Learn about mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Mutual funds and ETFs are similar investment vehicles in that each is a collection of many stocks and/or bonds (hundreds or thousands in some cases). Holding an individual security is a concentrated way of investing – the potential for gain or loss is tied to a single company – whereas holding a fund is a way to spread the risk across many companies, sectors or regions. Doing so can dampen the upside potential but also serves to protect against the downside risk.

Caution: Some brokerages will require a minimum initial deposit. Schwab, for example, requires $1,000 to start with. Others, such as Ameritrade, have no minimum at all. If you have only a little money to start out with, you will want to check on this requirement before going through all the virtual paperwork of setting up an account. But once you've met the minimum for your particular broker, you're ready to start trading.
Roth IRA. "My first and strongly encouraged piece of advice to the new investor would be to open a Roth IRA," McKaig says. "Roth IRAs offer new investors several benefits, chief among them the ability to receive tax-free income later in life," he adds. "The government does not tax either the contributions or the earnings growth when the funds are withdrawn in retirement. That can result in a pretty significant nest egg after decades of compounding growth."

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If you’re wondering how to invest in stocks online, we’ve got some good news for you – it’s easier than ever. You can open either an IRA, brokerage account, micro investing service, or other investment account type. You may want to consider the tax implications for the type of investing account you set up. For example, IRA accounts may be best for retirement while a taxable brokerage account is generally more flexible and may provide more investment options. You will also want to look into which investment products (stocks, mutual funds or ETFs) can be purchased with the type of account you open. Plus, as you build your wealth, a taxable brokerage with Ally Invest (formerly Trade King) can be used for investing more than your maximum yearly contribution. Alternatively, Betterment is a great option that can manage it for you. If you’d like to invest online, these stocks 101 tools help you to build knowledge and confidence.
How can a Roth IRA grow like this? By compound interest. The return on your investment, as well as reinvested interest, dividends and capital gains, are added to your original investment such that any given rate of return will produce a larger profit through accelerated growth. If you are earning an average compound annual rate of return of 7.2%, your money will double in ten years. (This is known as "the rule of 72.")
Although people may be eager to own a piece of Apple (ticker: AAPL) or Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), new investors should remember they don't have to buy individual stocks if they want money in the market. "I'm a big believer in index funds," says Adam Bergman, a senior tax partner with IRA Financial Group. "They do a really good job for the novice investor."
You editors of these financial info pieces should STOP saying that tax deferred means NO taxes incurred as you did in the last sentence. I have read this over and over in various info articles and it is NOT correct. You will pay the taxes, just not annually, you wait until you take distributions; but you will pay taxes on tax deferred accounts such as IRA at some point. To DEFER is to DELAY or POSTPONE not eliminate!
This book has good intentions with plenty of information for beginners, however don't feel bad if you get a little lost when some of the terminology and assumption that all of it has been explained thoroughly. A glossary in the back is extremely helpful when dealing with new terms that I had no idea of what to do with like price/earning ratio, ETF, hedging fund expenses, etc. The plus side is the extensive step by step explanations of how to do pretty much anything like choosing a broker, selecting funds vs. stocks and more. The World's Worst Stock Investment Advice
Investing in stocks for beginners is all about finding stable stocks that have a high chance of gaining value and low chance of dropping. To do this, you should look for businesses with a strong track record. Companies that show their stocks have increased in value over time, and are continuing to do so. This shows you there’s some stability there, and that you won’t be investing in stocks from a business that’s been up and down for years.
In terms of the beginning investor, the mutual fund fees are actually an advantage relative to the commissions on stocks. The reason for this is that the fees are the same, regardless of the amount you invest. Therefore, as long as you meet the minimum requirement to open an account, you can invest as little as $50 or $100 per month in a mutual fund. The term for this is called dollar cost averaging (DCA), and it can be a great way to start investing.
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.

What's surprising to many investors is that this simple philosophy actually works better than alternatives. Many people believe that frequent trading is the key to making money in the stock market, and day-trading techniques purport to show people how to get rich quickly by counting on buying and selling shares quickly at small profits that add up over time. However, the vast majority of frequent traders lose money over any given year, and one research report found that fewer than 1% of day traders find ways to make money consistently on a regular basis.
Other industries perform well in poor or falling economies. These industries and companies are usually not as affected by the economy. For example, utilities and insurance companies are usually less affected by consumer confidence, because people still have to pay for electricity and health insurance. These industries and companies are known as “defensive” or “counter-cyclical.” [21]
An exchange-traded fund (ETF) is a type of index fund that trades like a stock. ETFs are unmanaged portfolios (where stocks are not continuously bought and sold as with actively managed funds) and can often be traded without commission. You can buy ETFs that are based on a specific index, or based on a specific industry or commodity, such as gold. [27] ETFs are another good choice for beginners.
The direction of interest rates and inflation, and how these may affect any fixed-income or equity purchases. [17] When interest rates are low, more consumers and businesses have access to money. Consumers have more money to make purchases, so they usually buy more. This leads to higher company revenues, which allows companies to invest in expansion. Thus, lower interest rates lead to higher stock prices. In contrast, higher interest rates can decrease stock prices. High interest rates make it more difficult or expensive to borrow money. Consumers spend less, and companies have less money to invest. Growth may stall or decline. [18]
Certificates of deposit. These are among the safest investments because they are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Because the United States is insuring your money, it's impossible to lose money in a CD. If you put $1,000 into a CD, the only risk you're taking is that if you need the money, you won't be able to access it without paying a penalty until the time period is up. For instance, if you invest money in a 1-year CD, you can't get that $1,000 for another year without paying a penalty that typically includes about six months' worth of interest.
I view it like the proliferation of processed foods- for several decades, processed foods have grown in popularity, due to their cheapness and convenience. But as a consequence, we became very detached from our food, obesity and diabetes rates utterly skyrocketed, our soil is reduced and damaged, we’ve badly stressed the financial sustainability of our healthcare system, and we’ve treated animals like factory products, keeping them sick and confined and laden with antibiotics to keep them alive in hellish conditions.
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.

