Passive Income: Investing In Index Funds For Beginners

If you have no clue what an index fund is or how to invest in one, in this post, I answer 7 questions that briefly cover all you need to know to start investing.

Let me begin by saying that investing in the stock market is one of the topics I have been avoiding to get into (there’s a list of them) because of how intimidating it felt. I had absolutely no clue what to do with this and every time I try to read about it, I get a headache!

However, eventually, I reached a dead end because I couldn’t find another topic for this week. And I figured I’ll have to get into this eventually if I wanted to properly create a diversified investment portfolio.

If you look at any established investor, you will find that they have to have money in the stock market, one way or another.

Diversification is a protection against ignorance.

Warren Buffett

But since I am a beginner, I’m not going to jump in and start buying individual stocks all by myself, then cross my fingers and hope for the best. I figured I should start with the beginner’s level for stock investments: Index Funds.

Investing in index funds is the easy and safer route to take if you want to invest in the stock market but lack the experience and knowledge it takes, or if you simply don’t feel like taking the risk.

And it seemed like the second best investment to get into after real estate for me. So I decided to look more into this as someone who has never been anywhere near the world of stock market.

If you too have no idea how to start in this kind of investment and maybe considering giving it a try, then this post is for you.


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What are index funds?

An index fund is a type of mutual funds, it is like a collection of funds that follow the performance of a number of different markets/companies, packaged together into a single fund called an index fund.

So, instead of making a choice and buying a fund in individual stock (which requires a great knowledge of that specific stock and its chances of rising or falling in price), you buy a bunch of them into one single fund.

This means more exposure to the stock market, however, with less risk.

Who should invest in index funds?

Anyone can invest in index funds, you don’t need to have extensive knowledge in the stock market as a whole.

You do, however, need to have some basic understanding of how this works and how to choose where to buy your index funds and which funds to buy.

The lower the price of the fund and the account expenses, the higher the profit you will make. And the more broad and diverse the stocks held by the index fund, the less likely you are to face losses.

You also need to know that investing in index funds is mostly a long term investment. Meaning that you need to be willing to hold on to that fund for a while (5-10 years and sometimes more) before you see real profits.

This is usually the long-term investment suggested for retirement, similar to retirement accounts.

What are the types of index funds?

Index funds can be classified into:

  1. Stock index funds
  2. Bond index funds
  3. Commodity index funds

In this post, I’m mainly focusing on the stock index funds. However, I briefly went over the commodity ones in both Investing In Gold (ETFs & stocks)and Investing In Real Estate (funds). You can check them out for a quick overview.

As for stock index funds, these can also be classified into a number of types:

1. Broad market index fund

This is when an index fund is following the performance of an entire market. Famous examples of such funds are ones following the performance of the S&P 500 or Dow Jones.

2. Sector index fund

This is an index fund that follows the performance/profits of a certain industry in the country, such as the banking sector, the real estate sector, or a more broad sector like technology, etc.

3. International index fund

This one is an index fund that follows a number of companies from different countries.

It does not follow the performance of the stock market of these countries, but the performance of the companies whose stocks are part of the fund.

4. Global index fund

This follows the performance of the stock market of a number of countries. This index fund has main stocks from different nations, such as the FTSE 100 for Britain or the EGX 30 for Egypt.

How to choose an index fund?

There are a few things you need to consider and decide on before you take the step and buy an index fund.

Type

First thing you need to decide which type of stock you want to follow.

Do you want to follow the global stock for multiple countries? Or would you rather go for a certain industry’s performance, like banking? Or ones that track currencies or metals, like gold and silver?

There are plenty of options, and if you are not sure which one is to choose, you should go for ones that cover a bigger and broader market.

Fees

Before you buy an index fund, you should check first what kind of fees you will need to pay.

There are commission fees that gets deducted from your profits periodically, you may need to check the percentage and see if it is low enough for you to still be making a profit.

There are also some brokers or index fund companies that charge you to create an account, you will also want to consider this charge.

One last thing is the trading charges. How much you will need to pay to buy or sell your funds (you can buy or sell an index fund at the end of the trading day only).

Broker

In most cases, you will need to buy a certain index fund through a broker or a brokerage firm. You can invest through a brokerage firm locally or go with an online broker.

It is important that you first research this broker and read what other clients have to say about their service.

You can read more about how to choose the right broker here. Or you can find out about international online brokers instead.

