facebookA Beginner's 4 Step Checklist Before Starting Your First Investment (2022)



Start Investing in 2021

A Beginner's 4 Step Checklist Before Starting Your First Investment (2022)

profileKenneth Lou

Now that 2020 is in the rearview mirror.

You might be looking to make positive changes to your life in 2021. You could exercise more, eat healthier, read more or get your finances in order.

Perhaps one of your goals for 2021 is to earn more money to meet your personal life goals.

One way to do so is to start investing, a proven and effective way to put your money work and build wealth.

When done well, investing can potentially help your money grow to outpace inflation and build your wealth.

This is achieved mainly through the greater growth potential of investing which can be attributed to the power of compounding and the risk-return tradeoff.

I think we all know that investing can be very beneficial.

But, you might still be wary about it for whatever reason.

Let’s get some of these common concerns out of the way:

  • It is too complicated (I didn’t study investing or finance in school)
  • I don’t know how to ‘Trade or buy stocks’ too technical
  • I don’t want to lose any money because it is too risky
  • It is too far away and only for my later phase in life when I am planning for retirement age 

To address these concerns and help you get started with investing, we have designed this simple four-step checklist after tapping the wisdom of the Seedly community members who have got past this hurdle.

Here we go!

TL;DR: What You Need to Do Before You Start Investing in 2021

However, here is a simple 4 step checklist which we believe all who are getting started should follow:

  1. Have NO or manageable debt 
  2. Have rainy day funds (6 months of monthly committed expenses)
  3. Understand basics in investing (and discover various asset classes)
  4. Willing to grow your investment for the long term (5 to 10 years)

In fact, I recently covered this topic in detail with Junus Eu, a Seedly Community Level 9 Top Contributor, as part of our MONEY FM 89.3 x Seedly Radio Series.

Here’s the full podcast if you’re interested.

Q1: Do You Currently Have NO or Manageable debt?

This is a very important question to answer.

Simply if you are in debt, you are fighting a losing battle where you are paying off a loan at an interest rate which may be rendered redundant if you are trying to invest also.

Here is a simple illustration:

You are in a student loan debt of $15,000 with a guaranteed interest of about 5% per annum (p.a.).

Instead of trying to allocate more funds to pay off the debt, you are trying to invest that additional funds into an exchange-traded fund (ETF) that yields a non-guaranteed 5% p.a.

There are two main problems with this.

Firstly, you need to know that your investment returns are not guaranteed while the interest on your student loan is guaranteed to keep accumulating.

Volatility in the stock market means that your investment might crash like what happened with Black Monday 2020 in March.

Also, even if your investment does well and yields about 5% p.a.; your net investment gain will still be about 0%…

Thus, you are effectively wasting the costs incurred from investing (brokerage fees etc.) to go back to square one.

Instead, you should fight the negative yield (in this case, clearing your loan first).

This is actually a pretty common situation we observe with individuals with student loans. My answer would be to focus on clearing that down first before moving to the next step of building up your savings reserve.

Another big red flag is credit card debt. Never get into such deep waters, because these debts generally have an interest rate of about 26% p.a which can get you neck-deep in financial trouble real quick.

Thus, you should prioritise clearing your credit card debt or other high-interest debt if you have it.

Here are two tried and tested ways to clear debt:

Getting out of debt: Snowball vs Avalanche method

However, there are exceptions to the rule with manageable debt.

Manageable Debt

Even though the interest on these debts is guaranteed, the interest rate on these debts is generally lower.

For example, you have your housing and mortgage loans where you can actually predict the interest rate (eg 1.0% to 2.6%) or using your CPF every month.

Granted this method is still risky as investment returns are not guaranteed.

But, you can actually look to build wealth at a yield above that interest rate.

Q2: Do You Have Your Rainy Day (Emergency Funds)?

As a rule of thumb, you need at least six months of monthly committed expenses locked down for emergency purposes.

Often, people assume that investing is for the short term.

Research has proven that if you are in it for the quick-gains, it is likely you will falter and fall short. The long-term passive investors likely are the ones who will ride out the volatility during bull and bear markets.

FYI: A bull market usually refers to a 20% rise in a market over time from its bottom. Whereas a bear market occurs when the stock market falls 20% or more from its most recent high.

Hence, it would be essential to have at least 6 months of monthly expenses.

This is critical as you do not want to be forced into selling your investments when you need money in the event of a bear market.

This will actually set you back and put you in a worse off financial position.

Source: VeryWell Mind

An example of monthly committed expenses would include things like insurance premiums, food, water, utilities and rent. Basically, things which rank very critically on the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. (Safety and Physiological)

Q3: Do You Understand The Basics To Investing And Asset Classes?

We believe in the saying that knowledge is power, and to take calculated risks. Investing is no different.

It is very crucial to not follow the herd-mentality in investing.

