Beginner's Guide to Investing UK

Jitanchandra Solanki
29 Min read

We all want to get the most out of our money, whether it's upgrading our lifestyles, splurging on a holiday or a new car, or planning for retirement. As a beginner though, figuring out where to start with investing can be a challenge. 

In this 'Beginner's Guide to Investing,' we go through the different forms of investing available and how to get started. The good news is that there are more options for beginner investing than ever before. Let's dive in.

What is Investing?

What is investing? Investing describes the concept of putting your money into an asset with the goal of that asset generating income or appreciating in value.

Just consider property, as an example. If you purchase a house with the intention of renting it out to tenants, this is an income-generating asset. If you purchase a house with the intention to renovate it and sell it for a higher price, that is an asset that has appreciated in value.

The same goes for investing in stocks and shares. A share is simply a small piece of a company. If the company pays dividends to shareholders, this is a form of investment income. You can also choose to sell your shares if the company's share price has risen, in which case you'll make a profit or capital gain.

When it comes to what you can invest in, there is a wide range of assets for you to choose from, including shares, index funds, ETFs, bonds, commodities, currencies, cryptocurrencies, property and more.

The reason for doing this is simply to make your money work harder for you than it would if you just held it in cash.

How to Get Started Investing in 3 Steps

There are now more online investment options than ever before, which means you can create an investment account and start investing today in just three steps.

Step 1: Create an investment account

To invest in assets like stocks, bonds, commodities and cryptocurrencies, you will need an account with a broker that offers the instruments you want to invest in.

Some brokers will offer both live and demo accounts - a live account is one where you invest with your own money, while a demo account lets you use virtual funds to help you get a feel for the investment platform and how the markets work.

Here's how you can open an investment account with Admirals:

  1. Create a Dashboard account. This is a dashboard where you can manage your live and demo accounts, deposit and withdraw funds, and download trading software.
  2. Click 'Open Live Account' button to start your application for a live account, or click the 'Open demo account' button to open a demo investment account.
  3. Your account details will be emailed to you, as well as be available in your Dashboard (this will be available instantly for a demo account, and after your application has been reviewed for a live account).

Step 2: Download the investing platform

Picking the right investing platform is one of the first things to consider when investing online.

The most popular trading and investment platform is MetaTrader 5, which is designed for investing in a range of assets from a single piece of software. What this means is that rather than investing in stocks with one broker, trading commodities with another, and trading cryptocurrencies with a third, you can invest in thousands of markets with one piece of software.

The good news is that MetaTrader 5 is available absolutely free - you can download it here.

Step 3: Choose the markets you want to invest in

Now that you have an investing account and a trading and investment platform, what should you invest in? There is a wide range of markets available for trading and investing, so keep reading for our in-depth guide on the ins and outs of each of these.

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Beginner's Guide to Investing UK - Where to Invest?

Investors put their money into a range of assets to see it grow.

These include 'productive assets', which are investments that can pay you an income (for example, a rental property will pay you the rent as income, while shares may pay dividends), and 'non-productive assets', which don't generate income. Instead, investors choose these because they believe their value will increase over time, and they can then sell them at a profit.

Both types of assets have value in building an investing portfolio. In the coming sections, we'll outline some of today's most popular investments - stocks, ETFs, Forex, cryptocurrencies, commodities, bonds, and property.

1. Investing in stocks and shares

A stock represents ownership of a piece, or a share, of a publicly listed company. Because you hold equity in the company, stocks are sometimes referred to as 'equities'.

Companies issue stocks and shares as a way of raising funding for planned business activities. When you purchase a share, you then become one of the owners of that company, which means you have a claim on the company's earnings and assets. Some UK shares include Barclays, Lloyds, BP, Shell, Royal Mail and many others.

The value of stocks is attached to the performance of the company. Generally, if the business is performing well, the share price will increase. If a company is performing poorly, the share price will decrease. As a general rule, stock markets as a whole increase over time, however, individual companies and stocks can decline or even fail.

