Can I invest without a portfolio?

Investing money - we recommend these 3 sample portfolios!

Relatives and friends regularly ask us two questions:

  1. As financial experts, how do you actually invest your money?
  2. Can you invest my money for me with your strategy?

The second question is usually followed by ironic comments on our part, but we can answer the first question very well.

In the following article we reveal suitable sample portfolios for investing money for a beginner, an advanced and an expert.

The 5 most important fundamentals when investing

First of all, we should briefly recall a few investment fundamentals.

Tip 1: Only invest in products that you understand

There are numerous asset classes and thousands upon thousands of financial products. It is difficult to maintain an overview and it is almost impossible to understand them all.

Investing is about understanding the financial product.

Not only the investment strategy and the costs are relevant, but above all the opportunities and risks. A recommendation from friends should only be the starting point to start your research. Find out more about the financial product and form your opinion before you invest your money blindly.

Tip 2: diversify your portfolio

Diversification, or spreading, is one of the principles of wealth creation. You want to avoid becoming too dependent on an investment, because then your portfolio could quickly face a total loss. This so-called idiosyncratic risk should be avoided as far as possible by investing your money in various asset classes and financial products. Ideally, you invest your money in asset classes and financial products that have little correlation with one another, i.e. that are not dependent on one another.

Tip 3: keep costs as low as possible

Your return can be eaten up by high fees. In order to invest in a stock such as the entire DAX, for example, there are often several competing products with different costs. Try to choose cheap products from a reputable partner. With ETFs or funds in particular, you have a wide range of providers for the same financial product. Also pay attention to hidden costs for the product or the order costs at the bank / broker / depot / platform / FinTech. Higher costs are only justified for niche products.

Tip 4: manage your portfolio

Making the bare investment is usually quick. On the other hand, monitoring the invested money is more complex. It is important that you know your position sizes in the individual asset classes and products. Rebalance, so reallocate your funds regularly in your reviews so that you stay true to your strategy.

Tip 5: suitable infrastructure

To start investing with money you need certain accounts. Of course, the basis is a checking account. This bank account serves as your hub for all of your investments. Numerous banks offer custody accounts for buying and selling stocks, ETFs, commodities, bonds and similar asset classes. There are also FinTechs that only offer a deposit without a current account.

We see a deposit as essential and should be set up once to invest money.

For alternative investments such as cryptocurrencies, P2P lending or crowd investing, you need additional accounts with the special providers themselves. For an optimal overview, we recommend an Excel spreadsheet or a mobile phone app that breaks down the money you have invested per asset class and provider.

2. Investing money as a beginner - sample portfolio 1

Getting started with investing should be easy and quick.

At the same time one should try to adhere to the 5 principles from the previous paragraph.

Above all, the focus on sufficient diversification at low costs is essential for successful money investing.

We recommend a gradual approach to investing.

Almost every bank offers a call money account. The interest rate is very low, but for many investors it is a first step towards investing money. The annual interest rates usually range between 0.01% and 1.00% p.a.

Institutions that are not based in Germany usually advertise overnight interest rates at the higher end of the range of up to 1.00% p.a. There is a counterparty risk here, because the foreign bank can harbor more risks. We therefore recommend choosing German and Central European banks for overnight money accounts.

In general, you shouldn't keep more than € 100,000 in your bank account, as the EU's statutory deposit insurance applies up to this amount. The deposits are therefore considered to be very safe.

A wonderful attribute of the overnight money is the quick availability at any time - we are talking about high liquidity here. The investment can be liquidated at any time so that the money can be invested in other assets or used for short-term expenses.

It is now more interesting for beginners with the topic of ETFs.

ETFs can be understood as a type of fund - only without a fund manager. The strategy is based on indices that represent a wide range of e.g. stocks. You only buy one financial product, e.g. a DAX ETF, and you invest in all 30 stocks of the DAX index at the same time. The ETF provider invests your investment in many shares at the same time. This guarantees a wide spread.

The order fees are only charged once and the ongoing, annual administration costs are generally very low with ETFs. In addition to the price gains, you also receive the regular dividends of the companies from your ETFs.

It is now “only” to find the right ETFs for the entry-level sample portfolio to invest in.

We recommend three ETFs to start with.

