Investing for the first time can be a challenge – overwhelming in fact. Despite its importance, investing is not a skill that is often passed on from generation to generation like riding a bike, learning how to shave, brush your teeth, and so on. There are always exceptions and those who do receive advice from their parents are often decades ahead of their peers when it comes to investing.

While I always was curious about investing, I never made the leap to actually do it myself until 3-4 years ago. Now that I’ve been doing it for some time now, there are several things that I realize are important to consider BEFORE making the leap.

It won’t be the end of the world if your first investment is a bad one since you will likely be investing with a little money – and the wisdom gained from your mistake will outweigh the financial loss. BUT, that doesn’t mean it’s not better to be prepared.

Don’t Forget to Consider These things BEFORE Investing

Here are four things that you need to consider before making that first investment:

1 – Are You Ready to Invest?

One of the first things you need to evaluate is whether you are ready and capable of investing. This may seem like a simple question, but it’s much more complicated than it sounds. You should factor in the following:

  1. Are you spending more money than you earn?
  2. Do you lack an emergency fund (because I have recently learned how important it is to have an emergency fund)?
  3. Do you have any high-interest debt (like student loans)?
  4. Will it hurt you if you lose this money that you want to invest?

If you answered YES to any of these questions, you are NOT ready to invest. Address these issues first before thinking any more about investing. Seriously!

2 – How/Where Will You Invest?

When I say “where” I don’t mean which brokerage (although that is important too). One of the most overlooked parts of investing for beginner investors is the vehicle with which you can invest. Sure, anyone can open a brokerage account and buy stocks, mutual funds, or ETFs. What they often don’t realize is that they are missing out on many tax advantages.

If you are looking to invest, the general consensus is that you should do the following things in this order:

  1. Contribute toward your employer’s 401k/403b account UP TO the match. (if you have one and your employer matches)
  2. Open a Roth IRA and max this out before doing anything next
  3. If you still have more money that you want to invest in, go back to the tax-deferred account at your employer and max it out.
  4. Then consider a taxable account for all other investment options

It’s important to consider the tax implications of investing BEFORE you start investing. There’s no reason to pay good ol’ Uncle Sam a portion of your positive returns.

3 – WHAT to Invest In?

Another tricky component (read the trickiest part) of investing is deciding what to invest in. The options are basically endless, while that is a good thing, it also complicates the matter. There seems to be a false narrative out there convincing everyone that the only way to invest is to buy stocks. What they don’t realize is that stock picking is extremely complicated and difficult to excel at. Instead, consider focusing on index funds. You can also consider many mutual funds and EFTs to achieve proper diversification, but don’t forget to look at the fees.

4 – Liquidity

Last, but certainly not least – you need to consider liquidity. Liquidity is a term used to describe how easy it is to pull your money out of an investment. This is often not an issue for most stock market investments, but if you are going to consider unconventional investments (like a limited partnership or whole life insurance) you need to make sure you know what you are getting yourself into. You may be promised higher returns, but that comes at a risk of locking in your money for a long-term. I was forced to do this with my real estate limited partnership and while I’m still happy with the investment, if I needed the money for an emergency, I’d be in a tough situation.

Investing doesn’t have to be paralyzing, but you should not take it for granted. There is a lot to learn and you need to learn the basics before making the leap. The last thing you want to do is to think that you know what you are doing and find out years later that you have been throwing your money away all this time.