The five things stopping you investing


There is nothing worse than a "reformed" anything. They want you to embrace the new thing they've discovered/found/benefited from, convinced that you'll appreciate it, too.

Sorry, but this is one of those columns. Well, sort of. I'm going to assume that I don't have to extol the virtues of saving and compounding – if only because I've done it before.

So I'm going straight to Step 2: recognising and removing some of the barriers that are keeping you from investing – or investing more.

1. Not enough money

"I can't invest. I don't have enough money."

For at least 90 per cent of the people reading this column, that's rubbish. What you're saying is either "I don't/can't /won't budget" or "I'm not prepared to change my spending habits." That's your choice, of course, and your choices are your own. But you have enough money. You just need to choose.

It won't be easy. It will require sacrifice. But your future self will thank you for it.

2. Inertia

You know you should invest. You're going to. You've heard and read enough to be convinced. And you'll start. Tomorrow.

Except that has been the plan for the past month, year or best part of the last decade. The fabled journey starts with a single step. So start. Today. Open that brokerage account. Buy those shares. Do what you have to do, just start.

3. "It's all too hard"

I've been investing for a long time. And I've been interested in business and economics for far longer. But I can still remember being daunted by the process. Brokerage accounts, P/E ratios, balance sheets, franking credits. It's tempting just to stick with term deposits. But don't. It's not as hard as you imagine – and in six months you'll wonder what the fuss was all about.

Start. Try. Skin your knee. It's the way we learn – and that process is well worthwhile.

4. Perfectionism

Investing is really hard for perfectionists. Because it's a pursuit that can't be perfected. Oh, you can improve, but that's not the same, is it, perfectionists? They want to make sure everything is perfectly aligned, pages and pages of research done, all of the risks assessed and addressed. The list goes on. But here's the truth: you'll be wrong. A lot. And you need to embrace it, because investment success comes despite – not in the absence of – mistakes and losses.

5. Risk

This is the general fallback for many people who eschew investing, particularly in shares. "It's gambling." "They're just pieces of paper." "My mate lost a fortune on a speculative gold miner."

Shares are risky. You can lose money. At least on a company-by-company basis. And yes, the market as a whole does ebb and flow (putting it mildly, if you're still bearing the emotional scars of the global financial crisis). But overall, done sensibly, history shows that shares are the best wealth creation vehicle available to you and me.

Foolish takeaway

None of those reasons are terrible reasons to be cautious about investing. I'm not criticising anyone who has been caught up by one or more of them. But I would urge you to find a way through those problems – because history has shown that those who can embrace investing are far more likely to be successful than those who don't.

And for those who are worried about risk, it's probably far more risky for your long-term wealth if you don't invest at all.

Published in the Sydney Morning Herald, by Scott Phillips; 7th November 2016