3 ETFs are sufficient

The diversification effect is completely sufficient with three ETFs. More ETFs don't have to be in an entry-level portfolio.

We can recommend the following ETFs:

1. ETF - MSCI World UCITS ETF

This ETF is based on an international share index that tracks the performance of companies from 23 industrialized countries. With around 1600 companies included in the index, you get a very broad risk diversification and also cover numerous sectors. The MSCI World ETF covers around 85% of the market capitalization of all listed companies from industrialized countries worldwide.

The USA, Japan and Great Britain are most strongly represented in the index. Information technology, healthcare and financial services are among the strongest sectors.

When looking for the MSCI World ETF in your portfolio, through your broker or through your FinTech, you will come across numerous ETF providers. They all map the same or a similar index, which is why you should pay attention to reputable providers rather than adjusting screws.

The following ETF providers are reputable and safe: HSBC, ComStage, Invesco, iShares, Xtrackers, Lyxor, SPDR, Amundi, UBS, Deka.

Attention: cost optimization!

The one-time order fees depend on your depository service provider and usually range between € 1-10 per order. Some providers also keep percentage points from the order volume for themselves.

The annual management costs for the MSCI World ETF usually fluctuate between 0.1% - 0.3%. Especially in comparison to funds, which often call for 2% for a similar investment strategy, ETFs are our choice.

2. ETF - MSCI Emerging Markets

This ETF is based on an international stock index that tracks the performance of companies from 26 emerging countries. With around 1400 companies in the index, you get a very broad risk diversification and cover numerous sectors. With the MSCI Emerging Markets ETF, you cover around 85% of the market capitalization of all listed companies in emerging countries.

China, Taiwan and South Korea are most strongly represented in the index. The strongest sectors include consumer staples, information technology and financial services.

3. ETF - commodities, renewable energies or real estate

With your third ETF, we want to offer you a selection instead of making a specific recommendation.

Your portfolio should also reflect a bit of your investment ethics and interests.

  • Are you more conservative, do you believe in a crisis and think that the rarity of a good is a value proposition?
    Then an ETF in the commodities sector could be your thing. It is precisely the historically negative correlation to stocks that makes commodities interesting for a portfolio addition. The raw materials are usually not held physically, but synthetically mapped via the futures markets. The commodity indices contain numerous commodities and, in addition to the classics such as gold or silver, agricultural commodities and industrial metals can also be included. The management fees for a commodity ETF are on average between 0.15% - 0.60% p.a.
  • Investing sustainable money, with the special form of renewable energies, is a very clear trend topic. Young investors in particular invest their money specifically and increasingly in ethically justifiable financial products. The ETF providers have tracked down this mega-trend and are creating ETFs in which all index members must meet defined sustainability criteria. When it comes to renewable energies, of course, investments are not made in nuclear power or fossil fuels, but in green environmental technology companies such as those represented by the Clean Energy Index. The management fees for a sustainable ETF are on average between 0.50% - 0.70% p.a.
  • For many investors, concrete gold, i.e. real estate, is the non plus ultra investment. But the big catch with real estate investments is the large capital requirement. In addition to open and closed real estate funds, REIT ETFs are currently very popular. The ETF invests in real estate companies. These REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts) generate their profits primarily from renting and leasing and secondarily from the sale of real estate. The REITs are often approved in countries that are tax-privileged. The management fees for a sustainable REIT ETF are on average between 0.20% - 0.60% p.a.

With this money allocation and the specific investments in overnight money and in specifically selected ETFs, you are most likely in a better position than 80% of all citizens in Germany.

If you have familiarized yourself with the sample portfolio 1 for beginners, are satisfied and want more, we recommend that you further develop your current portfolio with the sample portfolio 2 for advanced users.

3. Investing money as an advanced user - sample portfolio 2

Building on sample portfolio 1, we reduce the share of the daily allowance from 50% to 30% in sample portfolio 2 and invest this money in alternative investments that require a little more care and knowledge, but also enable higher potential returns.

The ETF share in the portfolio remains at 50% in model portfolio 2 as in model portfolio 1.

As an advanced investor, you should have the basics of investing money on your chest. Remember the 5 principles at the beginning of the article. You should be able to use the bank deposit without any problems and have used it often, and closing or topping up the overnight money account should also no longer be a hurdle. As soon as you start looking for further investment opportunities, this is a sign that you are gradually entering the advanced phase.

