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How to start investing – how I did it, got started and made money

If you want to learn how to start investing then you’ve come to the right place. This article takes you through my personal journey, including the platform, account type and my initial investments.

Getting your investing journey started can be confusing, especially if you don’t have anyone to talk to about it. Investing is personal to each individual though, so make sure you do your research, as this isn’t a recommendation – just my story. 

Before we get started

This is a step-by-step article on how I started my investment journey. The process was personal to me, my decisions and my attitude to risk. So please understand that this is in no way advice on how you should get started, just a summary of the things did.

If you are considering investing then please read our Beginners Guide to Investing first. It has everything you need to run through before you start your journey. Plus it covers risk (because your investments can go up and down!).

Investing for beginners – how to bankroll your financial freedom

Heads up – We aim to produce honest and accurate content, however, we are not financial advisors. If you need financial advice, Unbiased can connect you with a suitable professional for free. Some of our links may earn us a small commission to help us run the site.

Choosing an investment platform

Before I could choose what I wanted to invest in, I had to choose an investment platform. When I say “platform”, I mean the interface you’ll be using to buy and sell your investments. And it’s worth remembering before you even set out: the company that runs the platform are responsible for all of your money.

I started investing around 20 years ago and there was really only one name in town; Hargreaves Lansdown. At that time there was nowhere near as much choice of platform providers as there is today, so that’s where I went.

Hargreaves Lansdown had a great reputation and an online interface which meant I could check up on my investments when I wanted.

These days, there are a plethora of providers, large and small. Some robo-advisors will invest your money for you, and some other providers will allow you to choose your investments ‘DIY’. We’ve written an extensive article on how to choose the right platform for you.

How to choose the best investment platform for you

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Opening an investment account

I opened my Hargreaves Lansdown account online. At that time there wasn’t an app so it was just a web portal. I didn’t know what I was doing, but the account opening process guided me through all the required information.

Having opened dozens of investment accounts I now know the process is pretty similar for all of them. Most investment accounts can be opened online or via an app. It’s a quick and simple process that you should be able to complete in under 10 minutes.

You’ll need some proof of ID and your National Insurance number. And if you want to start investing a set amount each month, you’ll need to set up a direct debit. For this, you’ll want your bank details to hand.

You can open a Hargreaves Lansdown account here

Choose your investment wrapper

Once you’ve picked your provider, you’ll need to decide which account to open. Typically there are a few choices and most providers will provide the following accounts:

  • Stocks and Shares ISA – good for protecting your investments from the taxman.
  • General Investment Account – good if you’ve filled your Stocks and Shares ISA.
  • SIPP – (Self Invested Personal Pension) like a pension, your money’s tied up until retirement age.

I started with a Stocks and Shares ISA to ensure my money was protected from tax in the future. This ensured I didn’t need to declare any gains or fill in any paperwork like a self-assessment tax return. Nice and simple.

Learn more: stocks and shares ISA – simple, tax-free investing

Man looking up at choices - How to start Investing

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Choose your investments

Once my account was set up it was time to choose what I wanted to invest in. I’d love to tell you that I knew what I was doing at this point however that unfortunately was not the case.

Initially, I purchased large tech stocks like Apple, Tesla and Amazon. I also chose a few other smaller cap stocks which haven’t weathered the time as well. Yes, I should have known that investing in an African farming company I’d never heard of was going to be risky.

However, after initially dabbling in a series of unresearched stocks, recommendations from the Motley Fool and basically relying on luck, I changed my strategy. My research had pointed me towards a cheap global tracker instead of riskier individual stocks, and I chose the popular Vanguard LifeStrategy 100 fund.

Even now, I still dabble in individual companies but around 80% of my portfolio is in funds. For me, funds have provided consistent returns over the years. I’m not happy to limit my riskier individual picks to under 20% of my total portfolio. Additionally, this helps me sleep better at night as I’m not always watching the share prices.

Set and forget

It took several years to settle down into a consistent investment strategy. After a few years, it was clear I didn’t have a clue how to pick a winning stock. The truth is that the winners I picked were lucky guesses. I didn’t mind relying on a little luck however I knew I needed something more solid if I was to build long-term wealth.

Once I’d settled on my primary investment, I set up a monthly direct debit. Hargreaves Lansdown offered a regular investing service that automatically took a set amount from my bank account each month and invested it in my chosen fund.

Regular investing allowed me to set and forget my investment strategy. It also prevented me from taking more risks with my money by choosing a new investment each month. Finally, it can save on fees as regular investing can be done at a much lower cost per trade.

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Track your net worth

Once my investment strategy was in place, the rest was really pretty boring.

Each month, money came out of my account and got invested automatically. There wasn’t too much to get excited about. This can be a challenge for many investors, particularly those driven by quick gains promised on meme stocks.

To overcome this challenge, I started tracking my net worth. Initially, I set up a simple spreadsheet in my Google Drive where I documented my Stocks and Shares ISA, Pensions and Savings account balances at the end of each month. This allowed me to easily track my progress.

As time has gone on, it’s given me the motivation to increase the amount I regularly invest and well as plot my progress. I highly recommend keeping tabs on your net worth too!

Keeping tabs on your general Financial Fitness too means you’ll know where to put more effort and energy, plus you’ll quickly realise if something needs to change. Use our free Financial Fitness Calculator to find out your Financial Fitness score in less than two minutes (complete with a free, tailored action plan based on your results).

How to start investing - learn more:

How to start investing - how I did it

I started my investment journey in my early 20s. At the time I had surplus cash, no debt and no family to support. The decision to start investing, in my eyes, was easy. 

During the last 20 years, I’ve changed how much I invest each month to accommodate changes in my life including homes, kids and borrowing. However, I kept investing, even during the bad times. It’s been one of the best decisions of my life. With investments to fall back on should things get tough, I never really stress about money. 

I laid a good path for myself by starting small. Starting small gave me the ability to dabble and make mistakes when the impact was marginal. This learning over time has tested how I would fare during a crash or panic.

Investing only a small amount of disposable cash each month is a great proving ground. You just have to be prepared for ups and downs, because both will happen. Of course, everyone loves the ups but the downs will really prove if investing is right for you. 

If you still have questions, please come join our supportive UK Personal Finance club on Facebook, where you’ll find other like-minded individuals who are serious about Financial Fitness. It’s a safe, private community where you can ask questions and learn more about making the most of your money. Best of all, it’s free! I’d love to see you there.

Here’s to your Financial Fitness does not offer financial advice and is intended for reference/information only. Remember, you should always carry out your own research and/or take specific professional advice before choosing any financial products or services or undertaking any business or financial venture. If you need financial advice Unbiased can connect you with a suitable professional for free. Investments may go up as well as down and you may get back less than you put in.