There are two ways of potentially earning from stocks:

1. A capital gain. If you purchase shares when prices are low and sell when prices have risen, you would make a profit. This is known as capital gain. For this, investors attempt to identify fast-growing companies.

2. Dividends. The other way to earn is via dividend investing. When you purchase shares of a company, you're entitled to a share in the profits generated by that company. This is known as a dividend, which can provide a regular stream of income for investors. 

One of the challenges for beginner investors is choosing the best UK shares. For this reason, many new traders and investors choose to trade stock market indices, which represent a market as a whole.

In the UK, for example, the London Stock Exchange is where public limited companies are traded, along with other instruments, such as derivatives and government bonds. UK stock market indices then represent the values from this exchange. The FTSE 100 index, which is the most popular index on the London Stock Exchange, is comprised of the top 100 publicly traded companies in the exchange.

One of the benefits of trading indices is that because you're trading on the market as a whole, you can benefit from longer-term trends, and are less vulnerable to individual stocks underperforming. The downside is that when a particular stock outperforms the market, you won't get the full benefit, as that performance is diluted by the performance of the rest of the market.

Other indices include:

  • DAX (GERMANY 40) - Represents Germany's 40 largest and most liquid companies
  • S&P500 - Represents the 500 largest listed companies in the US
  • CAC40 - Represents 40 of the most significant stocks among the 100 largest capitalisations on the Euronext Paris
  • DJI30 - The Dow Jones Industrial Average represents 30 of the largest listed companies in the US

2. Investing in ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds)

Another way to invest money in the UK markets is through ETFs or Exchange Traded Funds. ETFs are a collection of stocks belonging to a specific industry. For example, financial sector shares, emerging markets shares mining shares and more.

ETFs are index-based investments, the performance of which is based on correlating indices, with the goal of mimicking index returns. Similar to trading stock indices, you can invest in these to benefit from long-term increases in the market.

Short-term trading is a bit more challenging, though, as you need to accurately predict the performance of a group of companies to make a move, and time that is based on when you think the market will rise and fall.

Some of the most popular ETFs to invest in for the UK market are:

  • iShares Core DAX UCITS ETF (EXS1)
  • iShares Core FTSE 100 UCITS ETF (ISF)
  • Xtrackers DAX UCITS ETF (DBXD)

Like shares, ETFs can be bought and held with the intention of selling them for a profit and can be used for ETF trading strategies. Some also pay dividends, which are derived from the dividends of the shares included in the ETF.

3. Investing in the trillion-dollar Forex market

The Foreign Exchange Market (also known as the Forex market or the FX market) is where the trading of currencies takes place. Forex is the most liquid market in the world, with an average daily turnover of approximately $5.3 trillion. The markets are open 24 hours, five days a week, providing an opportunity for many hobbyist traders to participate. The transaction cost is typically low and built into the price for forex investing. This is known as the spread, which is the difference between the buying and selling price.

Unlike in the equity market, in Forex it's possible to profit from both rising and falling prices. This is because when the price of a currency falls in value, it's measured against another currency. This means the latter rises against the former. You can go long on a currency pair that you believe is going to rise in value, and you can go short on a pair that you expect to decline in value.

As a currency trader, you need to stay updated on key factors that determine price movements, such as political and economic stability, monetary policies, currency intervention, and other factors such as natural disasters. For this, you would need to stay abreast of Forex news, you would need to use tools such as the Forex calendar, and you would need access to Forex signals and Forex charts. All these will help you to identify high-performing FX currency pairs. It is also important to note that there are different types of Forex pairs, including 'Forex Majors', 'Forex Minors' and 'Exotic Pairs'.

Among the most liquid currency pairs in the market are GBPUSD, EURUSD and USDJPY.

Learn more about trading Forex in our ultimate beginner's guide to Forex.

4. Investing in commodities

Commodities are raw materials. These could be agricultural produce, like grains, corn and cotton; metals like gold, silver, copper and zinc; or energy commodities, such as crude oil, natural gas and propane. They are traded on separate exchanges and even have specialized exchanges. For instance, the London Metal Exchange carries only metal commodities.

