Once having made the decision to go ahead, it seems best, at least at first, to keep things simple. One day, after I had for years been thinking I really should start to invest, my brother, John, was visiting and happened to have with him a Xerox copy of a financial magazine page listing no-load or low-load mutual funds that had shown good performance. I remember being amazed to see that each of about 20 such funds in the past ten years had turned a $2000 initial investment (the limit then for IRA accounts) into $8091 or even much more, while a $10,000 investment would have become $40,456 or better, an average compound increase, after all fees, of 15% or above. (And that was back when $40,000 was a lot of money!) The thought that by simply having scrimped a little and saved enough for such a first-time investment a decade earlier could have made me that much richer today finally turned the tide and convinced me it was time I took the plunge. I surely did not want, ten years later, again to be feeling the sense of a missed opportunity I had then. I could quickly calculate too that if I had started with $10,000 ten years before, kept it invested, and the return over the next decade were similar, I might have had at least $163,665 by ten years ahead.
So, I took my first step on the investment road by calling the toll-free number shown by the magazine for the Fidelity Magellan Fund. A few days later, I had received their prospectus and application, read most of the former, filled in the latter, sent it in with my check, and now was just waiting for the riches to pour in. Ha, ha. Well, it was not quite THAT simple, of course, but at least this was a beginning. Then, each year I added to my account with Fidelity.
Today, it is still just as easy as that to begin one's own investment plan. The only difference is that there are more choices among the mutual funds, exchange traded funds, hedge funds, or stocks. But it does not need to be at all overwhelming. One can weed quickly through the thousands of alternatives by first selecting only the mutual funds, and then, among them, only those with low expenses and no or low commissions (no load or low load funds). Among those that remain, look only at the ones with the best ten-year returns, and/or at index funds, and/or at the so-called "one-stop" or "all-in-one" funds.
While I personally prefer either the very well managed, low cost funds with the best decade or longer records or the index funds, for the person who seeks ultra simplicity in his or her investing activity, the kind of person who "has a life" and does not want to devote more than a few minutes a year to investing, it can be hard to beat the one-stop mutual fund alternative.
The best of these funds do it all for you, manage your money by investing it in carefully selected stocks or bonds or cash equivalents, allocate it for you according to your preferred risk to reward style (aggressive, moderate, or conservative investor) or age (younger, middle-aged, or older), periodically rebalance your assets within the fund, send you (or reinvest) your dividends, calculate your cost basis, and do it all with both little overall charge and the simplicity of having to deal with ONLY one investment, which can be a big headache reducer at tax time or when keeping track of one's (otherwise perhaps voluminous) financial records.