Cents and Sensibility

Guy Steele

Saturday, November 6, 2004

A little investment
education can go far

YOU may have finished school many years ago, but that doesn't mean you can't continue your education. And one of the most important topics you can study is investing -- because educated investors are usually the most successful ones.

Of course, you already may be somewhat familiar with investing. And this experience can teach you a great deal. But it can't teach you everything you need to know, which is why you'll want to further your financial education.

What can you learn?

Should you learn more about investing so that you can identify "hot" stocks? In a word, no. In many cases, stock "tips" are dubious -- and, in any case, even if you should find a hot stock, it already may be cooling off by the time you invest in it.

So, what can you gain from becoming a well-educated investor? Here are just a few benefits:

» By understanding the concepts of investment quality and diversification, you can help build a portfolio to enable you to make progress toward your long-term objectives. Furthermore, you can work toward a mix of investments that reflect your individual tolerance for risk.

» By knowing how your stocks, bonds and government securities may perform in different economic scenarios, you can help avoid the type of disappointments that can lead you to abandon your investment strategies.

» By learning the key factors that drive the markets -- such as corporate earnings and sustainable economic growth -- you may not be tempted to make hasty or ill-advised investment decisions in response to short-term events, such as an election, military actions, spikes in oil prices, etc.

Sources of education

Clearly, you can help yourself by learning as much as possible about the investment world. And, as you probably know, you can find investment information from a variety of sources. You may be able to take classes at a local community college. You can find seminars advertised in the newspaper. You can choose from among a huge supply of books and magazines. You can watch investment shows on television.

In fact, your biggest challenge isn't finding sources of investment information --- it's finding information that you find understandable and suitable.

So, browse your bookstore, surf the Internet and flip the channels. But, as you do, keep in mind that some sources that appear objective actually may have a degree of self-interest in what they're communicating to you.

You may also want to work with an investment professional -- someone who will take the time to discuss key issues with you, and who will tailor all recommendations to your individual needs, goals and risk tolerance. As an investor, you'll find that there's always something new to learn -- and knowledge is power.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Guy Steele is a financial planner and head of the Pali Palms office of Edward Jones. Send planning and investing questions to him at 970 N. Kalaheo Ave., Suite C-210, Kailua, Hawaii, 96734, or call 254-0688



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