The most commonly traded commodities are:

  • Gold
  • Silver
  • WTI Crude Oil
  • Natural Gas

Commodities are a good asset class for portfolio diversification. This is because returns on commodities typically have a low to negative correlation with the returns of other major asset classes. For instance, when equities and bonds decline in value, the price of commodities rise. Factors affecting the stock and bond markets may not have any impact on commodities. Therefore, a portfolio that includes commodities would typically have fewer volatile returns.

Commodities are also used as inflation protection. Inflation causes the currency to depreciate, resulting in an erosion of the real value of financial assets, such as stocks and bonds. On the other hand, inflation causes a rise in commodity prices. Some commodities, such as gold and silver, are considered safe-haven investments. Geopolitical uncertainties, natural disasters, and economic crises have a negative impact on most financial assets. During such times, investors flock towards commodities like gold and silver, resulting in a rise in their prices.

Like cryptocurrencies, you can invest in commodities by buying physical assets. However, this isn't the most practical approach for most investors due to high prices, storage concerns and more. Instead, most investors invest in and trade commodities via derivatives like CFDs (contracts for difference).

Learn more about trading commodities in our introductory commodity trading guide.

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5. Investing in bonds

So, what are bonds? Similar to shares, companies, governments, and their agencies issue bonds to raise capital.

However, there are a few differences between bonds and shares:

  • Par value: This is the face value of a bond, and it is a fixed rate. It may be different to the market price of the bond, which can be higher or lower than the par value based on factors like interest rates and the bond's credit status.
  • Interest rate: Bonds have an interest rate, which is paid to the holder of the bond.
  • Maturity date: This is the date at which the bond becomes due, meaning the initial investment gets paid back to the investor.

The bond is bought at par value from the issuer, and the issuer periodically pays interest to those who invest in it. On the maturity date, the bond returns to the issuer and the issuer needs to pay the par value back to the investor.

The main advantage for investors is that bonds offer fixed-income payments (interest payments). Many government bonds are also tax-free, meaning that the interest income is exempt from taxes, so one enjoys a double benefit.

Bonds are used by investors for portfolio diversification, and to reduce and offset risk. Just like stocks, bonds are highly liquid.

Traders can also invest in bond CFDs, as this allows them to leverage small price movements. With CFDs, traders do not need to wait for the bond to mature, as CFD traders merely speculate on price direction without owning the underlying asset.

Among the most common types of bond CFDs are:

  • 10-year Germany Bund Futures CFD (Bund)
  • 10-year US Treasury Note Futures CFD (USTNotee)

6. Investing in property companies

One of the most popular types of investment is property. In fact, for many people, the bulk of their net worth is in property - typically their family home.

Property is a popular investment because, unlike stocks and derivatives, which can be difficult to conceptualise, you know exactly what you're getting for your money - a piece of land, a house or an apartment.

As an investment, property can be purchased to generate income via rent or to sell for a profit. Despite only paying a small percentage of a property's value upfront, property prices have risen so high that property investing is quite a difficult market to break into.

A way of getting around this is by investing in property investment trusts, or REITs, which allow you to invest in property in a way that's similar to investing in shares.

A REIT (real estate investment trust) is a company that invests in property and manages a portfolio of properties. Investors can then buy shares in the REIT, and the REIT will pay out income to the shareholders. This income depends on the property type, but may include:

  • Retail REIT: Rent from tenants in shopping centres
  • Office REIT: Rent from office buildings
  • Residential REIT: Rent from residents in apartment buildings and other residential properties

Investing Strategies for Beginners - Compounding

There are a variety of different investing strategies for beginners. Compounding is one that every investor should know about. But to start with, how do investments work in practice?

Each investment has a rate of return or the rate at which the investment will increase in value over time.

A savings account might pay 2% interest per year, for instance. This means that if you put £10,000 into that account, in one year you would earn a return of £200, bringing your total investment up to £10,200.

If you then did nothing else, you would earn another 2% next year. However, because your starting balance for the second year is £10,200, the 2% interest would be valued at £204. This would bring your total account balance up to £10,404.

