Investing can be daunting especially for people beginning to learn how to manage their money. One way to make it easier to understand the concepts and avoid doing things that can hurt financially is to think that investing is like planting a tree.
You don’t eat it while it is a sapling
All plants and trees start out as a seed and then a sapling. Even the largest trees in existence today started out as small saplings many years ago. This is also true with wealth: all of the wealth today started out as a small investment decades or centuries ago.
Some plants can already be eaten while it is still a sapling. However, consuming the plant at this state does not give that much benefit due to its small size, and doing this destroys the plant entirely. The best course of action is to wait for it to grow so you reap the benefits of having a large, mature tree bearing fruit and other produce. If the plant or tree is large enough, you can harvest its fruit or leaves without destroying the plant, and you can repeatedly gain the benefit for a very long time.
The same concept applies to money. You do not kill your source of income prematurely; instead you wait for it to grow. When you start investing and you begin to see some gains, it may be tempting to reward yourself by cashing out and buying the things that you want. However this is the same as eating the plant while it is a sapling. Compounding effects take time, and this means that you reap the greatest benefit by not consuming your investments while they are still “growing up”.
One specific example of this is the education fund for our daughter. For this, I used an automatic investing program from my bank that regularly puts a modest amount of money into an equity fund every month. As I don’t consciously move the money to the fund, it barely even registers in my mind each month.
When I checked it after more than a year, I found that it is now worth one year of primary education for my daughter. While it may be tempting to reap the benefits now and pay the tuition for the year, it is much better to let it grow further. The end result of it is that instead of this investment providing only one year of primary education, it is possible for it to be able to support her entire college education!
It requires regular maintenance
Taking care of plants require regular maintenance: you prune dead leaves, you water it daily and give it fertilizer. Pruning and adding fertilizer is not really required for it to grow, but the plant’s growth is not optimal if these additional actions are not performed.
Similarly, you will need to continue to add to your investment portfolio as time goes on. It is possible to invest your money and then leave it for years, waiting for it to grow. However, the compounding effect shows its magic once you continue adding to your previous investments, resulting in a snowball effect that may someday surprise you!
You need to learn as much as you can
Plants require different types of environments in order to thrive. Some want constantly moist soil, some prefer watering only once a day, while others even die if there is more water than what they need.
Education and experience are both important when gardening and investing. Just as you need to know as much as possible how to most effectively grow your plants, you also need to understand how your money is invested. Familiarize yourself with the basics of investing such as saving money, tracking expenses, and putting them in investment vehicles. Know the different ways of investing: putting money in equities, bonds, real estate, lending, or personal businesses.
With a deeper understanding, you can also protect yourself from people and organizations who try to profit from your ignorance.
You can only control as much
After planting and taking care of the needs of the plant, you then leave the rest to mother nature. You cannot force the plant to grow, to take up water, or to process sunlight as its energy source. As with most things there is only so much that you can control in the world.
It is scary and sometimes unsettling to leave your hard-earned money invested somewhere. Perhaps the market will drop and you will “lose” money, or that businesses can go bankrupt and take your investments to the grave. While these events do happen, we cannot control them. No matter how hard we try, market forces will take effect and will have an effect on your investments.
Instead of spending our time worrying about these events, focus instead on the things that you can control.
Is an insurance policy available and applicable for your investments?
Can you distribute them so that you will not lose everything on a single bad event?
Have you done due diligence to make sure that your investment is in good hands before you commit?