If you meant to start investing this past year, 2022 definitely didn’t make it easy on you. The markets were all over the place, inflation made it harder and harder (despite the Fed’s best efforts) to stay on track with day-to-day expenses, and the job market’s volatility all had plenty of women second-guessing their long-term goals.
But as we say often here at Ellevest, investing has historically been a powerful tool to build wealth, and doing it as early as you can, even in uncertain economies, really does matter. The Ellevest community knows the power of investing as a long game: When polled in our 2022 Ellevest Financial Wellness Survey, 75% of women who reported actively investing for retirement said they’ve continued their contributions despite market volatility — that’s compared to just two thirds of men.
That’s why investing makes a great New Year’s “resolution” — and why we think, if you stumbled this year, it’s more than worth trying again. We use that term loosely, mind you — “resolutions” are rigid, and they make you feel like you’ve failed if you fall off track. We like to think of them more as New Year’s intentions. Intentions are more flexible — they say yes to progress, no to putting unnecessary pressure on ourselves.
If you’re ready to give it another try in 2023 — or try for the first time — we’ve got a roundup of our best advice to help you do it. (We definitely think you’re ready.)
Resolution: Build your financial foundation
The first step of a smart investing strategy is to make sure you’re actually ready to invest. So before you make a deposit, you’ll want to build some core financial wellness basics — we call this your financial foundation. It includes things like getting to know your spending habits, building a budget that works for you, and so on. It also means you’ll need to pay off any high-interest (>10%) debt you may have. This last bit is particularly important to do first, because it’s probably going to cost you more in interest to carry that debt balance than you’d be able to earn by investing. A few of our best primers on how to take care of your financial foundation:
Our favorite budgeting strategies: the one-number approach and the 50/30/20 rule
The difference between good debt and bad debt
How to decide whether to pay it off now or invest instead
How to pay off credit cards
It’s also a good idea to build up an emergency fund before you start investing. That way, you’ll have a cushion in case something happens (like you need a last-minute surgery or your car breaks down or your source of income disappears). Here’s why giving that emergency fund a descriptive name (for example, your f*ck-you fund) can help you get there faster, and here are some guidelines as to what does and doesn’t count as a financial emergency.
Resolution: Get in the know
We firmly believe there are only a few things you need to know to start investing, and you can learn them as you go as an Ellevest client. We also made not one but two workshops to walk you through the basics of how investing works — and the first one is free for Ellevest clients.
If you want to dive even deeper, we can help you do that, too, with:
An explainer on how investments make money
The lowdown on the difference between investing and saving
Breakdowns on two major investing concepts: compounding and diversification
Why now’s a good time to invest, and why you should keep investing consistently
An FAQ about investing during a downturn (in case This Economy™ is giving you the creeps)
Maybe you’re also wondering how investing with Ellevest works, exactly. Here’s the gist: You choose your Ellevest plan based on what your money goals are. All clients (Plus and Executive) can Build Wealth and / or save for retirement, while Ellevest Executive clients can access even more investing goal options — more on that below.
You give us some info about yourself, like your age, job, salary, and gender. Then you tell us how much you need for each goal, and when you want to hit them. We take all that in, and we give you an investment plan designed to get you there. Then all you have to do is set up your deposits, and we’ll take it from there. As a client, you also get access to a five-day email course we’ve dubbed, very creatively, Get Started Investing in 5 Days.
Want more deets? Here are the tough standards we use to pick the investment funds we include in your account (they’re mostly ETFs). And here’s how we make the forecasts we show you as realistic as possible so you can plan your real life. We’re a fiduciary, so you can rest easy knowing your best interests always come first in our book.
Resolution: Step up your retirement game
Building your own version of a dream retirement doesn’t just happen. The earlier you get started, the better. That’s especially true since women live six to eight years longer than men but retire with two-thirds as much.
So here’s an explainer to help you figure out how much you actually need to retire. And here are some helpful deep dives you probably didn’t know you needed: why you should get as much of that employer 401(k) match as you can, and what that whole “vesting” thing means, the difference between an IRA and a 401(k), an explainer on 401(k) rollovers if you’ve changed jobs in the past, the difference between Roth and traditional 401(k)s and IRAs, and SEP IRAs for freelancers and the self-employed.
If you want more help sifting through it all, our money coaches host a live workshop for Planning for Your Dream Retirement (and of course, 1:1 sessions about investing and retirement if you want even more direct guidance, anything from a one-off check-in to a legit year of unlimited access to one of our CFP® pros).
Resolution: Invest intentionally
We’re big fans of intentional investing. The way we see it, that means three things: being intentional about why you’re investing (your goals), what you’re investing in (your impact on the world), and who you’re investing with.
That’s why impact investing — a term that refers to the set of strategies used to direct an investor’s money toward companies that are committed to positive change — is a core part of how Ellevest works. An Ellevest Impact Portfolio is built with investments specifically designed to generate measurable, positive social and environmental outcomes, with a focus on advancing women specifically — and you aren’t sacrificing returns to do so. So yes, you can invest for those big goals of yours while also making the world a better place.
A little more about those goals
You don’t need to be sure exactly what your goals are yet — you might just know that you definitely want to let your money grow. That’s why our Build Wealth goal is designed for all Ellevest clients, period.
But if you do have specific money goals it can help to know why you’re investing and put your money into accounts that can best help you get there. For example, maybe you want to:
Buy a home. If you’re looking for a dream home, first you’ll need to know whether buying a home is the best financial move for you. (It’s not always even a good way to build wealth.) Then you’ve got to get ready to buy, which involves a few more steps, including investing toward a 20% down payment. (Here’s why that number is important.) With Ellevest, you tell us about your dream house, and we’ll use live Zillow data to estimate how much that down payment might be.
Start a business. If you’re ready to become your own boss, check out this guide to starting your own business and this guide to raising funds. Then make a plan with Ellevest to help you replace your income while you’re getting that business off the ground. (Because even entrepreneurs still gotta eat.)
Plan for kids. Planning on having children often means taking a career break. Here’s how much that can cost you and steps to take to be prepared. Then you’ll want to know about ways to save for college and start building a cushion for costs like summer camp, which is what our Kids are Awesome goal is for.
All of those investing goals are available with an Ellevest Executive plan, btw.
Here’s to setting intentions for your money in 2023.