Every year you would continue to earn interest on your growing account balance.

The stock market, on the other hand, might be growing by 8% a year. This means that if you invested £10,000 into the stock market, in one year your investment would be valued at £10,800.

If you then left your money in the investment for another year, you would earn another 8%. Because your investment is now £10,800, 8% is £864. This brings the grand total to £11,664. After 10 years, you would have £21,589.25, even if you never topped up your investment with additional funds.

If you topped that investment up with £500 a month, in 10 years you would have £111,651.39!

So one of the biggest benefits of saving and investing is the ability to earn compound returns (or returns on top of your returns). The higher the rate of return over time, the faster your investment will grow.

One of the biggest differences between simply saving and actively investing is that investments earn a higher return over time, assuming that you're using good risk management and money management practices, of course.

As the name suggests, a savings account is meant to help you save or put away money for a rainy day. Investing, on the other hand, is focused on trying to make your money grow by putting it into a number of investment vehicles that you believe will increase in value over time. It is important to note that savings accounts are deemed to be a low risk investment compared to anything else. 

There are a number of investment vehicles that beginners can use to increase their wealth, such as stocks, bonds, ETFs, Forex, CFDs, commodities and cryptocurrencies. Most of these options offer the potential to earn a much higher rate of returns compared with a savings account. It's important to remember, however, that they also involve different degrees of risk.

People invest for all sorts of reasons, like creating wealth for the long term, planning for retirement, meeting financial goals, or simply adding to their disposable income. Some investment products offer tax benefits, which translates to the double benefit of tax savings and capital gains.

Are you already itching to get started? The good news is that you can open an investment account with as little as 1 EUR or 1 GBP with Admirals.

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How to Start Investing UK?

There are a few questions beginner investors should ask themselves before they get started. Let's have a look at what you need to take into consideration when learning how to start investing for beginners UK. 

How much money should beginners invest?

When considering investing for beginners, how much money should you invest?

This depends on three main factors:

  1. Your financial goals
  2. How much you can afford to invest
  3. Your risk tolerance

What are your investment goals?

First, ask yourself: What are your financial goals? Why are you investing? What would you need money for in the future?

Some common goals include:

  • Having the money to buy a house or a car
  • Funding your child's university education
  • Growing a business
  • Having money/generating an income for retirement

As a general rule, most people should be investing with retirement in mind. Even though many Western countries have a pension scheme for people when they retire, these schemes are becoming less appealing - due to inflation, the amount that is available to retirees is worth less in real terms, and in many countries, the age threshold for accessing that pension is increasing.

On top of that, with increasing levels of national debt and ageing populations in many countries, some experts are sceptical about whether there will even be state pensions in another 30 years, which means that if you're a younger investor, it's even more important to think ahead.

However, even if there is still a pension available to you when you retire, it's important to consider whether that will keep you in the lifestyle you want. Do you want to travel when you retire or help your children and grandchildren financially? If so, relying on a pension may not be enough for you to to this.

With this in mind, it's important to:

  1. Clarify your financial goals (including the amount of money it will take to achieve those goals)
  2. Choose a time frame for achieving those

Once you have a goal and a timeframe, then you can calculate how much you need to invest per month or per year (taking into consideration the expected rate of return) in order to have enough money set aside to achieve your goal.

In many cases, longer-term goals are easier to reach, due to the power of compounding (which we discussed earlier). The power of compounding makes a few percentage points appear massive after long periods of time. So, both extended timelines and higher rates of return could potentially give you the same results. This is what makes investment interesting and suitable for different goals.

How much can you afford to invest?

Many gurus recommend investing 5% or 10% of your net income as a starting point. But why not invest all of your money, if that will help you reach your goals faster?

While this might sound good in theory, the truth is that not only do you need that money to cover day-to-day expenses and luxuries, but you also need money set aside for emergencies that might come up. While you can sell your assets to come up with extra cash when you need it, it's far better if you leave those investments to grow.

