This is the easiest way for newbies to start investing, experts say

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Investing can seem overly complicated, and that complexity may paralyze Americans into doing nothing.

But investing — and doing so smartly — doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, getting started can be relatively easy, according to financial experts.

“You don’t need to be a rocket scientist. Investing is not a game where the guy with the 160 IQ beats the guy with 130 IQ,” Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, famously said.

For many people, investing is a necessity to grow one’s savings and provide financial security in retirement. Starting early in one’s career benefits the investor due to a longer time horizon for interest and investment returns to compound.

While appropriate long-term goals may differ from person to person, one rule of thumb is to save roughly 1x your salary by age 30, 3x by 40 and ultimately 10x by 67, according to Fidelity Investments.

A ‘fabulous, simple solution’ for beginners

Target-date funds, known as TDFs, are the simplest entry point to investing for the long term, according to financial pros.

“I think they’re a fabulous, simple solution for novice investors — and any investor,” said Christine Benz, director of personal finance and retirement planning at Morningstar.

TDFs are based on age: Investors choose a fund based on the year in which they aim to retire. For example, a current 25-year-old who expects to retire in roughly 40 years may pick a 2065 fund.

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These mutual funds do most of the hard work for investors, like rebalancing, diversifying across many different stocks and bonds, and choosing a relatively appropriate level of risk.

Asset managers automatically throttle back risk as investors age by reducing the share of stocks in the TDF and raising the exposure to bonds and cash.

How to pick a target-date fund

Benz recommends selecting a TDF that uses underlying index funds. Index funds, unlike actively managed funds, aim to replicate broad stock and bond market returns, and are generally cheaper; index funds (also known as passive funds) tend to outperform their actively managed counterparts over the long term.

“You definitely want a passive TDF,” said Carolyn McClanahan, a CFP and the founder of Life Planning Partners in Jacksonville, Florida.

Benz also advises investors seek out funds from among the biggest TDF providers, like Fidelity, Vanguard Group, Charles Schwab, BlackRock or T. Rowe Price.

Other ‘solid choices’ for novice investors

Ask yourself: Why am I investing?

Young, long-term investors should generally ensure their fund — whether TDF or otherwise — has a high allocation to stocks, around 90% or more, said McClanahan, a member of CNBC’s Advisor Council.

Retirement investors under age 50 would likely be well-suited with a portfolio tilted mostly to stocks, with some cash reserves set aside in the event of emergencies like job loss or health issues, Benz said.

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist. Investing is not a game where the guy with the 160 IQ beats the guy with 130 IQ.

Warren Buffett

chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway

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