Step 5 - Learn the Costs of Investing
The ultimate goal of investing is to let your money work for you and provide you with stable, passive income.
But getting there is going to cost a pretty penny.
This month, take the time to learn the dollars and cents of investing. Of course, you knew that investing was going to mean coming up with the actual money you’re putting into the market, which always holds the possibility of being lost forever. But did you know there are going to be various fees, commissions, and taxes you’ll have to pay, too?
Let’s take a peek at an actual investment to illustrate this. The company and amounts have been changed, but they’ve been accurately scaled down to size.
Suppose that, on Aug. 13, 2015, a share of stock in Apple closed at $43.26. During the next few months,
Apple issues four dividends of $0.55 per share. On Aug. 25. 2016, a share of stock in Apple closed at $51.23.
Let’s say you chose to invest $1,000 in Apple on Aug. 13, 2015 and you withdrew it on Aug. 25, 2016.
At the time of your investment, $1,000 would buy you 23.25 shares of Apple. Over the year, you would have received $51.16 in dividend payouts. When you withdrew from the company a bit over a year after your initial investment, you’d sell that stock for $1,191.09.
It seems like your gain from this stock is $242.25, broken down into $51.16 in dividends and another $191.09 from selling the stock. Simple, right?
The problem is, though, you haven’t exactly earned that much. Here’s where the costs of investments come into play.
First, the dividends would be subject to income tax. In this case, the dividends are considered qualified dividends, and would therefore be taxed at a rate of 15% by the federal government and possibly more by state and local sources. As a result, $7.67 of that dividend gain is eaten up by these taxes.
Second, you’re going to have to pay your broker for the cost of buying and selling the stock. Let’s say, hypothetically, you’ve usedan online discount stock brokerage firm. The buy and the sell would each cost $9.99. That’s another $19.98 dropped from your gain – although this fee is tax deductible.
Third, the gain on the sale would be a long-term capital gain, so 15% of that gain goes to the federal government. Since your gain was $191.09, you’d be paying an additional $28.66 in taxes on the sale.
In total, your expenses for your gain add up to $56.31. Just like that, nearly 30% of your gain is gone!
Even if your investment is a loser, you’re still paying the brokerage fees and will earn less in dividends.
The moral of the story? Investing costs. You’re taxed if you gain, and you’ll get hit with brokerage fees whether you win or lose.
Some forms of investing have lower costs than others. If you invest directly with an investing house, you can bypass the investing fees and only pay the taxes on your gains. However, you’re limited to the offerings that the investing house has available, and you’ll be subject to their often inflexible minimums for investing.
You could also simply invest in a money market account or other savings option at St. Paul Federal Credit Union. Your returns will come with fewer or no costs. Plus, your balance isn’t at risk. Yes, you might “lose” some gains by only having the cash in a savings account, but your money is earning a steady return. If you invest elsewhere, it’s possible that the costs, the fees and the taxes can easily eat up a substantial amount of whatever you gain or make an already painful loss even harder.
It’s important to note that the bigger your investment, the smaller the impact such costs have. At the $1,000 level, the investment fees in the above scenario typically eat up about 2% of your balance. If you’re investing $10,000, the fees will only eat up 0.2% of your balance, and if you invest $100,000, the fees eat up only 0.02% of your balance.
Thus, as a beginning investor, it’s crucial to know the total cost of ownership of an investment as you consider it. Even a small fee can significantly lower your total return when you’re starting out with small investments.
That’s why it’s best to take it slowly at first and continue learning about the market and stocks you’re interested in. Know exactly what you’re going to invest in – and what all of the costs of that investment are – before you put down any of your money. After working out the math, you may find you’d rather wait until you have a substantial amount saved up for investing, as these fees don’t make such a big dent when the gains are larger.
So, before you make that first investment, learn the costs and be sure it’s worth the price!