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If the cost of tuition wasn’t enough, inflation means attending college or university in 2023 is even pricier than expected. What’s a first year to do? This story is part of a crash course in personal finance for students and parents. Read the full guide.

Turning 18 years old usually means the beginning of financial independence. Now, you can finally use accumulated savings from part-time jobs, gifts and allowances to tap into the stock market on your own.

While it might be exciting to see your money grow for the first time, investing can also seem daunting, especially because it involves assuming some level of risk. Below are tips from experts on how to dip your toes in the market without sinking.

Have an emergency fund first

It may be tempting to start investing right away, but financial planners recommend setting up an easily accessible buffer first to avoid having to withdraw money from your investments too early.

“If you are investing for the long term, then you should be continuing to invest, and essentially holding on to that money, not moving in and out of the markets,” Ontario-based certified financial planner Susan Daley said.

She recommends saving enough for three months’ worth of expenses, especially as economic headwinds threaten employment.

Keep a goal in mind to stay motivated

Having an investment objective can help resist the urge to pull your money out based on market moves. Some might want to have enough for a down payment for a home in 10 years, or afford a semester abroad.

“When you’re young and maybe in university or college, you don’t know what the future will hold. In that case, it might make sense to essentially balance out your investments and, say, invest for the short term as well as long term,” Ms. Daley added.

Curate your own investing knowledge from multiple sources

The internet is full of good advice on investing. Content creators can be found all over social media providing free and digestible knowledge about the space. The caveat? You can’t trust everyone.

“Sift through things, because you’re going to see some stuff that isn’t the most savoury given that it’s finance and money,” said Nathan Kennedy, a financial influencer based in Hamilton, Ont.

He advises students to spend time reading and watching videos on the subject until they can form their own judgment on investing. Another tip from Mr. Kennedy: The most followed “fin-fluencers” are generally the ones producing reliable content.

Be careful about investment frenzies

Crypto trading, apparel such as sneakers and so-called “meme stocks” can spark curiosity, especially because of their gambling qualities.

While keeping a diversified and balanced portfolio for the long term is recommended, dealing with “fear of missing out” by not investing in these stocks can be difficult.

For those who want to have fun while investing, they can allocate a small part of their portfolio to play around with riskier stocks, Mr. Kennedy says.

“Make sure that it’s inconsequential if it goes to zero, which it very likely could, if it’s a very speculative asset,” he said.

Make use of tax-sheltered accounts

Tax-sheltered accounts work in a way that any contributions or income made are not taxable.

Examples in Canada include a Tax-Free Savings Account, a First Home Savings Account and a Registered Retirement Savings Plan, in which you can typically hold Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs), stocks, bonds and mutual funds.

TFSAs are typically recommended to students because they don’t require a specific investment goal, whereas FHSAs are meant for first-time home buyers and RRSPs are for those saving for retirement, as money is taxed upon withdrawal.

Invest through robo-advisers, it’s cheaper

Robo-advisers such as Wealthsimple and Questrade are automated investing software that help you manage your portfolio from a “do-it-yourself” approach. They generally charge lower fees than banks, but give less personalized advice than investment advisers and wealth managers.

When picking a broker, students should look out for “the number of trades that they’re allowed to do with any specific account, the management fees that might be charged or even a minimum investment required,” said Natasha Macmillan,’s director of everyday banking.

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