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We recently explained in detail how to set up a brokerage account, but to recap: A brokerage account is a bit like a savings account — you can move money in and out freely — except you use the money to buy stocks or other investments, and those investments aren’t FDIC insured. Some of the most popular online stock brokers — which allow you to trade stocks at a discount compared to traditional brokerage houses — include Scottrade, E*TRADE, and Charles Schwab.
Traditional advisors: Having a professional oversee your investments can help you keep your sights set on long-term goals, so you might want to consider hiring a financial planner. If you plan to hire one, make sure he is a fee-only financial advisor. A fee-only advisor doesn’t earn commissions based on product sales, meaning he has fewer conflicts of interest and can provide more comprehensive advice.
"In a bygone era, there would be an investing club or a group getting together for breakfast at Denny's," Reeves says. These would allow new investors to learn from more experienced ones. Today, people may have to look elsewhere, such as in Facebook groups, to get that type of mentoring and education. Other resources, such as Online Trading Academy and the mobile app invstr, let people participate in simulated stock trading so they can experience the process firsthand without putting any money on the line.
These days, there's really no reason to avoid opening a brokerage account. Those of you worried about rehypothecation risk should opt to open a cash-only brokerage account, not a margin account. Make sure you are covered by SIPC insurance. If you are smart about the firm with which you are working and are only buying ordinary domestic common stocks, you can probably get away with trading costs and commissions for less than a trip to your favorite coffee shop.
After you've decided the way you want to acquire your investment assets, your next decision regards where those investments will be held. This decision can have a major impact on how your investments are taxed, so it's not a decision to be made lightly. Your choices include taxable brokerage accounts, Traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, Simple IRAs, SEP-IRA, and maybe even family limited partnerships (which can have some estate tax and gift tax planning benefits if implemented correctly).
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However, the other option is to buy individual stocks, and that brings both more risk and more potential reward. If you pick a great stock, it can soar over time and produce immense returns. If you choose the wrong stock, you can lose your entire investment. That's why building a diversified portfolio with multiple stocks is a must in order to protect against an unforeseen event that could hit one of your stocks hard.
Making a list will also help if you are saving for your children’s future. For example, do you want to send your children to a private school or college? Do you want to buy them cars? Would you prefer public schools and using the extra money for something else? Having a clear idea of what you value will help you establish goals for savings and investment.
Other ways of gaining exposure to real estate include collateralized mortgage obligations (CMOs) and collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), which are mortgages that have been bundled into securitized instruments. These, however, are tools for sophisticated investors: their transparency and quality can vary greatly, as revealed during the 2008 downturn.
Typically, you put “pre-tax” money into these accounts, which means you don’t pay income tax on those dollars. Any money invested grows without tax until you ultimately withdraw it for living expenses in retirement. As you withdraw funds, you will pay income tax on the withdrawals. However, most people are in a lower tax bracket in retirement so pay lower rates.
Now if you're wondering how many shares of a company you should aim to purchase, the answer is, it depends on the share price and the amount of money you have to work with. Technically speaking, you can invest in a company by buying just a single share of its stock. However, because you'll typically pay a fee or commission for each transaction you make, it's often preferable to buy multiple shares of a company at a time. Purchasing multiple shares also allows you to profit more when a company's stock price rises. If you buy a single share of a stock for $100 and it climbs to $150, you stand to make $50. That's not a whole lot. But if you own 20 shares, you'll be looking at $1,000.
This leaves the $1,000-investor with the option of a discount broker. Discount brokers have considerably lower fees, but don't expect much in the way of hand-holding. Fees are low because you are in charge of all investment decisions – you can't call up and ask for investment advice. With $1,000, you are right on the cusp in terms of the minimum deposit. There will be some discount brokers that will take you and others that won't. You'll have to shop around.
In addition to attractive pricing, Ally offers a quality platform that gives you access to the entire universe of stocks and ETFs. Where some discount brokers focus on only one kind of trader (for example, options traders or high-net-worth investors), Ally Invest provides an excellent experience for investors of all kinds. A focus on discounted costs can sometimes be a red flag for quality, but Ally Invest truly delivers with sophisticated calculators, profit-loss estimators, and more. Ally Invest also offers a robust research library that incorporates visual slides and interactive media into its market data.
Not if you can supply your own financial acumen and practical level-headedness. If you are not clueless about finances, or if you're personally acquainted with someone with considerable financial experience to share with you, there's no need to pay for advice. Having said that, however, the more money you have at risk, the more an advisor is worth hiring.
How much money should I invest in stocks? If you’re investing through funds — have we mentioned this is our preference? — you can allocate a fairly large portion of your portfolio toward stock funds, especially if you have a long time horizon. A 30-year-old investing for retirement might have 80% of his or her portfolio in stock funds; the rest would be in bond funds. Individual stocks are another story. We’d recommend keeping these to 10% or less of your investment portfolio.
ETFs, on the other hand, trade like stocks, making them easy to add to your investment portfolio. There are no minimums for these securities, though their strategies vary equally. Many ETFs follow well known indexes from the S&P 500 or the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Others track collections of stocks that concentrate on industries like healthcare, technology or materials.