The size of the financial services industry in the US is large – meaning that there are clearly lots of different opportunities available for investment. With high returns having been recorded on the stock market alone in recent years, the appeal of entering this fast-paced and potentially lucrative world is clear for all to see. However, there are some downsides: there’s a lot of risk involved, and certain strategic decisions need to be taken in order to maximize your chances of profiting. With these requirements in mind, this article will explore what you need to do in order to get your investment portfolio off the ground.

Becoming a professional investor 

When people think of investors, they often jump to the stereotypical image of a Wall Street banker. These professional investment opportunities are certainly available – and not just on Wall Street, either. Banks, hedge funds, and other investment institutions are available in cities across the nation, and they’re often on the lookout for bright graduates. If this is the sort of investment career that you want to pursue, then it might be wise to consider this when making choices about what degree to study. Rigorous subjects that show an aptitude for numbers (such as math) are good, while subjects with a distinctive financial bent (such as economics) are also good choices. You should also consider getting as much experience as possible, such as internships.

Retail investing

That’s not the only option for a wannabe investor, of course. If you don’t want to devote your whole life to investing but still want to get involved, then an alternative is to do some retail-level investing instead. This simply means purchasing investment products that are designed for non-professionals. This might be a stocks and shares tracker that follows the stock market, for example, or even a leverage-based contract for difference (CFD). If you’re in this position, then it’s wise to consult the services of a financial advisor, who will be able to take an objective look at your situation and work out which product might be the best for your needs. That way, you won’t get tied into a product that you don’t fully understand and will later come to regret.

Find a mentor – and information

No matter whether you plan to make investing your full-time job or you simply want to make some additional cash by becoming a casual retail investor, there are some things that you are going to need either way. One of them is a mentor: advice on everything from technical points such as stock selection to how to manage your feelings and emotions when trading is invaluable in the investment world, and there are lots of people who are able to dispense it.

A cursory look around the internet reveals that there are lots of successful investors already out there, including Peter Mallouk of the firm Creative Planning. You might be able to find an investor who is suited to you at a networking event, or perhaps by putting out a call to your friends and family. When choosing your mentor, though, it’s wise to consider only those investors who have built portfolios using the same instruments and asset classes that you plan to use. After all, if you’re planning to invest in foreign exchange pairs, then there might not be quite as much practical value in being mentored by someone whose portfolio is composed mostly of cryptocurrencies – and it may not be quite so useful!

Finally, you’ll also need to get your hands on some relevant information that can help you to take the key decisions that matter in an investment context. An economic calendar, for example, is essential as it flags up the key market-moving incidents that can affect your investments, such as data releases. If you choose a technical analysis approach rather than a fundamental one, ensuring that you have access to accurate historic and recent price chart data (and the tools to locate the patterns you need to inform your decisions) is also essential.

Investing is not a career for the faint-hearted. While big names such as Warren Buffett are examples of those for whom investing has gone superbly well, there are also plenty of others who you never hear about given that they crashed and burned upon discovering that investing wasn’t for them. There’s no guarantee of any kind in this industry – so entering it is always going to be a risk.

However, there are still some steps that you can take to improve your chances of investment success. If you plan to become a professional investor, for example, then you can select your degree subject strategically and with your career in mind. And no matter what sort of investor you plan to become, getting access to good information is also vital.