If you don't know where you're going, you might wind up somewhere else.
Investing isn't terribly difficult, but it's a specialized area that requires careful navigation. A huge industry has evolved to use a multitude of clever ways to separate people from part of their retirement savings without necessarily providing much benefit in return. In simple terms, this means that neither your broker nor any of the array of experts on Wall Street is necessarily your friend or even on your side.
Think of investing as a journey. You start at one place and head for another. If you want to drive from California to Michigan quickly and painlessly, there are relatively few choices that make sense. Most will probably draw heavily on the interstate highways. But imagine how hard it would be to plan such a trip if sales forces for several hundred competing highways were giving you tantalizing promises, saying they could get you there better and faster if you would just choose their routes.
Investing is a little bit like that: The best route may be efficient though boring. Yet along the way there are hundreds of distractions and opportunities to get you off the track. Most people have a tough time making good investment decisions. They don't have the necessary training or the knowledge. The difficulty of understanding all the options sometimes appears greater than the benefits of doing so. As a result, somewhere along the way almost every investor makes at least ...