How much money do you need to invest in index funds?

Investing in an index fund is known for its low cost. And this is because it is basically holding all the stocks in one package instead of hiring a professional to pick the right stocks to buy. So, that leaves you with not much expenses to pay.

The price for an index fund varies based on where you are buying it from and which fund type you are going to invest in.

Some index funds has no minimum amount required to start and others can have a minimum starting amount of $2000, $3000, or more.

So you can invest with an amount anywhere between $10 and $10,000. But it goes without saying that the more money you put in, the more profit you will make along the years.

However, you can start out with a small amount and keep adding to it every few months or so. You can check this list of the cheapest index funds to buy.

If you invest in a very low cost index fund-where you don’t put the money in at one time, but average in over 10 years-you’ll do better than 90% of the people who started investing at the same time.

Warren Buffett

What are the best index funds to buy in 2019?

Since I’m no expert, I did what any beginner would do and started doing research. And I found that there are a number of index funds that are always at the top of every list of best index funds to invest in. They are mostly the ones with the lowest fees and low to moderate charge for opening an account.

This is a list of index funds that are suggested by most stock experts/advisers (in order from lowest to highest annual expense ratio).

  1. Fidelity Spartan 500 (0.015%)
  2. Schwab S&P 500 (0.02%)
  3. Schwab Total Stock Market (0.03%)
  4. Vanguard S&P 500 (0.04%)
  5. iShares Core S&P 500 (0.04%)
  6. Vanguard Total Stock Market (0.04%)
  7. Vanguard Total World Stock (0.10%)
  8. Bloomberg Barclays High Yield Bond (0.4%)

Some of these funds you can invest in from anywhere in the world; however, depending on your country, you may need to invest through a local brokerage firm and not directly through the index fund provider.

What are the available index funds in Egypt?

As one of the largest and most developed countries in the MENA region, Egypt has a huge potential for economical growth and many opportunities for investment.

If you are a resident of Egypt and want to know which funds you can invest in locally, or if you are not a resident and simply want to invest in funds in Egypt, below is a list of some of the funds you can consider:

You can also check this article out to have an idea of the top ranking funds in Egypt for this past year and how much profit each made.

Till next week, happy days!

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Passive Income: How To Make Money With Airbnb

In this post, I answer 7 questions that cover everything you need to know to start making money with Airbnb.

Previously, in the Passive Income: 4 Real Estate Investing Options post, I wrote about some of the many ways one can invest in real estate. And one of the methods mentioned there was buying a property and putting it up for rent.

Renting a property gives you a steady passive income source. However, some of the downsides to this was 1. you may end up with tenants who don’t pay and 2. the amount of money involved to actually buy a property.

But what if you can rent a spare room in the house you already live in and with a guaranteed payment?

Recently, I came across an ad for Airbnb, and I didn’t actually know much about the service other than that it’s one that provides houses for tourists and such.

I also didn’t know that the service was available in Egypt, which it is!


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1. What is Airbnb?

This is an American company that facilitates tourists’ stay in a country by providing them with an online service to rent apartments, rooms, and hostel beds, etc, for the short period of their stay.

The apartments and rooms available for rent is provided by the locals of that country. They put their available properties up for rent on the Airbnb website, and they get contacted once a tourist is interested in renting their place.

The website provides customizable search options for the guest to find the exact type of property with all the amenities they need. And it gives the host the option to set house rules for the guests to know and agree on before booking.

What you can provide as a host:

1. Place

You can list any kind of property. It can be a shared room, a private room, or an entire house.

The place needs to be clean, secure, and have essential amenities like a pillow and a towel for each guest. You can read more about the basic requirements for hosting here.

2. Experience

Airbnb Experiences are activities designed by locals. They go beyond typical tours or classes by immersing guests in a special kind of activity that they wouldn’t be able to experience on their own.

It’s an opportunity for anyone to share their hobbies, skills, or expertise without needing an extra room. Read more about experience hosting here.

2. Why do tourists use Airbnb instead of hotels?

For the tourists who are looking to spend a short time in your country, most of them want to get the most out of their stay with the least amount of money possible. Airbnb provides them with this option when they put properties or rooms for rent at quite low prices compared to any hotel room in that same area.

It also gives the tourist the ability to live like locals in the country which maximizes their experience.

