Your budget

How much money do you have to invest?

You may think you need a large sum of money to start a portfolio, but you can begin investing with $100. We also have great ideas for investing $1,000. The amount of money you're starting with isn't the most important thing -- it's making sure you're financially ready to invest and that you're investing money frequently over time.

One important step to take before investing is to establish an emergency fund. This is cash set aside in a form that makes it available for quick withdrawal. All investments, whether stocks, mutual funds, or real estate, have some level of risk, and you never want to find yourself forced to divest (or sell) these investments in a time of need. The emergency fund is your safety net to avoid this.

Your risk tolerance

How much financial risk are you willing to take? Not all investments are successful. Each type of investment has its own level of risk -- but this risk is often correlated with returns. It’s important to find a balance between maximizing the returns on your money and finding a risk level you are comfortable with. For example, bonds offer predictable returns with very low risk, but they also yield relatively low returns of around 2-3%. By contrast, stock returns can vary widely depending on the company and time frame, but the whole stock market on average returns almost 10% per year.

What should you invest in?

Here's the tough question, and unfortunately there isn't a perfect answer. The best type of investment depends on you. But based on the guidelines discussed above, you should be in a far better position to decide what you should invest in.

Safe Investments: Maximize Returns With Less Risk