Often the big losers are the one who follows a friend’s recommendation or stock tip but ends up getting burnt. (personal experience here from my earlier days in NS)

What is important is to consider is your risk appetite and why are you actually investing for. Is it for long-term retirement, to beat inflation etc?

That also means that you should have a basic understanding of the various asset classes, from cryptocurrency to bonds to stocks to ETFs and Unit Trusts.

Here is a beginner-friendly infographic and accompanying article that will give you a basic understanding of these asset classes:

As always remember, higher potential returns generally comes with higher risk.

How Much Investible Funds Are Enough? 

We advocate setting aside a comfortable amount (anywhere between 15 to 30% if you need a hard number to gauge) of your monthly income for passive investing.

In that same idea, it is likened to the concept of paying yourself first and having a job for every dollar. Only set aside investing funds which you do not need for the short term.

What Strategy Is Recommended for Beginner Investors?

Most investors would have heard of this famous phrase:

“Time in the market is better than timing the market”

Therefore, a common strategy which most adopts is the idea of Dollar-Cost Averaging.

This strategy refers to the practice of buying a fixed dollar amount of a particular investment product on a regular schedule, regardless of the price.

Here is an infographic that explains this concept:

From the above, it is observed that the investor purchases more shares when prices are low and fewer shares when prices are high.

A common adaption of this simple idea of investing is in the idea of contributing monthly to your investment product.

Q4: Are You Willing To Grow Your Investments For The Long Term?

The STI Index over 30 years

One of the common reasons that people have to invest is that they want to make a quick buck on their investment return.

However, that mindset can be potentially dangerous because you may enter and exit the market at the wrong timing.

A better way to think of investing is that you want to grow your money over a period of 5 to 10 years or even more, to beat the core inflation of about 1.9% per year.

A classic example is if you look at market indexes like the Straits Times Index (STI) that tracks the 30 biggest companies in Singapore; or the S&P500 index which tracks the top 500 companies the US.

You will see that over a period of 30 to 50 years, the performance of this index in general, grow over time as economics are generally still quite resilient.

But, you need to know that this is not guaranteed as past performance is not indicative of future returns.

Bonus Question: Is Investing More Important Than Saving?

Source: SpongeBob SquarePants | Giphy

It can be very confusing when people talk about savings and investing.

People often mix them up and many financial services companies add to the confusion selling products with both components mixed in together.

Both Savings And Investing Are Important For Different Reasons

It’s like deciding to eat an apple or an orange. There are Pros and Cons of each approach, and both serve different purposes

  • Savings is the idea of storing a bulk of cash for rainy days or when opportunities come for you to dive in. It gives you a cushion for unplanned expenses or potentially planning for big expenses such as kids, starting a family etc.
  • Investing is the idea of deploying your capital into the market and letting your money work for you. When done correctly you will be able to beat inflation and potentially drive passive income (Returns = Capital gain + Dividend yield)
GoalsShort Term
Long Term
Cash funds for unplanned
or planned expenses
Beat inflation and
grow your passive income
ProsLiquidity for
urgent uses
Beat 2-3% per year
inflation rate
Freedom of choice
to spend
Can be easy if you do
passive investing
ConsLose out to
inflation 2-3%
More returns most likely
comes with more risk
Savings account
will not grow
Best for long term
-Less liquidity for
urgent uses in short term
TypesSavings account
with any local bank
Passive investing tools
Under your pillow
(in your Safe etc.)
Exchange Traded Funds
-Blue chip stocks,
Funds, Unit Trusts

Conclusion: Save First, Invest When You Are Ready

You have to understand your current life stage to properly determine if you are ready.

Also, do be very wary of agents and financial planners who try to sell you a mix of savings and investment products if you plan to Do It Yourself! 

This was again, co-created by Kenneth Lou and Junus Eu, on the MoneyFM x Seedly series!

If you want to check out our answers and many more answers from the other TOP contributors on Seedly, head over to our Seedly platform!.

Disclaimer: The information provided by Seedly serves as an educational piece and is not intended to be personalised investment advice. ​Readers should always do their own due diligence and consider their financial goals before investing in any stock. 

About Kenneth Lou
Co-founder of Seedly. Passionate about helping people make smarter financial decisions.
You can contribute your thoughts like Kenneth Lou here.

🔥 What's Popular

    • Loading articles
    • Loading articles
    • Loading articles
    • Loading articles
    • Loading articles
    • Loading articles

Stay updated with the latest finance tips!

Receive bite-sized finance on Telegram here.
💬 Comments (0)
What are your thoughts?

No comments yet.
Be the first to share your thoughts!

🔥 What's Popular

    • Loading articles
    • Loading articles
    • Loading articles
    • Loading articles
    • Loading articles
    • Loading articles

Join our Community!

Discuss your thoughts with like-minded members in these community groups!

Stay updated with the latest finance tips!

Receive bite-sized finance on Telegram here.