You need the best investment guide you can find in this messed up economy and tough investment environment. You’ll also need a good guide to investing for beginners to navigate the rough waters ahead. Investing has never been more difficult or confusing. It’s time to learn how to invest, and here’s how to go about it.First, you’ll need to get a handle on the investment universe including any investments you might already own. This is not that difficult if you have a good investment guide, since there are only 4 basic investment alternatives out there. Second, you’ll need to learn how to invest and put together a sound investment strategy that will work for you in both good times and bad. That’s what a good guide to investing for beginners can do for you.In other words, learning how to invest successfully over the long term is a two step process. Skip step number one and you won’t understand step two. Without step two you won’t be able to put the investment knowledge you learned in step one into action. Up front I stated that now is a tough time to invest. Now I’ll back that up with my 35 years of investing experience, in terms of the 4 basic investment alternatives available to all investors. Consider this a mini investment guide and a wake up call. Investing for beginners is no picnic today.Your 4 basic investment alternatives in order of safest to riskiest: safe investments, bonds, stocks, and alternative investments. Safe investments like bank accounts and money funds pay interest, and these days they don’t pay much. The score in late summer 2010: 1-yr. CDs at less than 1% and money funds at less than.05%, or one-twentieth of 1%. This is not normal, and is in fact downright scary. The government can hardly push rates lower to stimulate the economy as they’ve done in past years. We are already looking at zero interest rates in the money markets.In order to earn higher interest income of 3% or more, average investors are moving money into bonds in the form of bond funds, which are not really safe investments. Simply put, when interest rates go UP, the value of bonds go DOWN. That’s a basic investment fact you can count on – interest rate risk. If you believe that interest rates will fluctuate as they always have and will go up in the not-too-distant future, bonds are not exactly great investment alternatives at this time. With two down and two to go, we move into the riskier choices that involve assuming the risk of ownership in order to earn higher returns.Any guide to investing for beginners can point out that on average, over the long term, stocks have returned about 10% a year. The problem is that over the past 10 years the average investor would have done better with his or her money in safe investments in the bank. And over the past 3 years, a loss of about 10% a year was common for the stock funds that invest money for millions of average investors. Investor confidence in the economy and the stock market is not high, as billions of dollars are being pulled out of stock funds and moved someplace else (like to bond and money funds) in search of greater safety.In the past when uncertainty was high and confidence in the stock market was low, smart investors turned to other (alternative) investments like real estate to find opportunity. That’s been a problem this time around, because the financial system seems unable to get the traction needed get things moving again. High unemployment won’t go away and millions of mortgages are “under water”, as people decide to just walk away from their financial obligations. Gold and silver have done well compared to other investment alternatives. If history is any guide to investing, that’s not exactly a cheerful note. People buy and hoard gold in times of fear and desperation.Out of our 4 basic choices, none looks like a screaming BUY opportunity. Some of the best minds in the investment world are suggesting that investors need to start viewing the investing game differently and lower their expectations. I suggest that you start with the basics and curl up with a good investment guide on a rainy day. Then, you’ll want to follow up and learn how to invest with a guide to investing written for beginners. Once you start to get up to speed you might even begin to enjoy the challenge. And make no mistake about it… investing today is a challenge.