How to invest a small sum of money?

JUST ASK: How to invest a small sum of money?
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Written by Leong Chan Teik
Friday, 01 January 2010 14:00
In this new, occasional series titled Just Ask, we invite readers to send in questions on stock investing, and personal finance. We will ask an expert to provide answers. Below is a question from a reader and a response from Leong Sze Hian, the President of the Society of Financial Service Professionals. We had a follow-up question for Sze Hian, who has a remarkable string of credentials (please see bottom of the article).

Q: I like to know how much should i allocate to ETF if i only have a small sum of money for investment. Should i put the money into many different stocks or is it recommended to put in just 1 stock like ETF?


Leong Sze Hian, President of the Society of Financial Service Professionals.

Leong Sze Hian: Since you have a small sum (what is small to you, may be large to me, Ha Ha), from the perspective of transaction costs, it may not be cost effective to invest in stocks. 

One would need about $5,000 per stock, to keep the transaction cost low. To achieve diversification of at least 10 stocks in each country/region, one would need quite a bit of money to invest.

Whilst ETFs provide diversification within a market, like STI, S & P, etc, just a single ETF would not meet the requirements of a globally diversified portfolio of different asset classes.

The same $5,000 per ETF holds true to keep transaction costs low. To build a diversified portfolio, one would need several ETFs in different equity markets, natural resources, real estate, bonds, etc.

NextInsight: Does that mean one should not invest until one has a ‘meaningful’ amount of savings? If yes, how much?

Leong Sze Hian: Even if one has just $1,000, it is possible to start investing – such as in one global
balanced investment fund.

But to have a globally diversified portfolio, one would need at least $5,000 or $10,000.  

If one is using ETFs, the amount may have to be much more, say about $50,000.

Recent article: JUST ASK: How to earn 5% a year, more or less assured? 

About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as the president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), Hotel Mumbai (associate producer), invited to speak more than 200 times in about 40 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of 2 countries. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.