The new year is still fresh, and it's the perfect time to start checking things off your resolution list -- like getting more financially fit.
If you're keeping your savings in low-return but "safe" investments, you need to get your money off the sidelines and into some better-performing stocks. But with the risks involved in the equities markets, you want to buy into stocks you can trust.
No stock is risk-free, but below, you'll find 13 ideas for beginning investors to get their feet wet in the market.
This childhood favorite is a lot more than theme parks and cartoons. With ABC and sports powerhouse ESPN under its corporate umbrella, Disney is a media giant. Over the past decade, it bought Pixar and Marvel Entertainment, and Disney's recent pickup of Lucasfilm will give the House of Mouse access to the blockbuster "Star Wars" franchise for years to come.
As a Starbucks shareholder, seeing lines around the corner for coffee will put a smile on your face. Consumers still seem happy to spend big money on its java, and its new growth initiatives are aimed at expanding its sales of juices, tea and baked goods, too.
IBM may be best known for its computer hardware, but the company has diversified to become a one-stop shop for IT services, and IBM has enjoyed better profits as a result of that strategic shift. As it gets more involved in the hot cloud-computing area, look for even more opportunities ahead.
You may drive by the biggest U.S. energy company's gas stations every day, but the oil giant's operations go well beyond the pumps around the corner. ExxonMobil's extensive global oil- and gas-exploration operations are leaving no stone unturned looking for new sources of fossil fuels. Owning some ExxonMobil stock lets you profit from those high prices you've been paying at the pump for so long.
Apple products may never seem to be available at a discount, but Apple's stock is a relative bargain these days. With shares more than 25 percent off their recent highs, some analysts fear that Apple's best market-cap growth may be behind it. But with the latest iPhone, along with new products in its iPad and Mac lines, Apple has bright enough prospects to lure value investors into looking closely at the stock.
With dozens of consumer products bringing in upwards of $1 billion in annual sales, Procter & Gamble is a household name around the world. Investors will especially like P&G's dividend record: 56 straight years of payout increases, giving shareholders consistent, reliable income.
Johnson & Johnson is ubiquitous in medicine cabinets and hospitals everywhere, thanks to products from Band-Aids and Tylenol to high-end medical equipment and pharmaceuticals. Plagued by recalls in recent years, J&J nonetheless has an impressive dividend yield of 3.5 percent and has given long-term investors half a century of annual dividend increases to boot.
Beverage giant Coca-Cola has the No. 1 brand in the world, and it's made the most of it by expanding across the globe to find new growth opportunities. Sales in North America have been less than stellar, but with emerging economies increasingly interested in the kinds of consumer products that the developed world takes for granted, Coke has huge potential to become as widely consumed around the world as it is domestically.
Warren Buffett may be in his 80s, but the Oracle of Omaha is still a force to be reckoned with in the investing world. With the company's recent decision to repurchase shares near their current price, new shareholders can feel confident that the stock's a good value right now in the eyes of at least one renowned investing guru.
Best-known for innovations like Post-it Notes, 3M is actually a massive conglomerate doing business in defense, health care, and electronics as well as office supplies. With its 2.5 percent dividend yield and 54 years of consecutive annual payout increases, shareholders will like the way 3M treats them.
This beverage company's name may not be familiar to you, but if you drink even occasionally, you certainly know its brands: Guinness, Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff, Captain Morgan and many, many more. This British alcohol giant has some of the strongest brands in the world and has been expanding across the globe in search of new growth opportunities. In a recession-resistant business, Diageo is a powerhouse.
McDonald's has been the king of fast food for decades, but the company has also been nimble, getting into smoothies and premium coffee at exactly the right time. The stock has historically done well during tough times, so owning it gives your portfolio some protection from a possible downturn.
Dubbed "Whole Paycheck" by many, Whole Foods has nevertheless captured a loyal customer base with its organic food and other healthy offerings. The stock isn't cheap either, but with plenty of untapped growth potential, Whole Foods is worth paying a little extra for.
Now you have a baker's dozen strong options to choose from, so get 2013 off on the right foot by putting your money to work. The stock market will have its ups and downs this year -- as it does every year -- but over the long haul, stocks have a great chance of outperforming the minuscule returns you're getting from your savings accounts and CDs.
Motley Fool contributor Dan Caplinger owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. You can follow him on Twitter @DanCaplinger. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Berkshire Hathaway, Disney, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, McDonald's, Starbucks, Whole Foods, and ExxonMobil, and has the options positions on Starbucks. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Apple, Berkshire Hathaway, Diageo, Disney, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Coca-Cola, McDonald's, 3M, Procter & Gamble, Starbucks, and Whole Foods.