For the advanced phase, it is especially important to deal with new and modern asset classes, financial instruments and providers. You often come across FinTechs and their products here. Those products offer attractive promises of returns, but also certain risks that need to be assessed correctly.

We see one or all four of the following alternative asset classes as a sensible, alternative addition to a balanced portfolio.

Alternative 1 - equity crowdfunding

With crowd investing, you can invest in real estate, renewable energies or startups together with other investors - even with a small budget. Such an investment is offered via a crowd investing platform, often a FinTech. The best-known crowd investing platforms in Germany include Exporo, Bergfürst and Companisto. The interest income is usually between 3 - 7% per year.

While investing money in startups with the crowd is considered risky, investments in renewable energies and real estate are much safer, more predictable and often secure. However, keep the principles of investing in mind:

As the risk decreases, the return naturally also decreases.

Nonetheless, we see crowd-financed real estate investments as a useful addition. The terms for real estate investments, which are granted in the form of a subordinated loan, are usually between 6 months and 3 years. If you want to liquidate your investment earlier, you can often sell it on a secondary market.

Alternative 2 - P2P lending

With P2P lending, you lend money to private individuals or companies. Well-known P2P platforms such as Mintos or Bondora are the intermediaries between lenders (yours truly) and the borrowers.

The borrowers pay you an interest rate that is often between 5 - 20% p.a. At the end of the term, they will pay you back your entire loan. The P2P platforms allow you to build up a portfolio of borrowers in selected areas so that you are not dependent on individual loans and potential loan defaults.

With the numerous setting options of the P2P platforms, you can completely automate the lending of money and adapt it to your wishes. The terms for the loans can be chosen freely, as well as the creditworthiness of the borrower.

We see P2P loans as an alternative to investing in money.

Alternative 3 - Loans

Based on the automated P2P lending by FinTech platforms, the private lending of loans in your area can be a lucrative option.

It's less about lending to your relatives than about your extended circle of friends or their friends. Hardly anyone can assess the creditworthiness and payment behavior of acquaintances as well as you. You can take advantage of this advantage and lend money privately. We do not presume to generalize an average interest rate. However, you should be able to justify the costs of the loan well and explain them transparently. If possible, we recommend that you also take securities or work with guarantees.

Despite all friendship, you should put all conditions in writing in an agreement and under no circumstances count on a mere handshake.

Granting a personal loan is nothing everyday and not a portfolio addition that can be forced. However, this option should be considered if there is an opportunity to lend money.

Robo-Advisor

One of the newest trends in the financial market is robo-advisors. Your money is automatically invested after you have deposited it on the platform. The basis for the robo investments are certain strategies that have been programmed into the robot or bot by the provider. The strategies vary depending on the provider such as Scalable Capital, Quirion or Growney.

In most cases, a robo-advisor invests in individual stocks, commodities, time deposits or ETFs. You have no administrative effort, as everything runs automatically. Even the sale of e.g. ETFs takes place automatically and precisely when the robo parameters dictate.

For the automation and the strategies, the robo-advisors can pay an administration fee based on the invested money. The costs for the robo-advisor service are between 0.2 - 1% per year.

Especially for not very experienced investors who want to add an investment strategy to their portfolio with little effort, a robo-advisor investment is a sensible addition.

We recommend investing around 20% of the money in the portfolio in 1-2 alternative investment options.

4. Investing money as an expert - sample portfolio 3

For the expert sample portfolio 3, we recommend a further reduction of the liquid overnight money allocation from 30% to 10%. The 20% freed up will be invested 10% each in cryptocurrencies and equity in companies. The 50% share of ETFs remains constant. The 20% share of alternative investments also remains constant.

The two new positions in the portfolio are extremely interesting as they hardly correlate with the other asset classes and have an asymmetrical risk profile. This means that extreme returns are possible, but mind you associated with a high risk.

Because of this, adding cryptocurrencies and equity to companies is only recommended for experienced investors.

Cryptocurrencies

Cryptocurrencies are digital means of payment based on cryptographic tools such as a blockchain and digital signatures. Probably the best-known cryptocurrency is Bitcoin. Bitcoin can be sent to other users of the Bitcoin network quickly, securely, cheaply and transparently.

