A Financial Adviser Answers All the Investing Questions You DM'd Us on Instagram

Updated 04/18/19
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When it comes to your finances, do you take a head-on or head-in-the-sand approach? If you identify with the latter, the good news is you're not alone. The bad news? You're not alone. Data suggests that when it comes to managing money, women are not as independent as you'd expect. In fact, 91% of women in heterosexual couples are not participating in financial decisions. But we want to change that statistic. To help you become a master of your own finances, we're debuting a new series called The Paper Files, where we uncover tricks and tips that will help you manage your money and your future. Ready to take it head-on?

Investment advice

Not to state the obvious, but money is an intimidating topic. Between decoding so-called basic financial terms and navigating the process of applying for a credit card, empowering yourself financially is no easy feat. Especially taking into consideration the fact that talking about money isn't perceived as socially acceptable. (A recent study revealed that 68% of Americans would rather reveal their weight than the amount of money currently in their savings account to their friends.)

In an effort to help break down the stigma around talking about finances, we asked our Instagram followers to DM us their most pressing investing questions so we could have them answered by a financial adviser. As expected, our smart, curious, driven community did not disappoint. Ahead, Kristin O'Keeffe Merrick, a financial advisor at O'Keeffe Financial Partners, offers her expert guidance on everything from how much money you should have in your emergency savings before investing to how to get started with as little as $1000.

How much money should you have in an emergency fund?
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The Bottom Line: "This is a very personal question because some people feel more comfortable holding more cash than others, so every person you ask will have a very different answer," explains Merrick. "I recommend six to nine months of expenses."

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Is 10K enough to invest?
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The Bottom Line: "$10,000 is a great number to start with," says Merrick. "Technically some platforms will allow you to start investing with as little as $1000!"

Editor's note: A few platforms to try if you're looking to invest $10K or less include Betterment, Wealthfront, and Ellevest.

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How do you know when it's time to start investing?
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The Bottom Line: "Once you have reached a comfortable amount in your emergency savings, and once you have some kind of monthly allocation to your retirement account, you can start investing," recommends Merrick. "That being said, if you are drowning in credit card debt, I recommend aggressively paying that first before you start investing."

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How should you manage a longterm IRA account?
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The Bottom Line: "You should make sure it is invested in something that will grow over time," offers Merrick. "Research the specific mutual fund and find out what it is invested in and how much risk it takes," she explains. "If it has predominantly stocks (versus bonds), it will likely be more aggressive and grow more quickly over time," she adds. "That being said, it will also involve more risk, so make sure you are comfortable with the risk that it takes. At the least, make sure it is earning you some kind of return."

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Should you pay off debt or invest in a retirement account?
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The Bottom Line: "If you are already contributing to your employer's plan for retirement, I suggest next focusing on your credit card debt," recommends Merrick. "Once that's done, work toward paying down the rest of your debt."

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Do you need to have a 20% down payment to buy a house?
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The Bottom Line: "If you don't have 20% down, the first issue is that you are not always considered the most attractive buyer from the seller's point of view," explains Merrick. "This makes it more difficult to get the house you want. Also, the lender will make you buy mortgage insurance, which is an additional cost," she notes. "It's not impossible to buy a home with less than 20% down, but it's advisable to weigh the pros and cons and decide if it makes more sense to wait a few years to save more money before buying."

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Can you take money out of a 401(k) to buy a house?
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The Bottom Line: "Keep saving. Put a plan together, save, and keep your retirement for what it is designed to do—pay for your retirement," advises Merrick. "Understand your budget, your spending, your debt, and what you can afford to save each month. Increase your savings by a small amount each month until you think you have reached the max," she recommends. "If your savings exceeds the amount you want to have in case of an emergency, consider investing some of that excess cash in lower-risk securities that will earn you some kind of rate of return (otherwise known as interest)," she offers. "This will allow your money to work for you and grow over time."

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O’Keeffe Financial Partners is not a registered broker/dealer and is independent of Raymond James Financial Services. Investment advisory services offered through Raymond James Financial Services Advisors, Inc.

Securities offered through Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment Advisory services offered through Raymond James Financial Services Advisors, Inc. Opinions are of the author and not necessarily those of Raymond James. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Raymond James does not provide advice on tax or legal matters.

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