Besides, many Airbnb hosts provide their guests with more than just a stay, but they help them make the most out of their stay by advising them of places to visit that only a local in that area would know.

That is of course beside the ability to actually book an experience; something that you can only have when touring with a local.

People don’t use Airbnb overtly to trust people more. They use it because they want to get a better sense of the culture and to save money. A by-product was that they live in someone else’s shoes.

Brian Chesky

3. How is Airbnb different from traditional renting?

There are huge advantages to renting through Airbnb instead of the traditional renting, but there can also be some disadvantages.

Advantages:

Guaranteed Payment

As opposed to renting your house the traditional way where you can face an issue like a non-paying tenant, when you rent through Airbnb, you will never have to deal with this kind of hassle because they handle all payments for you. And the guest makes the full payment through the website in advance.

Host Guarantee

Airbnb have insurance programs which secures you and your house in the rare case of any incident occurring that causes damage or injury.

Whenever a guest makes a reservation and stays at your place, you’re automatically covered by their Host Guarantee. You can read more about the terms and conditions of benefiting from this here.

Home Insurance

Host Protection Insurance program provides primary liability coverage of up to $1 million USD per occurrence. The program protects against liability claims that happen in a listing, or on an Airbnb property, during a stay.

You can read more about what is covered by this program here.

Experience Insurance

Experience protection insurance provides experience hosts with free liability insurance of up to $1 million USD to protect against personal injury or property damage claims.

You can read more about what is covered by this insurance here.

Disadvantages

Not a stable source of income

Unlike renting a house to a resident who is going to live there for at least a year and possibly more, renting to tourists will not provide you with that monthly stable income.

Some people can have guests booking their place every month but that is not necessarily the case with every host.

How often you would get a booking would mostly depend on the location of your place (how close it is from sightseeing areas that tourists would be interested in) and how appealing it is (the reviews you get).

Possible damage

There is still the possibility that you might encounter damage that is not covered by the Airbnb Insurance.

4. Is Airbnb safe?

This was an obvious concern when I first learned about the service. If you have a spare room that you want to put up for rent, is it really safe for you to invite complete strangers into your house? Or if you are the one looking for a place to stay, would you feel safe staying with a complete stranger in a foreign country?

“On any given night, 2 million people stay in homes on Airbnb in 81,000 cities all over the world. There are nearly 5 million listings in 191 countries to choose from —that’s more than the top five hotel chains combined.”

So how did this service actually manage to get so popular and have millions of users around the world, whether hosts or tourists? How do all these people trust this kind of service and feel safe using it?

Here are some of the measures taken to provide safety for the host:

They run hosts and guests against regulatory, terrorist, and sanctions watchlists. And for hosts and guests in the United States, they also conduct background checks.

Every guest is asked to provide their full name, date of birth, photo, phone number, email address, and payment information to Airbnb before booking. Home hosts also have the option to require guests to provide Airbnb with a government ID before booking their listing.

Reading reviews from previous bookings from that guest and what other hosts had to say about their stay with them can also be helpful. These reviews can only be added after the reservation is complete; so they are based on actual experience.

Every Airbnb reservation is scored for risk before it’s confirmed. They use predictive analytics and machine learning to instantly evaluate hundreds of signals that help flag and investigate suspicious activity before it happens.

And their customer service is available 24/7 in 11 languages.

You can read more about the Airbnb terms of safety and protection for both hosts and guests here.

Airbnb has proven that hospitality, generosity, and the simple act of trust between strangers can go a long way.

Joe Gebbia

5. Is Airbnb legal?

The service is legal to use in Egypt, so far. However, Airbnb services has been banned by a number of cities and countries due to housing and rental shortage and pricing issues.

So you will need to check whether or not it is legal to use this service in your city before you list your property for rental.

6. How do you become an Airbnb host?

All you need to do is visit their website to sign up and list your property for free.

When listing your property you will be asked to specify all the available amenities and facilities provided, and of course the exact address of the property.

You will then need to provide photos of the place and a short description for the guest to know what to expect.

After that you will have the option to set the price you want, the timing and duration this place is available for rent, any requirements you look for in the guests you will host, and any house rules you want them to follow during their stay.

You are also asked to provide your personal details, such as your full name, your phone number and your ID for verification.

There is a very good article I read by someone who has been an Airbnb host for a few years, advising on how to be a great host, you can read it here.

