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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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.

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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!

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