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Financial Literacy: Starting Your Investment Program, Part 2 by Captain Bob Houle, USCG (retired)


In last month’s article, you were tasked to do a self-assessment of your readiness to embark on a self-directed stock investment program. If your assessment was that you don’t currently have either the time, talent, or temperament to be a successful stock investor, that only leaves you with the option to pursue either a do-it-yourself mutual fund strategy or to seek professional assistance in creating and managing your investment portfolio. Doing nothing is not an option. Your future quality of life, financial security, and independence depend on starting and sticking with a well-designed investment program.

For most of us, we are already participating in a self-directed mutual fund strategy through the government’s employee Thrift Savings Plans (TSP) or your employer’s retirement savings and investing plan (if a for-profit company, that would be a 401(k) plan; for non-profit organizations, that would be a 403(b) or 457(b) plan). Choosing between the two is, for most folks, not an option since it depends on the type of organization you work for.

Those plans offer various investment options and also potentially employer matching funds inside a tax-advantaged plan. 403(b) plans only offer mutual funds and annuities; 401K plans also can offer stock and bond choices too. You can also invest in retirement accounts outside of work through a variety of individual retirement savings plans (IRAs). Many, but not all, employer-sponsored plans offer some form of counseling to assist you in selecting your investment options. The bottom line, you still need to be an informed investor to make proper investment decisions. You still need to learn how to invest.

Learning about investing is essential. There are no shortcuts. Ignorance is not an option if your goal is success.

A good place to start is exploring the investing education offerings found in the For Investors portion of the FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) website. FINRA is a non-governmental organization that writes and enforces rules for brokers and broker-dealers and is overseen by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), a governmental regulatory body. FINRA’s mission is to guide us through the investment process so we can make smart financial decisions. FINRA offers tips to help you manage your personal finances and set sound financial goals—and explain in plain language key investing concepts, diverse types of investments and investment professionals, and questions to ask. This is a resource all investors should use.

The FINRA Foundation has a special, For the Military, investment education program that supports both the DOD and USCG financial readiness programs for members and families. You should check it out at In addition to the investment education offered it will give you valuable insights as to why our MOAA Cape Canaveral Chapter has a Financial Literacy Program.

Our future articles will continue to help you improve your financial literacy. But we do need your help. What topic areas are of interest to you. Please share your ideas by completing this short survey.

Thank you again for your service to our country and to our fellow members and their families. It is time for all of us to act and help others become financially secure and independent. Never Stop Serving!

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