How to start investing

Chris Torney / 18 January 2016

Do you want to invest your money? Not sure where to start?

If you want to invest in the stock market, you have a number of options. 

The most direct way is by buying shares in individual companies, but you can also put money into investment funds that hold a much wider portfolio of shares or other assets.

Read Annie Shaw's guide to common investment mistakes.

Buying shares

To put money into shares, you need the help of a stockbroker or share-dealing service. There are a number of online firms that now offer low trading fees, but check in advance how much you will be charged.

You may face charges for inactivity – that is, periods when you aren’t buying or selling — and people who make more frequent trades may get charged less per trade.

Check that any stockbroker or share-dealing service you are considering is registered with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

What is investment risk? Read our guide.

Investment funds

If you want to invest in a wider range of companies, you can choose an investment fund, such as a unit trust or investment trust. Such funds are run by expert managers who decide on their investors’ behalf when to buy and sell shares.

You can put money into funds directly through the fund manager, although it is often cheaper to do so by using an investment platform or “fund supermarket”.

Funds come with a range of fees, such as initial charges and ongoing annual management fees, so check what these are going to be before you invest.

As well as the fees, look at the other information about the fund listed in the Key Facts or Key Investor Information documents: this should tell you what type of shares or assets the fund invests in, and whether it is considered high-, medium- or low-risk.

Again, any company you do business with should be listed in the FCA’s register.

Find out in advance how you can keep tabs on your investment, and whether you will face any charges for cashing it in.

Could you be sitting on a fortune?

Watch out for scams

Criminals and conmen frequently set up dodgy investment firms to persuade people to part with their money. 

In some cases, this will be to invest in unsuitable, high-risk ventures – for example, overseas land purchases – while in the worst cases, the fraudsters will simply take your money and disappear.

Beware of being contacted with an “investment opportunity” out of the blue, and be particularly cautious if you feel someone is putting pressure on you to make a quick decision.

If you are suspicious or just unsure about how an investment works, either seek advice or walk away.

For more useful information and tips, browse our money articles.

If you’re considering taking the plunge into share dealing, Saga Share Direct provided by Equiniti Financial Services Limited allows you to buy and sell a range of UK shares and funds with competitive pricing and no annual account management fees. Aged 50 or over and would like more information? Click here or call 0800 092 9845. Lines open 8am to 6pm weekdays (excluding Bank Holidays).

Shares are high-risk investments. Share prices and the income from them can fall as well as rise and you may not get back the full amount invested. Past performance should not be taken as indication of future returns. This service is not suitable for everyone. If you have any doubt whether it is suitable for you, you should obtain advice from a financial adviser. Saga Share Direct is an execution-only service, which means we do not offer advice.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.