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Common investing mistakes that beginners should avoid

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

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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.

M1 Finance

A useful (and free) personal finance tool for investors at all levels is M1 Finance. It's a commission-free investing and money management app that was recently rated #1 for Sophisticated Investors and #1 for Socially Responsible Investing by Investopedia, beating out competitors like Personal Capital, Vanguard, and Betterment. Available for Android and iOS devices, M1 Finance lets users create a portfolio of stocks or exchange-traded funds (ETFs) for free. Investors can also borrow from a flexible portfolio line of credit with a low base rate, and M1 is currently beta testing FDIC-insured checking accounts with debit cards that investors can use instead of their existing checking account. To find out more about how it works and to sign up today, click here.

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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