a minute, because, believe it or not, there are a few things we want to double-check. Think of it this way: You know you need to put gas in the tank, but you also need to check the oil and tires.

For the next step you need a blank piece of paper.

Draw a line down the middle. At the top of the left column, write down “Assets.” This is everything you own. Your home. Your car. A checking or savings account. A life insurance policy, brokerage account or maybe valuable jewelry or a valuable collection. Add this up. Underline that number. These are your assets.

In the right column, write in “Liabilities.” This is what you owe. Your mortgage, maybe a car loan or credit cards. Add that up. Underline that number. These are your liabilities.

The difference between the total in the left column, what you own, and the total in the right column, what you owe, is your net worth. But remember: It is just a number. Your value as a person cannot be tabulated.

Now set the assets and liabilities aside.

Get another sheet of paper. This will encompass your monthly living expenses. Rent or mortgage, insurance, utilities, food, gas, car payment if you have one, life-insurance premiums — every penny you spend.

Now set that aside.

Let’s look at your debts. Debts should be ordered by priority, and priority is always determined by the interest rate — the highest rate loan always should be paid first.

Fact: It doesn’t make any sense to invest in the market to capture a 12% annual return if you have credit card debt that is costing you 27.99%!!! Pay that first.

At this point, we want to go back to where you wrote down how much you are paid. If you’re participating in an employee-sponsored retirement plan like a 401(k), I recommend contributing as much as you can — at least enough to obtain the maximum match from your employer.

OK. The next step is to determine your emergency fund. This should be six months to one year of your living expenses, held in cash and usually stashed in a bank other than the one that you have your checking account in. Banks hate me for recommending this, but with electronic banking it is way too easy to transfer some cabbage from your “emergency fund” into your “I’d really like to have a Mercedes SLK 350 fund.” So I advise you keep a good, old-fashioned passbook savings account with no ATM card in one bank and your checking account in another.

Do they still have such things as passbook savings accounts? I’m dating myself. It might take you five years to fully fund your emergency fund. That’s fine. It is a long-term goal.

Now: You have completed a household budget, you have created a personal financial statement (which, incidentally, is exactly the same as a corporate balance sheet, something I talk about a lot in my newsletter) and you have a schedule of debts and a plan to pay them.

Now, for the fun part.

Please read this next sentence carefully: You are not going to get rich quick in the stock market.

Don’t buy penny stocks thinking they will shoot up. Buy good companies with real potential that you understand. Reinvest all of your dividends. Slow and steady wins the race. Building wealth is a marathon, not a sprint. Anyone who says you can get rich quick is a huckster, shyster or an outright thief.

But that doesn’t mean you have to settle.

As I touched on earlier, my subscribers and I put 80% of our portfolio in reliable and predictable wealth-building investments.

But the other 20%? That’s the really fun part. I spend hours and hours finding the next game-changing trend, and figuring out the best ways for my readers to profit from it.

  Right now I’m telling my subscribers about one opportunity they can’t afford to miss. You see, investing in energy storage more than DOUBLED in the first quarter 2016. Indicators point to an upward track for this breakout industry. I’ve got a special report with three ways to play it — and make up to 10 times the gains by 2020. To check it out, click here.