Even though it's almost the end of the year, it's never to late to start investing!
If you'd like to start investing this year, there are a few things to keep in mind. Depending on how involved you want to get, investing can take up a lot of time or very little time. It's easy to start investing, especially if your company offers a 401(k). If you want to 'go big', you can get as involved in investing as you want. There's plenty to read out there about investing.
Consider your age, too. The younger you are, the more aggressive you probably want to be when you start investing. People in their twenties and thirties have many years to let their portfolios grow and change. They can weather some of the typical market ups and downs that happen over decades.
If you want to start investing, here are ways you can get started now:
Contributing to Your 401(k)
Many employers offer some type of investment plan for their employees. Most offer a variation of the 401(k). Public school employees and some who work at non-profits may have 403(b) plans. They are similar to 401(k) plans. Either of these plans are great for people who want to start investing but don't know how.
The best part about 401(k)s is that some employers offer matches! This means if you invest in your company's 401(k), your employer will match your contribution up to a certain point. That's free money!
Contribution limits to a 401(k) are high: you can save $18,000 in your 401(k). The federal government's Thrift Savings Plan also falls under this contribution cap.
Even if you can't afford to contribute the maximum to your 401(k) this year, consider investing enough to get your employer's match. Not every employer offers this perk, so check with your Human Resources department to make sure it's an option. If it isn't, consider some of the additional investing resources below.
For the self-employed and freelancers out there, the IRS offers several investment and retirement options for you, too! Check out the Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) plan here, as well as other options for self-employed people to start investing.
Find your investing style with this investing compatibility quiz.
Start Investing in an IRA
Traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs are extremely popular investment vehicles, particularly for those whose companies don't offer a 401(k) or match. IRA stands for Individual Retirement Account. IRAs are easier to max out, as the contribution limit is $5,500 per person.
The main difference between a Traditional and Roth IRA is when you're taxed - and yes, you will be taxed. With a Traditional IRA, you don't pay taxes up front, but you do pay taxes when you take out your money at 59 1/2 years old. Note: you don't have to start withdrawing that early, but you must start withdrawing at age 70 1/2 or else you will face a penalty. One benefit to a Traditional IRA is that by contributing to it now, you reduce your taxable income immediately.
A Roth IRA, on the other hand, does not reduce your taxable income. You invest in a Roth IRA with after tax income. However, when you withdraw from your Roth IRA, at 59 1/2 years old or older, you won't pay any taxes on the amounts you withdraw. If you expect to be in a higher tax bracket when you're older, a Roth IRA makes sense. A Roth IRA also makes sense for those who owe little to no money at tax time and don't need to reduce their taxable income now.
There are some limitations to investing in both a Traditional and Roth IRA. Visit the IRS website on IRAs to determine if they're right for you.
[Tweet "Which is better for you? A Roth IRA or a traditional IRA?"]
Start Investing in Your Health Savings Account
Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are quite possibly my favorite investment vehicle. I recently got started investing in my HSA. It's a great way for those who want to start investing to begin and not be overwhelmed.
In order to get an HSA, you must be enrolled in a high deductible health plan (HDHP). HDHPs do have higher deductibles than typical insurance plans, so it's something to keep in mind if you're considering an HSA. For example, depending on the type of HDHP offered by your employer or through self-employment, your deductible could be $1,500. This means you have to spend $1,500 out of your own pocket before your health insurance kicks in.
Some people have the funds to cover that deductible from their emergency savings. If, on the other hand, you wouldn't be able to cover your deductible amount, you may want to reconsider an HDHP for now.
If you choose an HDHP plan with an HSA, you'll quickly find out how useful and awesome Health Savings Accounts can be. With an HSA, you can pay for many medical expenses, found here, from your HSA. Contributions are also tax free, meaning they come from pre-tax income and reduce your taxable income.
The maximum you can contribute to your HSA, as a single person, is $3,350. If you have family coverage, you can contribute up to $6,650 per year. You can also invest your HSA contributions and take your HSA with you, no matter if you switch jobs or quit to start your own business. Your HSA, and its investment profits, are all yours!
As long as you spend your HSA funds on qualified medical expenses, you won't be taxed, making this investment one of the best out there. Medical expenses continue to increase every year, and you're likely to find your HSA will come in handy as you spend money on regular medical expenses.
With all of these options, you're sure to find something that interests you to start investing now. You can contribute to all of these accounts right now, before 2016 even starts. If you don't yet have an HSA account, you will have to wait to enroll in an HDHP, but you can plan for it until then!
Want to start investing now, but not sure where to start? Find your investing style with this investing compatibility quiz.