7. How do you get paid with Airbnb?

First, Airbnb takes a commission fee of 3% from the payment you receive as the host (and between 6%-12% from the guest booking).

As mentioned earlier, guests make the full payment for their stay through the Airbnb website in advance. This payment is held for 24 hours after their check-in, which is the time the guest has to report to the company if there’s anything wrong with the booking or if they couldn’t reach you, the host, in which case the money will be refunded to the guest.

However, in the normal case where you are there for the guest or provided the key for them, following whatever scenario you’ve both agreed on beforehand, you will have your money transferred to you after the 24 hours.

There are several payment options provided. You can have the payment sent to your Paypal or Payoneer accounts, or you can have it directly deposited into your bank account, or it can be mailed to you as a check. The time of the transfer will vary based on the method you choose.

Conclusion

This is a service that can certainly make a difference to your income with little to no effort on your part. It can also be fun for you, if you like to meet new people from different countries and make connections.

And while using this service can come with a potential risk, especially if you will be sharing the place you live in; however, you still have control over the guests you accept and you can ask for all the information you need about them before confirming their booking.

It will be less risky if you will rent a spare property, as long as you make sure you keep any personal or valuable belongings in a safe place (preferably not in the same house).

For me, I think this can be a really good source to increase my income and I do love meeting people of different nationalities. So I plan on trying this myself soon and will be sharing my experience in a later post once I have had my first guest.

Till next week, happy days!

7 Easy Ways To Save More Money

Saving money is a crucial step if someone wants to have a shot at financial freedom, because in order to be able to invest your money, first you need to have saved some.

How I took the decision to start saving:

I actually did not care about saving money in the past, mainly because I had no reason to. I had worked a few jobs which mostly paid me well, but I had nothing to save for at the time, no real financial responsibilities and no financial goal to save for, so I did not feel the urge and I did not see the point in saving.

If I see something I like, and I have the money for it then I will buy it; otherwise, why am I even working?–That has been my mentality up until a few months ago.

Then I had a reality check. Several months ago, I became entirely dependent on myself and instead of living with my parents, I was alone for some time. I had a job that paid me well, and had a humble amount of money that was still saved because I hadn’t spent it on anything yet.

From the outside, I may not have seemed like a lavish spender but I did spend a lot of money, most of it was wasted on food, jewelry, books and skincare products (yep, those are my weaknesses!). I can hardly feel bad about books, though, because I feel that is an investment itself, but everything else, not so much.

At that time, for some reason I went through this shopping frenzy where I was making a lot of purchases online and not thinking twice about it. And I had reached to a point where I was eating out/ordering in every single day and, sometimes, multiple times a day.

And because I am not used to paying attention to my spending or caring about money, one day, I was about to make an order for a meal, and just casually checked my wallet before I ordered and I found that I only had 50 pounds left in my pocket (that’s about $3), I tried checking my bank account and that was about zeros. And this was not even the shocking part, but it was when I realized that there was still an entire week left until the salary would come in.

This was a real turning point for me because this was the first time in my life where I literally had no money, not even enough to buy myself a meal; that was a scary moment. (But hey! let’s not get too dramatic. I did have food at home, I was just too lazy to cook it.)

And, even though I did have a credit card available, so I could still have access to money until pay day, that money was not really mine.

So, that was when I realized I needed to change my spending habits and look at money differently (also, when I realized I needed to start cooking!). But even though I started paying attention to how I spend money, still I wasn’t saving much. So I had to figure a better way to save more.

Save money and money will save you

1. Set a Budget

This is probably a technique that is as old as money itself, but still I only started doing that like 2 months ago. Setting a budget is not easy if you don’t know how much money you actually spend every month and what exactly you spend it on.

So, in order to set the right budget for myself, I had to monitor my spendings, document how much I spent and what I spent it on. I did that for 2-3 months just to make sure that whatever amount I set will be an accurate one, so I would not have to go over it at any point.

2. Set a Saving Goal

As I mentioned earlier, the reason I never cared to save money was because I had no reason to save. So, I had to create a reason that would motivate me and push me into saving and keep up with my goal.

Since I started this experiment (as I like to call it) of achieving financial freedom, I set a yearly saving goal for myself.

For now, my saving goal is to save enough money by the end of this year so I can buy an additional fund in the home construction company I discussed in the passive income: 4 real estate investing options post. And to be able to achieve that amount by the end of the year, I broke it down to a monthly saving goal.

