Individual stocks: You can invest in individual stocks if — and only if — you have the time and desire to thoroughly research and evaluate stocks on an ongoing basis. If this is the case, we 100% encourage you to do so. It is entirely possible for a smart and patient investor to beat the market over time. On the other hand, if things like quarterly earnings reports and moderate mathematical calculations don’t sound appealing, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking a more passive approach.
Index funds: In addition to buying individual stocks, you can choose to invest in index funds, which track a stock index like the S&P 500. When it comes to actively vs. passively managed funds, we generally prefer the latter (although there are certainly exceptions). Index funds typically have significantly lower costs and are virtually guaranteed to match the long-term performance of their underlying indexes. Over time, the S&P 500 has produced total returns of about 10% annualized, and performance like this can build substantial wealth over time.
Robo-advisors: Finally, another option that has exploded in popularity in recent years is the robo-advisor. A robo-advisor is a brokerage that essentially invests your money on your behalf in a portfolio of index funds that is appropriate for your age, risk tolerance, and investing goals. Not only can a robo-advisor select your investments, but many will optimize your tax efficiency and make changes over time automatically.