How to start investing in college

There’s no better time than now for students to think about investing

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As students continue through college, learning to invest now can help set them up for the future. (Photo Illustration by Collin Andrews)

Collin Andrews, Staff Writer

Many college students are too busy thinking about being successful in classes and maybe planning for the next few years of life rather than planning for the future or thinking about retirement. This means many students might not have an understanding or even a thought to invest in the stock market. 

The reality is that students who learn to invest now can set themselves up to succeed in the future either by starting a retirement fund, or perhaps to day trade.

Here are a few simple ways that college students can invest now and set themselves up for success in the future. 

The first idea if you want to jump into investing is to join a low-cost or free brokering service. There are many services out there such as TD Ameritrade, Fidelity, and others that offer low-cost services that help you create your account and portfolio and offer research and education areas for you to learn more about investing from there. If you would like a free option, services like Robinhood also offer a no-cost service that allows you to invest as little as $20 to start and gives students a very budget-friendly portfolio option. 

The second idea is fairly simple and is something many will know well. Much like as a kid would put money in a piggy bank every so often, you can invest $20 to $30 each month to let it grow itself. This option is available if you go with a commission-free broker service and allows you to focus more on the market and give you a modest start. It can also help to see yourself as a stock trader. 

It is also worth noting that it is important to get started in investing no matter how the economy is looking. Starting during a low in the economy means your stocks will rise almost regardless, and if you started in a stronger economy, known as a high, then it will help you understand the way stocks rise and fall and be able to learn some day trading techniques. Like the age-old adage says, there’s no time like the present.

The third main idea is one of the easier ways of investing and that is into an index fund. Index funds are companies that own stocks in many different companies. These sorts of companies include the S&P 500 index of large American companies. 

This sort of fund is useful as it is a very diversified portfolio and is less volatile than other stocks if you owned one stock in a particular sector. This allows people that don’t necessarily have a lot of knowledge or education to get into trading because there’s less risk and gives you a chance to learn and understand more about trading before diving into more risk-oriented trading. 

There’s also another option if you don’t want to invest in small stocks or into an index fund and that is signing up for a robo advisor. Robo advisors are a great and effective tool to use for novice and beginner traders alike as they trade stocks and create your portfolio automatically based on your own funds and how aggressive you want to trade. For the service, the advisor will charge a percentage of the account, typically 0.25%. However, some will waive this fee depending on how large the account is. Two of the main services are Betterment and Wealthfront.

The last idea is opening up an IRA for yourself. IRA stands for an “individual retirement account,” which is a retirement plan much like a 401k is a tax-advantaged plan. This allows you to put money into a savings account that is safer than simply a credit union for example. IRAs allow you to defer taxes on profits and then can help deduct income taxes from this IRA at the end of the term when you are taking money out of it. The longer you can leave the money in the account the more money you will have at the end of it, as it will compound out and help you in the long run. 

The bottom line is that investing is not the scary and exclusive club that many make it out to be. You don’t need thousands of dollars to make money doing it. It is never too early to start investing, and as students go through college, having a cushion is never a bad idea. Whether it’s for an emergency or simply being able to pay off student loans, investing is a great ability to learn for anyone that is looking for a new and interesting way to save money.