Start a Share Portfolio: 8 Essential Tips

29 June 2021

The concern about the economic impacts of the COVID-19 is a classic example of how fear and uncertainty can drive the share market down quickly and sharply. As hard as it may seem to buy shares during big market sell-offs, this is the exact period when smart, long term investors put their cash to work. So, if you’re looking to get started in shares, here are eight key things to consider.

1. Set your investment goals

Quantify the amount you have to invest, and the time frame you are aiming to invest for. Ideally, you should buy shares for the long term. The optimal strategy is to reinvest the dividend income you receive from your shares and selectively add more cash when it becomes available.

2. Find a platform to buy shares

The internet has been quite beneficial for the share investors. There are several online share trading platforms that allow for a minimum $500 share investment. Alternatively, if you prefer, there are stockbrokers who will set up a share trading account and offer you advice as well. This usually means they have a higher cost than the online platforms. Costs matter, so consider what works for you and that will vary depending on the amount you have to invest and the time you can devote to it, as well as your knowledge. If you do decide to go the online share trading route, it is probably worth spending time comparing costs and looking into the features available.

3. Plan your portfolio

An investment portfolio is made up of the different products you have invested in, whether it be shares or cash. And, it’s a good idea to have a diversified portfolio. If possible spread your investments across different assets, sectors and companies because diversification can help lessen the risk of investing. For example, often when shares are down, fixed interest products like bonds go up. If you own both then there is likely to be a limited effect on your portfolio. 

4. How to select what to buy

Choosing individual stocks takes a lot of research, so if you are just starting out it can be tricky to decide which stocks to invest in. For novice investors, ETFs can be a good place to start. Rather than having to assess the difference between shares and trawling through countless annual reports, you can have a diversified portfolio simply by invest in an ETF.

Nowadays, there are many different types of ETFs. When you buy an ETF that tracks the ASX 200 (the top 200 Australian companies) you’re investing in all the companies on the ASX 200, and when that index is up, so is your investment portfolio. Through ETFs, you can also gain exposure to the US market and other overseas markets. Another great way to diversify your portfolio.

Compare Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) with Canstar

The table below displays some of the International Broad Based ETFs available on Canstar’s database with the highest three-year returns (sorted highest to lowest by three-year returns and then alphabetically by provider name). Use Canstar’s ETFs comparison selector to view a wider range of products. Canstar may earn a fee for referrals.

5. Picking shares

However, if you’d rather try your hand at stock picking there are a few things to know. I have long been an advocate for buying what I call quality shares. These shares tend not to be so cyclical in nature, i.e. exposure to the markets that go up and down, like the oil price or housing construction. Quality companies share a number of characteristics and their earnings streams are more resilient. For example, the share prices of Coles and Woolworths will go up and down, but we all need to need to go shopping for the necessities.

Quality shares have strong balance sheets, meaning they have enough cash flow to cover the debt payments. They have a strong moat or characteristics that mean the business has a robust competitive advantage. A good example on the Australian market is CSL, one of the world’s largest biotech companies that specialise in blood plasma products and flu vaccines. Quality companies also invest for the future and manage the business for the challenges of disruption and the 21st Century. So, when looking at stocks, you may want to look out for these characteristics. 

6. Improve your investment knowledge

With this next step, you can start small and develop it over time.  Rome wasn’t built in a day. One of the easiest ways is reading and there is a plethora of books, podcasts and magazines on the subject. As your knowledge grows you will find other informed sources, such as specialist online financial newsletters or share research via your stockbroker or share trading platform. The ASX website is a great resource and holds a wealth of knowledge.

7. Invest for the long term

The more you look at your share portfolio the more inclined you may be to trade the shares. It is best to see through the passage of time. You are aiming to grow your wealth, not for next week or next month, but the years down the track. After all, shares, on the whole, tend to go up in price. If you invested $10,000 in Australian shares in 1990, by 2020 your investment would have been worth $129,073, according to Vanguard

8. Patience

The best advice for any investor is to be patient. Try not to react to short term noise or unforeseen events. Share markets go up and down and the best investors are not fearful of buying when there is investor panic and scary headlines in the media.

This is an edited extract from Shareplicity: A simple approach to share investing (Major Street Publishing $29.95), exclusive to Canstar, and republished with permission.

If you’re comparing Online Share Trading companies, the comparison table below displays some of the companies available on Canstar’s database with links to the company’s website. The information displayed is based on an average of 6 trades per month. Please note the table is sorted by Star Rating (highest to lowest) followed by provider name (alphabetical). Use Canstar’s Online Share Trading comparison selector to view a wider range of Online Share Trading companies.

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