To invest in stocks, think of them as you might your privately held businesses, and remember there are three ways you can make money investing in a stock. Plainly, this means focusing on the price you are paying relative to the risk-adjusted cash flows the asset is generating. Discover how to calculate enterprise value, calculate the gross profit margin and operating profit margin, and compare them to other business in the same sector or industry. Read the income statement and balance sheet. Look at the asset management companies, which hold large stakes, to figure out the types of co-owners with which you are dealing.
In addition to stock and bonds, you may want to consider alternative types of investments. The power of investing in alternative investments provides additional diversification to your portfolio. Stocks and bonds are becoming more correlated (linked) which increase the volatility of your investments – so relying on just one stock to invest in isn’t a good approach. Alternatives such as real estate investment trusts, currencies and gold and other investments provide.

THE STOCK MARKET ENDED 2016 with a series of record-high days, and the Dow Jones industrial average has continued to inch toward a milestone level of 20,000. Soaring stock prices may have some people wishing they could get in on the action, but the process of buying, selling and trading stocks can be intimidating. Fortunately, it doesn't have to be that complicated.


The most important thing you can do is get an investing education first. Learn the basics of the stock market and if there is something that you don’t quite understand, ask. That’s the secret to successful investing for beginners. A good place to start is by reading Rule #1. It gives a great foundation to investing principles used by Warren Buffett and other great investors.

Understand the commodities market. When you invest in something like a stock or a bond, you invest in the business represented by that security. The piece of paper you get is worthless, but what it promises is valuable. A commodity, on the other hand, is something of inherent value, something capable of satisfying a need or desire. Commodities include pork bellies (bacon), coffee beans, oil, natural gas, and potash, among many other items. The commodity itself is valuable, because people want and use it.


Index funds. Companies like Charles Schwab don't have a minimum balance requirement for index funds. Take your $100 and invest in a variety of stocks. The basic index fund follows the S&P 500, but you can find many more. Index funds offer the diversification every portfolio should have. You'll likely have appreciating and depreciating stocks. The hope is that the appreciation is more than the depreciation so you still see a profit.
In third place, earning a recommendation based on its platform alone, is E*TRADE. E*TRADE's web-based trading platform, Power E*TRADE, is a great environment for any beginner stock trader. It's easy to navigate, fast, and includes usability upgrades perfect for new investors like paper (practice) trading. Use E*TRADE's website to conduct research, watch educational videos, and read a large selection of articles covering the full spectrum of investment-related topics. Read full review
Dividend reinvestment programs are often coupled with cash investment options that resemble direct stock purchase plans so you can regularly have money withdrawn from your checking or savings account, or send in one-time payments whenever you feel like, perhaps as little as $25, buying more shares of stock in a business as you might purchase something from a mail-order catalog.
Diversification is considered to be the only free lunch in investing. (If you are new to this concept, check out Introduction To Diversification, The Importance Of Diversification and A Guide To Portfolio Construction.) In a nutshell, by investing in a range of assets, you reduce the risk of one investment's performance severely hurting the return of your overall investment. You could think of it as financial jargon for "don't put all of your eggs in one basket".
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You will want to build a solid foundation for your investments. This includes having a large base of stocks. One of the easiest places to start if you only have enough for one investment is to purchase a mutual fund or ETF in the S&P500. This provides access to the largest 500 companies in the United States. Then, you can branch out into other investments such as the Total US Stock Market Index and the Total International Stock Market Index. However, diversification is not only within stocks but also though different asset classes such as Bonds and international stocks/bonds. Always, consult a professional to create an investment portfolio tailored to your needs.
For example, depending on your age and risk tolerance, you might want to have some of your portfolio invested in bond funds, growth and income funds, and international funds. You may also want to consider high dividend stocks among your individual stock holdings. Income earning securities tend to be less volatile than pure growth stocks, particularly in bear markets. You’ll want to develop a balance between your growth assets, and your income- or growth and income-holdings.
Cash accounts -- This is the most basic type of brokerage account. Investors who use a cash account have to pay the full amount for any investments purchased. Thus, if you want to buy $5,000 of stock, you’ll have to have $5,000 in your account (plus any commissions to place the trade). Some brokers automatically sign up customers for a cash account, and “upgrade” the account to another type if a client requests it later.
2. Robo Advisor: Outside of a 401(k) there are other options. One of the easiest and least expensive options is an automated investing service, which has become known as a robo advisor.  These services typically cost around 25 basis points plus the cost of the underlying ETFs. The only decision an investor must make is how much to invest in stocks and how much in bonds. Once that decision is made, the robo advisor takes care of the rest, including rebalancing and dividend reinvestment.
In picking those individual stocks, there are many different yet equally promising strategies you can follow. Some investors concentrate on dividend-paying stocks to provide them with relative safety and security from their stock portfolio, along with regular income that they can use either to cover cash needs or to reinvest into buying additional shares of stock. Value investing involves finding underappreciated stocks whose prices are at a discount to the true intrinsic value of the underlying business, and well-known investors like Warren Buffett have used value-investing tenets to produce strong returns.
There are some gender differences, too. Men are generally more confident about investing, while women are more goal-directed and trade less. Women tend to keep 10 percent more of their savings in cash than our male counterparts. Millennial women report a lower level of financial comfort. On average, we are less likely to feel “in control” or “confident” about our financial future. And, women generally have a smaller total invested when we retire —all because we earn less.

