How to Begin Your Investment Journey?

Investing is a journey, not a day trip, so we need to prepare ourselves for the long haul.

In our previous article, ‘What are REITs? Are they just for retirees?’, we covered some key characteristics of a REIT.

In this article, we will be sharing how to start investing. Here are some questions individuals should ask themselves before investing:

  • Have I already set aside a rainy-day fund? (About six months‘ worth of living expenses is a good gauge.)
  • Am I making my money work hard enough for me to beat inflation?
  • What is my investment horizon; can I set aside some money to invest?

Investing should not be a daunting affair or complex matter. In this article, we want to provide some easy steps on how to start investing.

Open either a CDP account or custodian account

If you are located in Singapore, you need either a Central Depository (CDP) account or Custodian account before you can invest.

A CDP account, which is operated by the Singapore Exchange (SGX), acts as a safe for all your stocks and bonds purchased. Every time you invest in stocks and bonds, they are deposited into your personal CDP account. The advantage of going for a CDP account is that you are the legal owner of the stock you purchase and will enjoy direct interaction with the company (e.g., receiving invites to the annual general meetings, entitlement to voting rights, etc). However, the CDP clearing fee and SGX trading fee are slightly higher compared to custodian fees.

Setting up a CDP account:

  • Ensure you have a bank account with a local bank.
  • Apply for your CDP account here. If you have these information and supporting documents ready on hand, the process will just take approximately 15 minutes.
  • Once you have opened your CDP account, you can log in to the SGX Investor Portal via SingPass to view your stock portfolio and account statements.

Conversely, if you want to invest in overseas stocks, you will have to go for a custodian account instead, as the option of storing investments in CDP accounts is only applicable for Singapore-listed securities. Custodian fees tend to be lower than CDP and SGX clearing and trading fees, and custodians will help to pass on communication from the company to investors while representing them at AGMs and other investor meetings.

A number of brokerages today operate on a custodial basis. This means that the broker will own the shares on behalf of investors. Some examples of such brokers include moomoo, Tiger Brokers, Interactive Brokers, Saxo, Standard Chartered and FSMOne.

Open Your Brokerage Account

A brokerage account allows you to buy and sell investment products such as stocks, REITs, exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and certain bonds.

When selecting your brokerage, consider the following:

  • Market access

Does it allow you to invest in foreign exchanges? If you are looking to invest in overseas stocks, this would be a key factor of consideration.

  • Trading/Commission fees

How do they compare in terms of minimum fees and trading fees? Here is a helpful comparison of brokerage fees compiled by SingSaver. Also consider which brokerage type would suit your needs best – cash accounts, pre-funded accounts, or broker-assisted trading accounts?

Other factors to consider when choosing your brokerage account include the user-friendliness of the web/mobile app interface, availability of useful charting tools, speed of live information, and access to analyst reports and other investor education resources.

There is no limit to how many brokerage accounts you can have with different brokerage houses, so it is possible to test several before settling on one as your primary account.

In the next article, we will discuss the importance of portfolio diversification, and how you can go about doing so.

Sources:

This article first ran on Manulife US REIT’s thought leadership column, Viewpoints, which publishes regular content on the U.S. economy and the office sector. The article has been re-published here with permission.

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