Start investing! A procrastinator’s guide — Part 2

This blog is a summary of the conversations I’ve had with friends and the suggestions I’ve made to them. All content in this blog represents my personal opinions and do not represent those of organisations that I associate with in any personal or professional capacity. The content is provided for informational purposes only. The following is not intended to be investment advice. This article contains referral links because who doesn’t like referral links!

In part one we covered why you should invest and the right mindset.

Let’s do this! A really simple approach to investing

You’re going to start investing a comfortable amount, once a month via savings plans into two different ETFs (MSCI World, MSCI Emerging markets) and a small amount into Bitcoin and Ethereum.

Now let me elaborate:

What assets classes you should buy

  • Risk
  • Return
  • Liquidity

We can only pick two of the desired properties

No idea why this triangle has to be called ‘magic.’
* Also worth mentioning that usually you need quite a lot of money to get started in real estate

We are going to pick:

  • ✅ High Returns
  • ✅ High Liquidity
  • 😞 High Risk

It may seem counterintuitive to ask new investors to go for ‘High Risk’ as the undesired property, but hear me out:

Liquidity is super important because as beginner investors, we want to make sure we can get access to our funds very easily.

As young people who are starting out, we might not have figured everything out yet e.g. if we want to buy a house or take a sabbatical and live off our savings. Compromising on liquidity would mean we have to have a clear picture of our future which is most likely going to be a headfuck and stop us from starting investing.

High returns are necessary because anything else means we are losing money

Keeping cash in a bank account means we are losing money each year because of inflation and the interest rates are so low on fixed income products that it’s barely any better.

If we aren’t going to go for high returns, then there’s not much point to investing at all given the current situation.

0.17% is the rate offered on cash in N26 currently. If you saves €1000, you’d earn €17 of interest in 10 years!

Result: We have to compromise on risk

Risk is how safe the profit is and how safely it can be planned.

While it might seem scary to go for a ‘high risk’ investment, please remember that this scoring is only relative and…

We are going to do everything we can to de-risk your ‘risky’ investments!

🧮 How much to invest: A comfortable amount

Ok, that’s your ‘comfortable amount’. Don’t upsell yourself and try to go over this. You can always increase it gradually in the future.

There’s no correct amount or correct percentage. Do what feels comfortable and adjust over time.

Think about an emergency fund + any big upcoming payments

I would try to avoid holding too much cash for the reasons described above. On the other hand, you shouldn’t find yourself in the position where you have to sell some of your investments each month because you’ve run out of cash.

You should consider the following factors when deciding how much cash to have:

  • Your investments are going to be liquid. If you need to, you can sell them and get access to cash again. Now, as we are investing in risky assets you might have to sell them at a loss, but if this is only in the case of an emergency, then maybe you can take the risk.
  • If you are employed in a country with a strong social system or labour laws (e.g. Germany) the chance of losing your entire monthly income from one day to the next are lower so your emergency fund can be smaller.
  • If you’re in the very privileged position of knowing you can borrow from your parents etc. in the event of an unexpected emergency, then your emergency fund can also be smaller.

🛒What you’ll buy each month: Two ETFs and the two biggest cryptos

Where do these numbers come from

Typically people who are starting to invest are young and can take on a slightly higher risk tolerance. If you are young, earning well and expect your earnings to be stable or increase in the next few years, I’d advise you to lean towards the more risky side!

If you want to dive deeper, there’s a bunch of financial risk quizzes online. I wouldn’t take the results so seriously, but the questions themselves are useful as they let you know what defines a tolerance to financial risk.

Equities: Buy ETFs opposed to individual shares

Investing into $1000 different companies would be complicated and painful, but luckily for us we have ETFs or exchange traded funds.

ETFs allow you to invest into a lot of companies at once. Often these are based on a theme (e.g. Space or Clean Energy) or a geographical region (e.g. Europe or Japan).

We are going to focus on the biggest, most diverse and well known ETFs:

  • MSCI World
  • MSCI Emerging markets

MSCI World, for example, contains over 1,559 companies across 23 different countries. Wow! Now, that’s what I call diversification.

