What does an investor look like? Is it you? And how do you start investing?

When you think of an investor what comes to mind?  A suited and booted city type?  A property tycoon?  A number cruncher with graphs on screens? Maybe. But is it you? If not, perhaps it should be. If you’re wondering how to start investing then look no further.

Investors come in all shapes and sizes – and if you have a workplace or personal pension, you are already an investor.  

Research by St. James’s Place and The Wisdom Council, Yes She Can project – a cross-industry initiative which aims to engage women to increase their understanding of and participation in financial matters – last year revealed that three-quarters of women don’t actually see themselves as investors, even when they have a workplace or personal pension

In fact, according to Yes She Can, the vast majority of non-investing women – 86% to be precise – thought ‘people like them’ don’t invest. But those that did invest were confident in their abilities and more likely to talk about it. Several studies have shown that women actually make better investors than men, even though they’re less likely to invest in the stock market.

So, why don’t many women see themselves as investors – and why isn’t investing on their radar? What’s stopping women who, as maybe the CEOs of their households, are often organised, efficient and used to taking controlled risks in their daily lives, from paying adequate attention to their long-term financial goals?

It could be because they feel they are too young – that drawing a pension is decades away and there are more pressing priorities. Or it could be because they don’t feel ‘connected’ to their pensions. Complex and unfriendly jargon with products that just aren’t very user friendly, can make planning a pension seem like an irrelevant chore. 

All of this – and the fact that workplace pensions are effectively administered on our behalf – can leave many feeling like they have, at best, a tenuous grip on their future savings plans. 

Making Changes

When you’re in control of your pension, you can use it to turn your hard-earned money into a cushion that’ll support you as you get older. It can help you to achieve you and your family’s dreams – whether your priority is to enjoy life after work, help adult children buy a home, or start your own business. Your pension money can even be a force for good in the world, if you invest it responsibly. 

So, how can you take control and feel more like the investor you really are?

It’s not just about saving more – although adding in an extra £20 a month can make a big difference over the years as it could earn growth on top of growth. Learning how to start investing is about how your pension can work smarter and harder in the years you have to build your wealth.

Pensions aren’t ‘one-size-fits-all’, after all. You have to personalise them. This starts with finding out where your workplace pensions are invested (many of us will have more than one as we move from role to role). 

Taking Control 

Download your current provider’s app, dig out your login details or, if you are employed, speak to your employer’s HR team. 

If you want to learn how to start investing you should first ask yourself: What are the best assets to invest in? How much is in my pot? What does my employer put in? Where’s my money actually going? And how are the funds performing? Is the current level of risk right for me? 

Generally, when you save into a workplace or personal pension and don’t choose any funds yourself, you’ll simply end up with a default portfolio possibly based on your age. If it doesn’t meet with your needs, consider changing it.

Above all, though, have a clear idea of your savings goal – in terms of the retirement lifestyle you want – and the ‘magic number’ needed to achieve it. Is your pension currently on track? If it isn’t – well, then what can you do about it?

Ask For Help Where You Need It

Of course, as you start to feel your way around the pensions subject, it’s possible – even likely – to be put off by the jargon. Or you might think you lack the tools to make confident, informed decisions – because what exactly is ‘good fund performance’?

If you wanted to improve your fitness, you could seek out a PT, or if you’re decorating your home, you may take advice from an interior designer.  Why should it be any different with your finances?

You don’t need to know everything. Financial advisers can talk you through the tricky stuff, understand what you’re trying to achieve (and in what sort of time frame), and help you plan how to get there.

Just remember: as your life changes, so should your pension. Reclaim it, make it work for you – wherever you are in your savings journey – and start acting like the investor you are.

Sharon Bonfield is a Commercial Research Specialist at St James’s Place

St. James’s Place Representatives represent only St. James’s Place Wealth Management plc, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

For more on personal finance, visit our money archives.