Investing 101: how to start investing

So you want to start investing with Sharesies. The problem is, you have no idea what you’re doing. That’s okay! We’re here to help with this handy guide.


Why invest in the first place?

A general rule of the thumb with investing is that to earn more, you need to risk more. Putting money in the bank is pretty low-risk, but you pay for that lower risk when you get a low interest rate. Investing in shares generally pays a higher return than putting money in the bank, but there is a higher likelihood that your shares will lose some of their value.

It may be tempting to just stick your money in a savings account. After all, you know you can get it whenever you need it, and you’ll get paid steady, but relatively low, interest rates.

This is probably a good approach if you’re intending on using the money soon—for example, for an emergency account. But if you’re saving for the long term, you can get away with taking a little bit more risk, and most likely, over the long run, you’ll get the higher returns.

Step #1: learn what’s out there

There are two main types of investments available through Sharesies at the moment: managed funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). These are great for new investors because they offer diversification. With ETFs and managed funds, instead of investing in one company at a time, these funds invest in “baskets” of other stuff, like bonds, shares or property.

Managed funds and ETFs are pretty similar. The value of the fund is based on the shares included in the fund itself. If shares go up, so does the value of your units. If they do down, your units go down too.

Step #2: make sure you’re comfortable

While it’s true that you can get higher returns by taking on more risk, you need to also invest in a way that you’re comfortable with. If you’re not comfortable taking risks, you’re more likely to panic and sell when your investment drops in value. This would leave you worse off than before!

A good way to find out what kind of investor you are is to take this quiz created by It will give you an idea of how much risk you’re comfortable with.

Step #3: choose the investments that are right for you

Once you’ve figured the type of investor you are, take a look at Sharesies and find some things that match your appetite for risk. If you are keen on big returns, and don’t mind taking some big risks to get there—you might want to choose something volatile like Australian Resources. If you invested $100 in Australian Resources a year ago, it would be worth $132 now! That looks good in hindsight, but it could well have gone the other way (it could be worth $70, or less now).

If you’re much more cautious, you could go with NZ Bond. It’s been worth pretty much the same amount for the last year, although it has paid out some dividends in the meantime. (Don’t know what dividends are? Don’t worry—we’ve got you covered.)

It’s all about what you’re comfortable with. If you invest in things you’re comfortable with, you’re probably going to be more likely to stick with investing. And the more you invest, the more comfortable you will get with the roller coaster ride of the markets and be more likely to invest in that more risky/returning stuff later on.

Step #4: choose an amount and get going

Okay, now that you’ve figured out the basics of investing, and what you want to invest in, it’s time to get started! We suggest you choose an amount per week, fortnight or whatever works for you, and just transfer that to Sharesies on a regular basis.

Choose an amount that’s high enough to make a difference, but low enough that you don’t constantly raid your Sharesies account when you want to go out for coffee/beers or anything else that would be tempting enough for you to hit the withdraw button!  At the moment we have customers investing cents each day through thousands a week! Could be $20, could be $500—it’s up to you.

Then just crack into it!

Step #5: reassess every now and then

It’s tempting to set and forget, but you don’t want to completely forget. As you get more comfortable with investing, your tolerance for risk may increase (or decrease!) Your income may change, or you may decide to change your spending habits. All these things flow into the amount you invest and what you invest in. So set a reminder to check up every few months. Make sure you’re happy with your investments, and make changes as you need to.

Now you’re ready to go! See you on the trading floor.

WTF is an ETF? ‘Exchange traded funds’ explained

Hadn’t heard of ETF before? You’re not alone. You only have to Google it to see it’s a topic that has people scratching their heads 😳 .

The world of finance seems to speak another language. For every basic investment term there are thousands of jargon-heavy acronyms. It’s hard to find anywhere that explains them in plain english.

We want to help translate these terms, so you can feel right at home when talking about your investment portfolio. We thought ETFs, aka “Exchange Traded Funds”, were a good place to start—given these are the first investment options on the Sharesies.

So… What exactly is an ETF?

Let’s start with a bit of background into investing.

There are shares… when you buy shares, you invest in a particular company, like Xero, or Facebook. Shares can be bought or sold between people on an exchange.

An exchange is a market where people can trade shares. An example of this in NZ is the New Zealand Stock exchange (the NZX). On an exchange, someone wanting to sell shares sets how much they want to sell them for, and someone wanting to buy shares sets how much they want to buy them for — when it’s a match, the shares change hands.

Another way to invest is through mutual funds. Instead of investing in one company at a time, you join a pool of people and spread your investment across a range of things. This is managed by a fund manager and any buying or selling goes through them.

KiwiSaver is an example of a mutual fund. Our money is all pooled together and invested on our behalf, by a fund manager.

This leads us to ETFs. ETFs are like mutual funds—they’re a group of different assets, rather than one particular company. But they trade like shares on an exchange.

The trick for an Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) is all in the name! They are funds that are traded on an exchange.

A fruity example 🍌🍋🍉🍒

Sticking with the Sharesies theme… Imagine you go to a market (NZX) and buy some fruit. Buying individual fruit is like buying shares. You pay the price for each piece of fruit.


An ETF is like buying a basket of fruit. You get all the different types. These can be grouped by theme, like a colour or a season.

In short: An ETF is a pool or basket of investments that trades on an exchange.

What are the benefits?

  • Diversification You may have heard the advice ‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket’. When you invest in an ETF you own a piece of a range of assets, instead of just one company.
  • Accessibility ETFs open the share market up to a wider audience. They allow people with lower amounts of money to access the same investments as private portfolio clients. They also give access to international investments that can otherwise be difficult.
  • Lower fees — ETFs tend to have lower fees than other types of investments (#FUNDfact: these fees are sometimes called ‘expense ratios’). In New Zealand they have tax benefits for many as well.
  • Transparency — you get to see the prices every day.
  • Liquidity — because they’re traded on an exchange you can sell your ETFs when ever there are interested buyers.

Some #FUNDfacts about ETFs

  • They’ve been around for 27 years. The idea came out of the 1987 stock market crash as a tool to help reduce volatility in the market.
  • There are 7000 products available globally. $4.2 trillion is currently invested in ETFs, with a forecast of $5 billion this year.
  • They’ve been called "Instruments for social economic change". As they allowed people to invest in themes. The UN helped start low carbon ETF to support investment into low carbon companies. There is even an ETF that helps promote gender diversity in business (SHE).

What ETFs does Sharesies offer?

  • NZ Top 50 Fund — made up of the top 50 companies in NZ including companies like Spark NZ, Auckland International Airport and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare.
  • US500 Fund — the top 500 companies in the United States including companies like Apple, Alphabet, and Facebook.
  • Australian Top 20 Fund — the top 20 companies listed on the Australian stock exchange including ANZ bank, Woolworths and Commonwealth Bank of Australia
  • NZ Property Fund — on the property ladder but in a different way, invest in property listed on the NZX.
  • Australian Resources Fund — the top resources companies in Australia including companies in energy, metals and mining.
  • NZ Bond — deposits and bonds, some of which are issued or guaranteed by the NZ Government.

If you have any more questions about ETFs that we haven’t covered here, let us know!

Sharesies is making investing easy for everyone. If you’re keen to join the waitlist head to our website. And to stay up to date with what we’re up to, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.