The solution to both is investing in stock index funds and ETFs. While mutual funds might require a $1,000 minimum or more, index fund minimums tend to be lower (and ETFs are purchased for a share price that could be lower still). Two brokers, Fidelity and Charles Schwab, offer index funds with no minimum at all. Index funds also cure the diversification issue because they hold many different stocks within a single fund.
Although ETFs are designed to provide investment results that generally correspond to the performance of their respective underlying indices, they may not be able to exactly replicate the performance of the indices because of expenses and other factors. A prospectus contains this and other information about the ETF and should be read carefully before investing. Customers should obtain prospectuses from issuers and/or their third party agents who distribute and make prospectuses available for review. ETFs are required to distribute portfolio gains to shareholders at year end. These gains may be generated by portfolio rebalancing or the need to meet diversification requirements. ETF trading will also generate tax consequences. Additional regulatory guidance on Exchange Traded Products can be found by clicking here.
During its latest rebalance, the Invesco S&P 500 Momentum ETF (SPMO) halved its exposure to the tech sector from 36.6% to 17.2%, and more than doubled the weight in health care to 27.9%. Utilities and real estate went from nearly zero to 11.7% and 7.1% of the portfolios, respectively. That helps explain the fund’s moderate loss of 1.7% in May, even though the tech stocks within the S&P 500 slumped a much steeper 5.7%.
Worth noting: A 401(k) is a type of investment account, and if you’re participating in one, you may already be investing in stocks, likely through mutual funds. However, a 401(k) won’t offer you access to individual stocks, and your choice in mutual funds will likely be quite limited. Employer matching dollars make it worth contributing despite a limited investment selection, but once you’re contributing enough to earn that match, you can consider investing through other accounts.
Find a good online stock broker and open an account. Become familiarized with the layout and to take advantage of the free trading tools and research offered to clients only. Some brokers offer virtual trading which is beneficial because you can trade with play money (see #9 below). A great tool for comparing online brokers can be found at StockBrokers.com.
Forums can be another source for question and answer. Two recommendations include Elite Trader and Trade2Win. Just be careful of who you listen to. The vast majority of participants are not professional traders, let alone profitable traders. Heed advice from forums with a heavy dose of salt and do not, under any circumstance, follow trade recommendations.
Few professional investment managers make use of momentum investing, believing that individual stock picking based on an analysis of discounted cash flows and other fundamental factors tends to produce more predictable results, and is a better means of beating index performance over the long term. "As an investment strategy, it’s a thumb in the eye of the 'efficient market hypothesis' (EMH), one of the central tenets of modern finance," to quote a UCLA Anderson Review article, "Momentum Investing: It Works, But Why?" published on Oct. 31, 2018.