It is also better if you have those monthly and yearly goals set in writing and have it somewhere where you can always see it, so it doesn’t slip away from your mind.

3. Think Before You Buy

Now do I really need to buy that one-of-a-kind veggie slicer? Or this never-before-never-again pair of trousers?

I used to buy a lot of things and end up not ever using them. Until this moment, there are pieces of clothing which I bought a couple years back that still have the purchase ticket on.

Things can look tempting at first glance and if you don’t stop yourself for a moment and actually think whether or not you need this, and whether or not you will actually use it, you will end up spending so much money on absolute nonsense (like this one time, several months ago, when I paid $200 on a teeth whitening device that is still in its delivery package wrap till this day).

Now, before I buy anything, I give myself enough time to think it over, again and again, before I decide. Also, if I’m doing an online purchase, I usually wait a day or two and see if I still want it as bad, because sometimes when I wait, I’d no longer be interested in buying it.

You will be surprised how much money you will save by doing just that.

If you buy things you do not need, soon you will have to sell things you need.

Warren Buffett

4. Use the Internet

Consider the internet your new, trusted best friend who you need to consult before you do anything.

There is an unimaginable number of things you can learn to do on the internet. So, before you decide to spend your money on something, make sure you can’t find a cheaper way to do it or a DIY replacement for it. (I save about 300-400 pounds per hairdresser visit just by learning how to cut and dye my own hair.)

You can also use the internet to find out about deals and discounts. It is actually interesting how much money you can save by just doing a little bit of research before going shopping for anything.

Real-life example: I was looking to buy a pair of shoes recently, and I found the ones I wanted for about 1,099 pounds in one of the go-to stores that I already know; however, with just a little bit of research, I found the exact same pair for 595 pounds and they even had a free-delivery offer for the month. So, not only have I saved on the shoes itself, but I also had it delivered to my doorstep for FREE. All it took was just some digging online.

One other thing I can totally thank the internet for is that it basically feeds me. As you probably already noticed, I’m a quite lazy person, so cooking was never really my thing. However, thanks to YouTube videos and some cooking websites, I can find a lot of easy and quick (and delicious) recipes to cook at home and from ingredients I already have. Apart from the fact that it is way more healthy, it is a major money saver!

5. Open a Savings Account

Remember that saving goal I mentioned earlier? Well, you’re going to need a place to save that money. One of the options is to open a new savings account that is separate from any account you’re already using.

Beside your saving goal, use this account to save any money left from your current month’s budget. And don’t worry if it’s only just a few pounds. If you have an extra 50 pounds left from your budget every month, that is 600 pounds by the end of the year; not a huge amount, yes, but that’s 600 pounds more in your account for basically doing nothing.

For me, I use an account which I did not get an ATM card for, just to make it harder for myself to withdraw any money from it.

6. Ditch Your Credit Card

The problem with credit cards is that they trick you into thinking you have money, when you really don’t.

Spending money you don’t have is the number one enemy to saving in my opinion. You are, voluntarily, throwing yourself as a victim to debt. If you can’t afford something to pay it off your budget, then you can’t afford it.

The only reason I ever use my credit card is to set a credit score. So, I make small transactions which I already have the money for it cash. But instead of paying it cash, I use the credit card then I pay off that card loan. I never pay an amount with my credit card that I don’t already have its equivalent in cash.

This way, I set a good credit score for myself while staying away from ever being in debt.

7. Eat Your Breakfast

You’ve probably heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day for several reasons, but one thing I noticed when I was working a 9-hour day job was that on the days I did not have breakfast at home, I would spend a lot more money at work.

I would buy something to eat when it’s early during my shift and because it usually wasn’t a proper meal or even healthy, I would feel the need to have more snacks throughout the day. And I tend to buy a bigger meal for lunch than what I would normally eat which would be a more expensive meal (and more kilograms on the scale).

However, when I have a proper breakfast at home, I’m never tempted to buy any snacks or junk food during the day. And I’m full till it’s time for lunch.

And since I already started to cook at home, as mentioned in tip #4, I would have a home-made meal to eat for lunch which I prepared the day before. This way I wouldn’t need to spend that extra money on food at work.

Those were the main 7 tips I know that has helped me save more and, hopefully, will help you too!

Till next week, happy days!