Own stocks directly instead of mutual funds, also known as unit trusts. There are two reasons why you should try to own stocks directly. First data show that funds generally do not out-perform the overall market over the long run.
Secondly funds charge management fees which can take up a large chunk of your returns. The fee might seem little, say 2% of funds managed, but over a long time, it might take away one-third of your net worth. Example: if you invest $1,000 a month over 30 years, you should have about $2.24 million assuming 10% return per annum, but deduction of fees at 2% each period will cut your net worth to only $1.48 million.
Invest your own time for research and analysis; if possible avoid paying for advice. If you buy stocks a few times a year, the time commitment should not be too onerous. Learn where you can get free information, directly from the company you are studying, from public sources, and from free brokerage reports. Reuters. Yahoo Finance. Google Finance.
Minimize stock-broking commissions. Just like management fees for mutual funds, commissions to brokers can take up a large chunk of your wealth. Go for discount brokers, especially where you can trade through the internet. The technology nowadays connects you directly to the ‘trading floor’.
Trade sparingly. Each transaction involves not only the commission but usually the buy-ask spread. Sell a stock and buy another only when the latter appears to offer convincing value.
If you cannot do the above, buy Exchanged Traded Funds. These trade like individual stocks except they actually represent a basket of stocks, pay dividends, and are managed to mimic a specific market index.
Caveat: Not every one may have the scale, time or skill for investing directly. If you cannot do the above, then Buy funds with low management expense ratio (MER) if you have to buy into a mutual fund.