What Should I Do With My Money? 8 Steps You Must Take to Answer This

Take control of your financial decisions with these 8 steps.

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Don't rush. Be thoughtful about figuring out what you should do with your money. KTSDESIGN/Getty Images

Before you can decide what you should with your money, your first need to know what you need your money to do for you. Sure, maybe you need it to double overnight. But let's be realistic - that's not going to happen.

Be thoughtful and realistic before you make impulsive investment decisions. Here’s an eight-step process to use figure out what to do with your money. 

1. Read, Study, and Learn

It is common for me to receive emails from perfect strangers asking me to tell them what they should do with their money.

The first question I ask them is "Have you read any books on investing?" Don't rely on someone else's advice until you've learned the basics. If you don't know much right now, the best thing you can do with your money is invest in books, quality financial magazines, and investment classes to start learning more. Read investment books and financial magazines before you invest. For example, do you know the difference between a stock and a bond? If you don’t, you’re not ready to invest.

2. Set Expectations

Before deciding what to do with your money, check out historical rates of returns for savings accounts, stocks, and bonds. This will give you an idea of what you might expect in good economies and in bad ones. This series of charts shows you best and worst returns for different types of investments.

3. Know Your Time Frame

If you have a short time frame, don’t take ​a risk unless you’re just as willing to lose money as make some.

If you take a risk and put your money in a stock expecting it to double, you need to realize it is just as likely it will lose half its value. Safe investments are appropriate for short time frames. Growth investments are appropriate only for longer time frames.

4. Decide on Acceptable Investment Risks

If earning 10% returns was as easy as picking the right stock, everyone would be doing it.

You know there’s no free lunch, right? Safe investments pay low returns because there is no risk, and those returns are available to everyone. Growth investments contain risk; accepting risk is the price you pay to potentially earn a higher return than what you could get in a safe investment. Focus on deciding if managing risk levels is more important than higher return potential. All investments have ​some risk, and you need to know what that risk is before you commit your money.

5. Make an Investment Plan

Instead of rolling the dice, before deciding what to do with your money, make an investment plan, then follow it. People don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan. Successful investors follow a disciplined process, and they stick with it. An investment plan helps you align the investments you choose with their intended purpose.

6. Avoid Bad Investments

There are a few simple rules you can follow to steer clear of bad investments and binding decisions. Learn them and use them. Most importantly, remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it is.

7. Ignore Investment Pornography

Every time I see a “Hot Stocks” or “Best Funds” list I cringe. Researchers go back and track the returns these “best of” lists earn.

Their results show you’ll do better buying an index fund that tracks the performance of its benchmark. There is an industry term for these types of articles. We call them “investment pornography” and following the advice in those types of articles is like going to Vegas; maybe you’ll win, maybe you won’t.

8. Get Advice When You Need It

Once you’ve followed the steps above, you should have a much better idea of what you should do with your money. If you don’t, consider talking to a financial advisor who will ask you clarifying questions about your goals and objectives and put together an investment plan for you. 

A word of caution: if you seek professional advice and walk in and ask a question like “what should I do with my money” it’s like walking into the pharmacy and asking “Hey, what kind of medicine should I buy?” What good does a cough suppressant do you when you have a splitting headache?

If someone offers you advice without learning about you, be cautious. They may be suggesting cough syrup because that's all they have to sell, not because that is what you need.