The SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) are issuing this Investor Bulletin to highlight key messages from World Investor Week 2019, a global campaign to raise awareness about the importance of investor education and protection. From October 1-7, 2019, investors, investment professionals, teachers, parents, researchers, and others are encouraged to make a special effort to promote investor education. Here are a few key messages for Main Street investors.
START INVESTING EARLY
One of the best ways to build wealth is by saving and investing over a long period of time. The earlier you start, the easier it is for your money to grow. If you have a workplace retirement plan, consider enrolling and maximizing your contribution – there are tax advantages and you may even be eligible for a match from your employer (free money!). Set up regular, automatic contributions. Investing early is especially important for millennials. To learn more, visit NASAA’s new Millennial Money Mission. If you want a preview of how your investments can grow, check out Investor.gov’s Compound Interest Calculator to run some scenarios based on your contributions and assumed interest rates.
Diversification is a good way to reduce risk. All investments have some risk, but that risk can be heightened when you only invest in a single, or even just a few, stocks, bonds, or other securities. One way to minimize investment risk is to spread your investments around. That way, market downturns affecting any one company or sector can be potentially offset by growth in another. Products like mutual funds and ETFs may help you diversify and are often offered through workplace retirement plans. You can also choose Target Date Funds that automatically change your overall investment mix from aggressive growth-seeking early in your career to more conservative assets as you approach retirement age. It’s also important to understand the impact of fees on your investments over time. Compare fund fees and expenses using FINRA’s Fund Analyzer.
MAKE SURE YOUR INVESTMENT PROFESSIONAL IS LICENSED
Are you thinking about using an investment professional? Investor.gov can help you research and select an investment professional and, importantly, confirm that they are licensed and registered. You can also contact your state or provincial securities regulator to make sure an investment product and the person selling it are properly licensed or registered and to learn more about your investment professional’s background. Unlicensed, unregistered persons commit much of the investment fraud in the United States and Canada, so this is an important first step if you are considering an investment professional. Different types of investment professionals offer a range of products and investment services—from providing low-cost platforms for do-it-yourself investors to comprehensive portfolio management and everything in between. When choosing an investment professional, consider which products and services the professional offers, how those can help you best achieve your goals, and how and how much you will pay.
The SEC has produced videos that highlight the difference between brokers and investment advisers, including how they are paid for their services. Don’t be shy when it comes to asking questions about the fees and expenses that come with your investments. After all, it is your money!
If you have questions about your investments or your investment professional, you can call the SEC’s investor assistance line (800) 732-0330. You can also report a problem concerning your investments or report possible securitiesfraud to the SEC, or by emailing Help@SEC.gov. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook and sign up for updates on investing-related topics and news.
Check out Brokers with FINRA’s BrokerCheck
Check the Registration of Commodity Futures and Derivatives Professionals
CFTC Fraud Prevention Resources
CFTC Resources on Virtual Currencies
CFTC Customer Advisory: There’s Nothing to Like about Scammers on Social Media
NASAA Investor Education Resources
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.