Whether you are a first-time investor or have been investing for years, here are 10 tips from the SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy to help you in 2019.
- Check out your investment professional.
It is free and easy to check the background of an investment professional. You can find details about an investment professional’s qualifications through the search tool on Investor.gov, the SEC’s website for individual investors. Also, make sure to ask SALI whether your investment professional has been named in an SEC action. If you need help, you can call our toll-free investor assistance line at (800) 732-0330 for help.
- Understand the power of saving and investing early by taking advantage of our tools.
If you are investing or saving toward a goal, or just want to learn about how your money can grow under various hypothetical scenarios, take advantage of our compound interest and savings goal calculators. These calculators are great tools to help inform any decisions you make about your investing and saving.
- Know how to be a better investor.
Did you know that active trading and some other very common investing behaviors actually can undermine investment performance? According to researchers, other common investing mistakes include focusing on past performance, favoring investments from your own country, region, state, or company, and holding on to losing investments too long and selling winning investments too soon.
Diversification can help reduce the overall risk of an investment portfolio. By picking the right mix of investments, you may be able to limit your losses and reduce the fluctuations of your investment returns without sacrificing too much in potential gains. Some investors find that it is easier to achieve diversification through ownership of mutual funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs) rather than through ownership of individual stocks or bonds.
- Consider fees.
It can be costly to ignore fees associated with buying, owning, and selling an investment product. Expenses vary from product to product, and even small differences in costs can mean large differences in earnings over time. An investment with high costs must perform better than a low-cost investment to generate the same return. Read our bulletin on How Fees and Expenses Affect Your Investment Portfolio to learn more.
- Watch out for guaranteed high returns.
Promises of high returns with little or no risk are classic warning signs of fraud. Every investment carries some degree of risk, and the potential for greater returns usually means greater risk. Ignore so-called “can’t miss” and “guaranteed risk-free” investment opportunities –even if they involve HoweyCoins! Better yet, report them to the SEC.
- Be alert to affinity fraud and celebrity endorsements.
Affinity frauds target members of identifiable groups, such as the elderly, religious, or ethnic communities, or the military. Even if you know the person making the investment offer, be sure to check out the investment and the person’s background—no matter how trustworthy the person seems. You should also watch out for celebrity endorsements. Just because you know the celebrity, doesn’t automatically make the investment opportunity being endorsed worthwhile.
- Be careful when using social media as an investment tool.
Social media has become an important tool for investors, but also present opportunities for fraudsters to lure investors into a wide range of scams. For additional information on ways to avoid fraud through social media, please read our bulletin on Social Media and Investing.
- Is the securities offering registered or exempt?
Any offer or sale of securities must be either registered with the SEC or exempt from registration. Otherwise, it is illegal. This has taken heightened importance with the advent of initial coin offerings as many of these offerings may involve securities. Registration is important because it provides investors access to key information about the company’s management, products, services, and finances. Always check whether an offering is registered with the SEC by using the SEC’s EDGAR database or contacting the SEC’s toll-free investor assistance line at (800) 732-0330.
- Don’t forget about the world.
Events around the world may have a material impact on your investments. For example, the United Kingdom is currently negotiating its exit from the European Union (often referred to as “Brexit”). Brexit may have significant effects on the markets and companies in which you invest. Please stay informed about Brexit and other world events as you consider your investment strategy.
If you have questions about your investments, your investment account or a financial professional, don’t hesitate to contact the SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy online or on our toll-free investor assistance line at (800) 732-0330.
The Office of Investor Education and Advocacy has provided this information as a service to investors. It is neither a legal interpretation nor a statement of SEC policy. If you have questions concerning the meaning or application of a particular law or rule, please consult with an attorney who specializes in securities law.