Over the past few years, the bitcoin narrative has turned into “digital gold”.Due to the limited amount of Bitcoin, the good is valuable because it is rare.

Of course, we have covered cryptocurrencies and especially Bitcoin in more detail in our Bitcoin article. The founding team of Finanzwissen got to know each other through the crypto scene and we are clear advocates of adding crypto currencies to already well diversified portfolios.

We recommend that you buy your cryptocurrencies at established trading venues such as Kraken, Bitstamp or Bitpanda. You should invest 5% of your money in Bitcoin and 5% in Ethereum. These two cryptocurrencies are the largest according to their market capitalization due to different characteristics and developments.

Equity

Equity means equity stakes in companies. Especially to companies that are not listed or publicly offer their shares on platforms. You can acquire valuable equity, i.e. undervalued shares, mainly in non-public financing rounds.

Ask around in your personal network whether small companies or ventures need capital. You might have the opportunity to invest in not yet professionalized companies that have a solid business model, growth or even profitability.

In order to make an equity investment, you need basic business knowledge in order to attach value to the company. You should then make and negotiate your investment on this basis.

Acquiring shares in young companies can be extremely attractive, as you benefit from the increase in value as well as from regular profit distributions.

Finding and closing good equity deals is very challenging. As an expert, you should keep your eyes open and actively address people and companies in your area. In our opinion, you can invest 10% of the money in your equity position, provided that there are attractive opportunities.

5. Conclusion on investing money

In this article, we have given you a detailed recommendation for action, what you should invest your money in and at what percentage.

The proportion of ETFs remained the same across all 3 model portfolios for beginners, advanced and experts. An MSCI World ETF, an emerging market ETF and another ETF should be selected that suit you, e.g. from the renewable energies, bonds or commodities sectors.

As you gain experience, we recommend reducing your liquid overnight money position. The money released is distributed in alternative investment options such as crowd investing, P2P lending, loans or robo-advisors.

You have achieved expert status when cryptocurrencies or equity investments become attractive to you. Your overnight money share will be further reduced in favor of cryptos and equity. These asset classes require expertise, but they also offer various advantages such as a low correlation to other investments and an asymmetrical risk-return ratio, which can bring you an extremely high return.

We hope that you will base your strategy on our sample portfolios. Our recommendations have been tested and improved over many years - by ourselves.

With this portfolio, your money will be invested wisely. I wish you success!

FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions

1 Why is so much money invested in ETFs?

ETFs offer many advantages and only a few disadvantages. You buy a wide range of shares, for example. In this way, you diversify your portfolio very well and without great effort. The order costs and administration costs are low. Ordering ETFs is quick and easy, as is the sale. Every bank depository offers ETFs and the selection of industries and regions is wide-ranging.

2 Why is so much money invested in overnight money at the beginning?

Most of them don't invest their money at all. Investing in overnight money is the easiest and first step towards investing money. The assets remain liquid and can be called up at any time. Also available to invest in other asset classes at any time. The overnight money position is reduced with increasing experience. The money should always be invested, even if it is only parked in the account, here the overnight money is a suitable bridge.

3 Do the sample portfolio allocations have to be meticulously adhered to to the percentage point?

The portfolio is indicative based on our experience. We recommend that you stick to the percentage distributions in the individual investments, especially if you are not a financial expert. If certain positions change the portfolio weighting significantly due to good or bad results, you should reallocate funds in order to restore the target allocation.

4 Aren't cryptocurrencies too speculative for a portfolio?

We are guided by studies on asset allocations that state that an optimal addition of cryptocurrencies to well-diversified portfolios can be 2-15%. The younger you are, the more risk you can take and put the share of cryptocurrencies at the upper end of the range. We recommend to start investing the money equally in Bitcoin and Ethereum.

Hi! I am Florian Döhnert-Breyer

I am one of the founders of financial literacy. I have been actively and successfully investing in the financial world for over 13 years. Both my M. Sc. in business administration / finance, as well as my entrepreneurial experience as a series founder with Exit help me to make well-founded investment decisions. I am now at a level where I can share my accumulated knowledge with you with a clear conscience.