Depending on your current spending habits, 5-10% might feel impossible, so a good starting point is to start tracking your current spending to see what you can cut. Do you have subscriptions and memberships that you never use? Are you eating out a lot, rather than making meals at home? Do you have a habit of buying things you don't need, rather than using what you already have?

Identifying these habits and cutting back on them can help free up the funds you need to start reaching your investment goals.

How much investment risk are you willing to accept?

The next aspect to consider is your risk tolerance, or your ability to take risks. This usually depends on factors such as your current income, savings, expenses, financial obligations (like paying off a mortgage), whether you have financial dependents, and whether you have appropriate life and health insurance coverage.

Someone who is working full time but is still living at home to save up money to buy a house would likely have a higher risk tolerance. Because they have lower expenses, they have more discretionary income that can be put towards investments. Because they don't have financial dependents, if there is a short-term blip in the market that costs them money, they can simply ride it out.

By contrast, someone who is the sole income earner for their family has a range of financial obligations that would likely mean their risk tolerance is a lot lower. For them, it is a much bigger issue if something goes wrong, because not only is there no extra income to fall back on, but there might be several people depending on their income. For this reason, they would likely invest a lower amount in order to always have some emergency cash on hand.

Investment time frames can also affect risk tolerance. As we discussed earlier, while the financial markets go up over time, there are shorter-term shrinkages and crashes. If you have some years to go before you need the funds, you could expose your portfolio to higher-risk, higher-reward investment options. Younger generations who have decades remaining before they reach their retirement age can probably afford to take more risks. A high-risk, high-return investment strategy will include a stock-heavy portfolio.

As you grow older, your strategy might turn into a lower-risk, lower-return profile. The currency and commodity markets are highly liquid and are mostly stable environments for traders between the ages of 30 to 60. This could also be a time when you choose to reduce your stock holdings. Remember, there is no set formula here; it all depends on your current finances, your long-term financial goals, and your risk tolerance.

Simply, someone who is investing within a 30-year time span can wait those out and enjoy the cumulative gains they make over time. Someone who is investing with a 5-year goal, however, would probably want to choose a 'safer' investment - one that isn't likely to have the same growth in value, but which also has a steadier upward trend in the short term, rather than risking a potential downturn.

When should you start investing?

There's an old Chinese proverb that says:

"The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now."

When it comes to investing for beginners, because of the power of cumulative returns it is always best to start investing as soon as possible. Ideally, that would have been 20 years ago - then you would have 20 years of cumulative returns building up.

However, if you haven't started yet, there's no need to panic - the second best time is today. Simply: the sooner you start, the sooner you can start benefiting from compound returns, and the longer period you allow for those returns to accumulate.

When it comes to saving up enough money to invest, it's always a good idea to have an emergency fund set aside, just in case something unexpected happens. This amount will vary for everyone depending on your risk tolerance and financial situation, but three months of living expenses is a good ballpark.

If you have saved enough funds to support yourself for three months, it's probably the right time to consider putting your money to better use.

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7 Tips on Investing for Beginners UK

1. Invest for the long-term

One of the biggest differences between trading and investing is time frames. Typically, traders look to make short-term profits - sometimes in as little as one minute! This means they either need to be actively monitoring and trading the markets, or they need some automated trading software that can do it for them.

Investors, on the other hand, invest in an asset with the goal of its value growing over years or decades. This helps take the pressure off - you don't need to worry about short-term dips in the market, because you know they'll even out over time.

2. Contribute over time

Building on the previous tip, it's also important to regularly top up your investments over time. While the power of compounding returns will see your initial deposit grow, it will grow at a far faster rate if you regularly contribute to it - even if you're just putting an extra £50 or £100 a month into your portfolio.

This also helps you get the most out of market ups and downs. When the market goes up, you continue riding the wave by buying more assets. When the market goes down, you are essentially getting those assets at a discount while prices are lower. When the market rises again, your net worth will then increase exponentially.

3. Manage your investment risks

Whether you're investing in stocks and shares, considering trading Forex, or wondering how to invest in Bitcoin CFDs, the need for appropriate risk management to keep losses at a minimum cannot be overemphasised. If you're investing in the UK, remember that the UK markets are 70% service-based, so changes in consumer credit and commodity prices can affect your trades. The UK is one of the oldest and largest financial centres in the world, and still an attractive investment destination.

