Some of our readers are already advanced investors. But the reason I’m still writing is that almost nobody I which vanguard fund to invest in 2017 in day-to-day life knows anything about investing, the stock market, or big publicly-traded companies in general. Their opinions on the subject range throughout boredom, fear, mistrust, and if they are lucky, curiosity.

Here are three real quotes I have heard from friends over time when discussing the stock market. Stocks are just a big roulette wheel. I don’t know what my retirement money is in. I’m dedicated enough to do my own research and I can pick winning individual stocks. All three of these approaches are understandable, but wrong. The sentiments are valid and I’m glad that people at least have an opinion, but each represents a lack of knowledge about the statistics that run the whole system. Knowing the nature of the market is the key to being able to invest huge sums of your money over time with the absolute confidence that you’re not doing anything stupid.

It’s worth gaining this confidence, because investing knowledgeably in stocks has always been the single best thing to do with your money in terms of getting lifetime income with absolutely no effort on your part. It’s a slice of a company that you truly own. This share of earnings is called a Dividend. Why do stocks go up and down so much? The true value of a stock is based on the amount of dividends this stock will eventually pay you, the shareholder, over time. That dividend depends entirely on how much money the company will make.