If you are starting to invest, the easiest place to start is with your employer. The company you work for has setup retirement investing accounts for you, perhaps a defined contribution plan, such as a 401(k) retirement account and maybe even a pension account. Some companies even enroll you automatically in their defined contribution retirement plan (if you don’t want to contribute, you will need to tell them you don’t want to). The combination of automatic account creation plus easy funding through payroll deductions make investing at your job really easy.
If you want to achieve any kind of financial security or freedom, though, you are going to need to setup taxable accounts, outside of retirement investing.
Can your employer help, here? In many cases, your employer can help you here, too.
The markets have done well for the first quarter of 2012. We have new milestones for all three of the major indexes. I’d say the NASDAQ breaching 3,000 is the most significant because we haven’t seen that number for over 10 years!
S&P500 1,402.21 (+12.0% YTD)
DOW 13,102 (+8.1% YTD)
NASDAQ 3,044 (+18.7% YTD)
The DOW is underperforming relatively because its big hitters, MCD, IBM and CVX have underperformed (remember that the DOW is a price weighted index not market cap weighted!). Apple single handily has really improved the returns of both the S&P500 and NASDAQ. Apple is now 12% of the entire NASDAQ and 17% of the NASDAQ 100. Apple is the reason why the NASDAQ breached 3,000, with an over 50% gain in the shares so far this year.
Investing is all about finding good companies or ETFs and buying them when you think they are attractively priced. And then holding them. This is the part that makes investing boring, because I know from experience that holding the quality companies will make you money over time, you don’t need to trade them.
It can happen quickly, you lose upside before you even have the chance to make successful trades. For example, Philip Morris (PM) is trading at a 52 week high and all time high. If you simply waited for everything to be “all clear” in the economy, you missed out on this move. A company like Philip Morris is a so called secular stock, which means that it makes money and grows its earnings consistently in spite of economic cycles. Therefore, trading it can be tricky.
A few weeks ago, I conjectured that we will someday soon get a $1 billion lottery prize. Well, we don’t have that yet, but we do have the first over $500 Million dollar MegaMillion prize for the drawing on Friday, March 29th.
This is a new milestone, this is the first time any lottery prized has crossed over that threshold. The remarkable path of this prize is that it took two months of rollover prizes to get here but the prize amount is accelerating very fast. The Tuesday drawing had a prize of $363 million. So, in just one drawing the prize has increased by an incredible $177 million (there are two drawings every week).