Figuring out how to invest in stocks starts with learning the fundamentals of investing. Once you are comfortable with how investing works, the next step is to choose the companies you wish to buy. This is the step that can make or break you as an investor, and we will cover later how you can go about choosing companies that will bring you success.


We think a low minimum to open an account is a real advantage when you’re just starting out. That’s because you can start with…say, $500, and then add to your balance over time with monthly or annual contributions to your account. For most people, the hardest step in investing is just getting started, so we prefer brokers who have a low minimum to open an account and place a trade, so as to avoid a potential roadblock on the way to saving and investing.
When you elect to contribute to a 401(k), the money will go directly from your paycheck into the account without ever making it to your bank. Most 401(k) contributions are made pretax. Some 401(k)s today will place your funds by default in a target-date fund — more on those below — but you may have other choices. Here’s how to invest in your 401(k).
The other way to make money on stocks is to hold your shares and collect dividends. A dividend is a portion of a company's earnings that's distributed to shareholders. Dividends are typically paid quarterly, though companies don't have to pay them. That said, if you buy stocks issued by a company with a long history of paying dividends, you can come to expect a pretty reliable income stream. For example, today, Verizon's (NYSE:VZ) dividend yields 5%, which means that for every $100 you have invested in shares, you'd get back $5.
With that in mind, there are certain types of stocks that make excellent long-term investments, especially for beginners. There are many things to look for in your first stock investments, but just to name a few: You'll want to learn basic ways to value stocks, identify durable competitive advantages, and understand how a business makes money. Of course, our writers at The Motley Fool regularly suggest some good beginner stocks, like these examples.

Remember that since these types of brokers provide absolutely no investment advice, stock tips or any type of investment help, you're on your own to manage your investments. The only assistance you will usually receive is technical support. Online (discount) brokers do offer investment-related links, research, and resources that can be useful. If you feel you are knowledgeable enough to take on the responsibilities of managing your own investments or you don't know anything about investing but want to teach yourself, then this is the way to go.

The goal of your financial adviser/broker is to keep you as a client so that they can continue to make money off of you. They tell you to diversify so that your portfolio follows the Dow and the S&P 500. That way, they will always have an excuse when it goes down in value. The average broker/adviser has very little knowledge of the underlying economics of business. Warren Buffett is famous for saying, "Risk is for people who don't know what they're doing."

It’s a tumultuous time for online stock brokers. The players have largely remained the same, but between significant cuts in commissions and a few major acquisitions (E*TRADE acquired OptionsHouse; TD Ameritrade and Scottrade merged; Ally Invest now lives under Ally Bank), the competition is on its toes. We leveraged seasoned expertise to dig into 13 of the most popular online stock trading sites; here's what we found important.

Disclaimer: It is our organization's primary mission to provide reviews, commentary, and analysis that are unbiased and objective. While StockBrokers.com has all data verified by industry participants, it can vary from time to time. Operating as an online business, this site may be compensated through third party advertisers. Our receipt of such compensation shall not be construed as an endorsement or recommendation by StockBrokers.com, nor shall it bias our reviews, analysis, and opinions. Please see our General Disclaimers for more information.
How do financial planners help? Planners are professionals whose job is to invest your money for you, ensure that your money is safe, and guide you in your financial decisions. They draw from a wealth of experience at allocating resources. Most importantly, they have a financial stake in your success: the more money you make under their tutelage, the more money they make.
The third priority for most people is to max out a 401(k) or TSP. Not taking advantage of this tax advantage means leaving money on the table. There could be some exceptions, like if you are planning to retire super-early, or if your employer’s 401(k) plan is really bad, or if you’re strongly interested in real estate investing and want to elevate that on the list of priorities.
Investing when you’re young is one of the best ways to see solid returns on your money. You probably can’t count on Social Security to provide enough income for a comfortable retirement, so having your own long-term savings will be crucial. Even for shorter-term financial goals (like buying a home), investments that earn higher returns than a traditional savings account could be useful.
If you have the option to do so, gaining full employer matching from a 401(k) or Thrift Savings Plan is the highest priority, because it’s essentially a 100% return on your investment up front, assuming they give you the typical 5% matching if you contribute 5% of your salary. Also, it’s tax-advantaged and automatic; it comes out of your paycheck before you get your hands on it, which is a strategy called “paying yourself first”.

That means you can start with as little as 1% of each paycheck, though it’s a good idea to aim for contributing at least as much as your employer match. For example, a common matching arrangement is 50% of the first 6% of your salary you contribute. To capture the full match in that scenario, you would have to contribute 6% of your salary each year. But you can work your way up to that over time.
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