Here’s a short guide to help start your journey into investing.
Shares, also called stocks, are a part ownership of a company and, if the company is publicly listed on a stock exchange, can be purchased or sold. Owning shares may mean you have certain rights, such as voting on major company changes or receiving a portion of company profits (known as dividends).
The value of a company’s shares can change and depends on a range of factors at any given time. Some of these directly relate to the company, such as how it is run, market share and profitability. Other factors may be more indirect and relate to the industry a company operates in, government regulations or even weather and environmental conditions.
Shares typically form part of a balanced investment portfolio, which may include other investments such as fixed interest, cash or physical assets.
You can own shares directly or indirectly, through managed investments like managed funds or your superannuation.
Buying or selling shares directly can be done by:
You can also own shares indirectly by using managed funds.
There’s more to owning shares than buying and selling. Here are some tips to help you invest.
The price of a share might not always match its actual value, so how do you know whether they are good value? Consider the company’s profit (current and expected in the future) as part of your assessment using sources like company websites, investment related websites and business articles. Some online trading platforms may also offer you their research covering measures like discounted cash flow (which considers future cash flows in today’s terms), Price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio which looks at share prices and earnings and Price-to-book (P/B) ratio which compares market value of the company to its value as listed in its accounting records.
Your investment goals and expectations are an important factor in your decisions. For example, do you need to earn an income from the shares and require dividends? Do you have personal moral and ethical concerns you would like your shares to reflect? What timeframe do you have for investing?
The likelihood of gaining or losing money from your share investment can change based on factors such as the company itself, the investment market and currency changes. Some strategies to help manage the risks include diversification (spreading your money across different companies, industries and regions), taking a long term approach allowing you to wait for market changes before selling or buying, or using an investment expert to assist you with a strategy. Shares are often considered a riskier investment due to the chance of losing your money so it is important to consider the risks alongside your circumstances and other investments.
Any gains you make from your share investments, such as dividends or a gain from selling the shares compared to the original price you paid (also known as capital gains), count as part of your income, which then may be taxed. Stay up to date with the latest rules and regulations to ensure you are paying the correct amount of tax by researching yourself or using an expert to guide you.
You may also consider tax treatment of your investments within your overall strategy. For example, the gains on investments held in superannuation before you retire are taxed at 15%, while investments outside of superannuation are taxed at your marginal tax rate (which could be higher or lower, depending on your overall income). If you decide to use superannuation as part of your investment strategy, be aware of the limits to how much you can put in each year and that you may not be able to access your superannuation until your retirement age.
Some investors also factor the franking credits (also called imputation credits) offered by some Australian companies. Franking is where the company has already paid taxes on the dividends attributed to your shares. You are then able to claim credit for the taxes already paid as part of your tax return.