The difference between MSCI World and MSCI Emerging Market is that World focuses on developed countries (e.g. the US, Germany, Japan) whereas Emerging Markets focuses on developing countries (e.g. China, Brazil, India).

These are the returns of MSCI World, MSCI Emerging Markets and MSCI ACWI which is a blend of the other two, heavily weighted towards richer countries. You can see that the minority world (less woke: developed countries) have performed better than the majority world (less woke: developing countries) since 2006.

When you’re looking for these ETFs, you should try to buy the one that is in your normal currency e.g. EUR and that is Accumulating (ACC) opposed to Distributing (Dist). This means dividends will be reinvested rather than paid out.

A screenshot from the MSCI World ETF in the Trade Republic app.

Adding crypto for a higher risk-reward profile

What I will say however, is that it’s a fantastic asset class that has performed exceptionally well in the last decade. It’s still extremely volatile, but it offers returns you can’t get anywhere else.

To keep things simple, you are going to invest in the two biggest crypto currencies: Bitcoin and Ethereum.

In a perfect world, there would be an ETF that tracks the top crypto currencies so you could invest in a diversified way, but let’s not worry about that for now. Why? There aren’t any great options and secondly the market tends to follow bitcoin and ethereum pretty reliably so the need to diversify is not as important as with equities.

📅 When to invest?

The best timing for investing is “a little bit regularly”. Given that most people get their salary each month, the easiest is to start investing once a month, typically soon after you get your salary.

Try your best to automate this 🤖

You can completely automate an investment by:

  • Automating a transaction from your bank account to your investing (brokerage) account
  • Automating the investment through a savings plan (a scheduled automatic buy) for example

If you’re the kind of person who finds it hard to commit to something once a month, set up automation straight away. Do it once and you won’t have to think about it again!

If you are more cautious, run the process manually for a couple of months before automating.

Automation is great for busy people who don’t want to think about money!

Let’s do this!

You are going to start investing because you want to grow your wealth over time, your bank offers you no interest and inflation is eating away at the value of your cash.

So.. Let’ summarise the key points:

🧮 How much? A comfortable amount

  • An amount you might miss but could live without

📅 When? Once a month

  • Invest regularly and automate where possible

🛒 What to invest in?

  • ETFs allow you to invest broadly over the stock market
  • Crypto to add additional risk but also additional reward!

🛠 The tools and platforms to use

🇪🇺 Living in Europe

Equities Trade Republic has savings plans for ETFs

🇬🇧 Living in the UK

EquitiesPlum doesn’t let you invest in ETFs directly, but rather diversified funds

N.B. For US citizens it’s tricky to sign up to some of the above platforms. You should double check beforehand.

Go do this!

No!

GO GET STARTED!

It’ll take about an hour and once it’s done, you’re an investor! You’re part of the elite club that is actually growing their money. It’s a great feeling once you get started.

If you can’t do it now, set aside time in your calendar. You go this!

FAQs

I want to buy very risky thing X

The world is full of FOMO and sooner or later you’ll see a headline about some crazy new thing. The guide above is the ‘slow and steady’ approach.

If you find it too hard to resist, that’s ok! You’re only human. What I would recommend is to create your own personal hedge fund. Set aside a fixed sum or figure out a monthly contribution. The purpose of the hedge fund is to indulge all your FOMO-fueled, perhaps not so rational investments.

Once you’ve figured out how much you’re going to put in there, you need to be strict with yourself. Want to buy shiny new thing X, well you’re going to have to sell those NFTs you bought last month.

What about tax?

It’s good practice to put aside your gains in a separate account to avoid the worst case scenario: investing all your gains in an asset and losing it but still needing to pay the tax.

When should you sell

Do you follow your own advice?

https://twitter.com/BenPeterJones/status/1440425925699538955

I am, however, much more heavily invested in crypto as part of my overall portfolio. This is very risky by traditional wisdom, but I’m ok with that. That’s my burden to bear.

Startup advisor | Co-Founder & CEO/CTO @Nuri