Here's a look at some different ways to manage risk when investing or trading:

  • Follow the Trend: It's often said that the trend is your friend. So, one major risk management technique that traders should consider is to buy assets that are in an uptrend, and then sell them when they have risen too much (crossed their trend line support).
  • Be Consistent: It's best to invest a certain amount of money on a regular basis. This could help you to achieve better returns over time.
  • Be Patient: Avoid pulling out of assets at the slightest dips. There will be some fluctuation in prices, and you may need to wait it out and allow enough time for your strategy to work. Avoid panic selling at all costs.
  • Use a Stop Loss: This is among the most important techniques of risk management when trading. A stop loss order will automatically sell your asset if the price drops below a certain point.

4. Diversify your investments

A staple of managing your investment risk is diversifying your portfolio.

This involves purchasing different types of assets, asset classes, and instruments. For instance, only investing in shares is quite risky, because it means when the stock market goes down you could potentially lose everything. If you have a mix of investments - shares, commodities, bonds, Forex - then you will be insulated from volatility in any one market. You could also include some higher-risk and some lower-risk assets (like stocks and bonds) to diversify your portfolio.

This is probably the simplest way of reducing risk, as it works by reducing overexposure to one asset or asset class, and protects the overall value of your portfolio. This method also helps to identify assets or asset classes that have negative correlation (like two currency pairs, or stocks and commodities).

5. Balance investment risk and reward

As a general rule, the assets that generate the highest returns are also the riskiest. With that in mind, it's important to balance your risk and reward based on your financial goals and your investing time frame.

As we discussed earlier, investors with a longer-term investment horizon (e.g. a 35-year-old investing for retirement) can take more risk in the short term, simply because any peaks and dips in the market even out over time. Rather than being hit by a bad year or a bad month, they can focus on decade-long trends.

By contrast, those who are investing in shorter time frames, such as trying to save money in the next five years for a property, can't take the same risks. With that in mind, it is better for them to choose markets that might not have such a high return on investment, but that are more stable in shorter time frames.

6. Regularly monitor your investments

While one of the goals of long-term investing is to be able to put your money into your investments and let them grow over time with little active management, it is important to keep an eye on things.

Sometimes significant changes happen in certain markets that can cause massive price fluctuations, like regulatory changes, natural disasters and more. When these events happen, sometimes it's a good idea to switch up your investment risk. Keeping an eye on how your investments are performing helps ensure things keep moving in the direction you want.

7. Make decisions with your head - not emotions

Finally, make investment decisions based on logic, not emotions. Sometimes the markets are volatile. Sometimes there are new, exciting trends that everyone wants to put their money in.

More often than not, trends face and short-term volatility balance out. With this in mind, don't be tempted to buy or sell just because that's what everyone else is doing. When you make investment decisions, they should be based on solid data and should be in alignment with your investment strategy and goals.

The best way to put all of these tips into practice is to start investing. But if you're a beginner, and you're not ready to start investing your money in the live markets, one way to get started is with a free demo account

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FAQs on Beginner's Guide to Investing UK


How should a beginner start investing?

The key to investing is to get started as soon as possible, start with small sums to build confidence and experience the risks and then diversify into different types of asset classes. 


Can I start investing with little money?

Stocks and ETFs all have different prices so there are investments you can invest in with little money. With Admirals, you can also access fractional shares which means you can purchase less than one share of a company. 


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About Admirals

Admirals is a multi-award winning, globally regulated Forex and CFD broker, offering trading on over 8,000 financial instruments via the world's most popular trading platforms: MetaTrader 4 and MetaTrader 5. Start trading today!

This material does not contain and should not be construed as containing investment advice, investment recommendations, an offer of or solicitation for any transactions in financial instruments. Please note that such trading analysis is not a reliable indicator for any current or future performance, as circumstances may change over time. Before making any investment decisions, you should seek advice from independent financial advisors to ensure you understand the risks.

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