9 ways to help you become a smarter investor

Jeff Sommer
The bull statue on Wall Street
Eduardo Munoz | Reuters

Figuring out what is going on in financial markets isn't easy, even for professionals who trade constantly. In fact, for many people, forgetting about day-to-day market swings and taking a long-term perspective may be the best approach.

Yet anyone saving for retirement or a house, a car or an education — or trying to amass a nest egg for any reason at all — needs to periodically check in to see where the financial world is heading.

The last several months have been particularly puzzling. Markets have continued to rise, despite geopolitical turmoil that might have set them back. To help you understand what's happening and what to do, we've pulled together some of the biggest issues in investing in a quarterly report.

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Among the nine articles are analyses and explanations that provide an easy-to-understand introduction to investing (and perhaps amuse you along the way).

The stock market charges ahead, despite the world's storms

Wall Street has responded to political turmoil and natural disasters with barely a shrug. The markets have been charging ahead, not just in the past several months but over the past eight years. Stock prices have risen and there are far fewer — if any — bargains, compared with the days right after the end of the financial crisis in 2009.

All of which raises a big question: What are the prospects for a continuing bull market — or a major decline?

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Here's how young people should invest their first $10,000

Focused bets on growth propel three stock funds

Many funds try simply to match the performance of the stock market. But three funds did better than that by taking a narrow approach.

They crimped the number of their holdings and made concentrated investments in hopes of increasing their total returns. It worked for them in the third quarter.

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These funds can put your investments on a low-carbon diet

If climate change is on your mind and you want to do good while doing well, you might want to consider low-carbon mutual and exchange-traded funds.

These funds shun fossil-fuel producers, like companies that drill for oil and mine coal, as well as those that emit large amounts of greenhouse gases. A new online tool is available that can help you choose among an array of offerings.

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This founder was down to his last $20,000 when he cold-called a billionaire

As investors turn to bonds from emerging markets like Brazil or India, how high is the risk?

With low interest rates in the United States and Europe, it has been tough to generate substantial income from bonds. There has been a big exception, though: bonds issued in emerging market countries.

Many of these fixed-income instruments have excelled in recent months, and managers of funds that specialize in them say such bonds continue to be attractive. But investing in them entails some complicated risks.

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An old-school investment manager that builds wealth quietly

Because of their low cost and market-matching abilities, index funds have been growing rapidly in popularity. But there is a case to be made for old-fashioned, disciplined stock picking, especially when it is done at minimal expense.

One of the most successful old school stock picking outfits is Dodge & Cox, which does not advertise or promote its funds. It has a solid performance record and charges some of the lowest fees in the industry.

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Jack Dorsey says the best investment he ever made cost him nothing

The high cost of not talking about money

Money won't buy happiness, but it can help. This is no mystery. Acquiring, accumulating and spending money often seem to be universal preoccupations in the modern world.

Yet despite the evident importance of money, conversations about it can be very uncomfortable on a personal level. Is an inability to talk openly and honestly about money and investments hurting you in the wallet? A new book argues that it is.

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How funds manage boatloads of money

When funds attract heaps of fresh money, it can be a great thing for investors. A surge in new assets can create economies of scale that are passed along to shareholders, reducing costs and improving performance.

But that virtuous cycle doesn't always happen. It is worth examining whether sudden inflows of cash have led to poor decisions by fund managers, hurting investor returns.

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Warren Buffett's secret to investing lays in the game of baseball

Where do all the disgraced CEOs go?

Richard F. Smith left Equifax in September after the company came under fire for a cybersecurity breach that compromised the personal information of potentially millions of consumers. Mike Cagney left Social Finance, the student loan company he had co-founded, after reports of allegations of sexual harassment and the company's "frat house" culture. And then there is the movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, who was fired by his own company after years of allegations of sexual harassment and payoffs to accusers.

Chief executives seem to be stepping down from their posts — voluntarily or not — every day. Where do they go after they leave a scandal-ridden company? Here are some whimsical thoughts on a suitable destination for the besmirched.

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Investing by betting on the sponsors of sports

Invest in what you know: That's an old mantra, and it makes a lot of sense. But what if what you know is, basically, sports?

If you're not a billionaire and can't buy teams or leagues outright, it will be difficult to invest in them directly: Most teams and leagues aren't publicly traded.

So a sportscaster and a financial planner have started a new fund that enables avid fans to place indirect bets. This exchange-traded fund tracks companies that sponsor sports teams or broadcasters. The fund may be a comforting place for sports lovers to place their money, but buyer beware. It is largely untested.

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Don't miss: Mark Cuban says one of the best investments he's ever made is something anyone can afford

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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