Common investing mistakes that beginners should avoid

Knowing the pitfalls is the first step to making smarter money decisions.

Photo by Adeolu Eletu on Unsplash
  • Taking control of your money and making better financial decisions is something that everyone can and should do.
  • There is a bit of a learning curve when it comes to investing. A big part of making money is learning how to avoid common mistakes.
  • Buying cheap stocks instead of smart ones, being too reactive to news headlines, and thinking short term are a few of the things that new investors often get wrong.


You want to start making better choices and take control of your money, but how? For those new to the world of investing, taking that first step can feel daunting and confusing. Helpful acronyms, numbers, and terms to learn are written in a language you don't yet speak. With a little time, the right resources, and a willingness to learn, the dream of one day managing your money smarter can become a reality. For beginners and seasoned investors alike, a big part of making money is being able to identify and avoid making common mistakes.

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As you set out on your investing journey, here are a few common mistakes to avoid:

Don’t focus on the short term.

Treating the stock market like placing a bet is a strategy that probably won't work out for you. Successful investor Warren Buffett warns new investors against day trading. "If you aren't willing to own a stock for 10 years, don't even think about owning it for ten minutes," Buffett wrote in a letter to shareholders back in 1996. Buying and selling stocks quickly may get you a few dollars, but making a smart investment in a good company and sticking with it over a long period of time could make you exponentially more.

Don’t buy what you don’t understand.

Never buy a piece of a company when you don't understand how it makes money. Do your research and learn about the industry and the mechanisms that move it, otherwise the money you invest could disappear and you would have no idea why.

But don’t only buy what you know.

According to Investopedia, novice investors (and those with experience) should probably stick to the principle of diversification. In poker terms, you don't want to "let it ride" on one big stock in the hopes that your money will double or triple. Create a portfolio and spread the money around. As a general rule according to the experts, never allocate more than 5-10% to any one investment.

Don’t use your retirement money.

Risking your livelihood on investments is dangerous and ill-advised. If losing the money you are thinking of investing would ruin your life or the lives of those around you, then you absolutely should not do it.

Find good investments, not cheap ones.

In the same vein as the first tip, it's important for new investors to learn that just because they can afford to buy a stock, that doesn't mean they should. The idea of investing early in the next Google and riding the wave to wealth is enticing, but that's not a realistic strategy. Tried and true is often better than shiny and new.

And lastly, don’t overreact based on the news.

Hearing about a tanking stock on the news can be scary if that company is a part of your portfolio, but experts warn against letting your emotions get the best of you. Consider the history of the stock and whether or not the reason for the dip is something that could soon pass. If you panic and sell because of a headline, you could regret it next month when that dip turns into a spike.

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Experts are already predicting an 'active' 2020 hurricane season

It looks like a busy hurricane season ahead. Probably.

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Surprising Science
  • Before the hurricane season even started in 2020, Arthur and Bertha had already blown through, and Cristobal may be brewing right now.
  • Weather forecasters see signs of a rough season ahead, with just a couple of reasons why maybe not.
  • Where's an El Niño when you need one?

Welcome to Hurricane Season 2020. 2020, of course, scoffs at this calendric event much as it has everything else that's normal — meteorologists have already used up the year's A and B storm names before we even got here. And while early storms don't necessarily mean a bruising season ahead, forecasters expect an active season this year. Maybe storms will blow away the murder hornets and 13-year locusts we had planned.

NOAA expects a busy season

According to NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, an agency of the National Weather Service, there's a 60 percent chance that we're embarking upon a season with more storms than normal. There does, however, remain a 30 percent it'll be normal. Better than usual? Unlikely: Just a 10 percent chance.

Where a normal hurricane season has an average of 12 named storms, 6 of which become hurricanes and 3 of which are major hurricanes, the Climate Prediction Center reckons we're on track for 13 to 29 storms, 6 to 10 of which will become hurricanes, and 3 to 6 of these will be category 3, 4, or 5, packing winds of 111 mph or higher.

What has forecasters concerned are two factors in particular.

This year's El Niño ("Little Boy") looks to be more of a La Niña ("Little Girl"). The two conditions are part of what's called the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle, which describes temperature fluctuations between the ocean and atmosphere in the east-central Equatorial Pacific. With an El Niño, waters in the Pacific are unusually warm, whereas a La Niña means unusually cool waters. NOAA says that an El Niño can suppress hurricane formation in the Atlantic, and this year that mitigating effect is unlikely to be present.

Second, current conditions in the Atlantic and Caribbean suggest a fertile hurricane environment:

  • The ocean there is warmer than usual.
  • There's reduced vertical wind shear.
  • Atlantic tropical trade winds are weak.
  • There have been strong West African monsoons this year.

Here's NOAA's video laying out their forecast:

But wait.

ArsTechnica spoke to hurricane scientist Phil Klotzbach, who agrees generally with NOAA, saying, "All in all, signs are certainly pointing towards an active season." Still, he notes a couple of signals that contradict that worrying outlook.

First off, Klotzbach notes that the surest sign of a rough hurricane season is when its earliest storms form in the deep tropics south of 25°N and east of the Lesser Antilles. "When you get storm formations here prior to June 1, it's typically a harbinger of an extremely active season." Fortunately, this year's hurricanes Arthur and Bertha, as well as the maybe-imminent Cristobal, formed outside this region. So there's that.

Second, Klotzbach notes that the correlation between early storm activity and a season's number of storms and intensities, is actually slightly negative. So while statistical connections aren't strongly predictive, there's at least some reason to think these early storms may augur an easy season ahead.

Image source: NOAA

Batten down the hatches early

If 2020's taught us anything, it's how to juggle multiple crises at once, and layering an active hurricane season on top of SARS-CoV-2 — not to mention everything else — poses a special challenge. Warns Treasury Secretary Wilbur Ross, "As Americans focus their attention on a safe and healthy reopening of our country, it remains critically important that we also remember to make the necessary preparations for the upcoming hurricane season." If, as many medical experts expect, we're forced back into quarantine by additional coronavirus waves, the oceanic waves slamming against our shores will best be met by storm preparations put in place in a less last-minute fashion than usual.

Ross adds, "Just as in years past, NOAA experts will stay ahead of developing hurricanes and tropical storms and provide the forecasts and warnings we depend on to stay safe."

Let's hope this, at least, can be counted on in this crazy year.

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