Shouldn’t I just choose the cheapest broker? Trading costs definitely matter to active and high-volume traders. If you’re a high-volume trader — buying bundles of 100 to 500 shares at a time, for example — Interactive Brokers and TradeStation are cost-effective options. Ally Invest offers $3.95 trades ($1 off full price) for investors who place more than 30 trades a quarter.  Commissions are less of a factor for buy-and-hold investors, a strategy we recommend for the majority of people. Most brokers charge from $5 to $7 per trade. But other factors — access to a range of investments or training tools — may be more valuable than saving a few bucks when you purchase shares.
The stock market rises over the long term. From 1871 to 2014, the S&P 500's compound annual growth rate was 9.77%, a rate of return many investors would find attractive. The challenge is to stay invested long-term while weathering the ups and downs in order to achieve this average: the standard deviation for this period was 19.60%, which means some years saw returns as high as 29.37% while other years experienced losses as large as 9.83%. [10] Set your sights on the long term, not the short. If you're worried about all the dips along the way, find a graphical representation of the stock market over the years and hang it somewhere you can see whenever the market is undergoing its inevitable–and temporary–declines.

Over the past few months I have had the opportunity to talk with three first-time investors. In addition to my friend's daughter mentioned above, I've also spoken with two friends in their twenties. One had never invested. The other had a 403(b), but really no idea how to create an investment plan or how to evaluate the mutual funds in his retirement account.
Sometimes, companies are impacted by forces that are even beyond their control. Samsung could have issues making screens and that could delay the release of the iPad with negative effects on the stock price. Increased or decreased taxes on imported components of the device could impact the price and sales of a device, which in turn could sway the market feeling about a company.

A simplified look at a successful investment is one where an investor buys a company at X amount of dollars, holds on to the company for an extended period of time until its value has grown to the point that they feel comfortable selling it, and then sells it for a profit. If the company offers dividends, they may also accumulate profits along the way without having to sell any of their shares.
One way to “beat” the market is to invest on a regular basis. Instead of trying to time when the market is high or low, regular investing — known as dollar-cost averaging — will guarantee you’ll buy more shares when the market is low and fewer when it’s high. Over the long haul, this type of investing can make temporary market declines a good thing.
Buy undervalued assets ("buy low, sell high"). If you're talking about stocks and other assets, you want to buy when the price is low and sell when the price is high. If you buy 100 shares of stock on January 1st for $5 per share, and you sell those same shares on December 31st for $7.25, you just made $225. That may seem a paltry sum, but when you're talking about buying and selling hundreds or even thousands of shares, it can really add up.
At the other end of the spectrum, higher-risk companies can offer even bigger rewards for those who can find the best prospects. If you look at smaller companies' stocks, you can make discoveries early in a company's existence that can result in much higher returns than if you wait until a company is large enough to hit the radar screens of those in the mainstream investment community. Often, the stocks with the highest growth potential won't fit neatly into any one category, but even once the investing public starts to notice them and bids up their shares to what can appear to be extremely expensive levels, choosing the right stocks can leave you with opportunities for future gains.

These pooled mechanisms can take many forms. Some wealthy investors invest in hedge funds, but most individual investors will opt for vehicles like exchange-traded funds and index funds, which make it possible to buy diversified portfolios at much cheaper rates than they could have afforded on their own. The downside is a near total loss of control. If you invest in an ETF or mutual fund, you are along for the ride, outsourcing your decisions to a small group of people with the power to change your allocation.
You can think of investing in bonds as lending money to the government or a corporation, and in exchange, they pay you interest. Treasury bonds are very “safe” in that they are backed-up by the U.S. government. They also pay very little to hold them. Corporate bonds pay more interest, but they are more risky because just like stocks, the company could go bankrupt.

If mutual funds or bonds are investments you would like to make, it is simpler in terms of minimum deposit amounts. Both of these can be purchased through brokerage firms, where similar deposit rules apply as stocks. Mutual funds also can be purchased through your local bank, often for less than $1,000 when you have an existing relationship with the bank.

Now that you have a grip on investment basics and have decided to invest, how do you build the right portfolio? Let’s consider an all equity investment portfolio where you put 100% of your portfolio in stocks. Is this a good idea? Not exactly. Why? Because diversification allows you to avoid large losses and build long-term wealth. Consider starting with a portfolio that is 80% stocks (equities) and 20% bonds. One of the easiest ways to start your portfolio is to buy 80% of your portfolio in the Total Stock Market Index ETF (VTI) and 20% Total Bond Market Index (BND). Both ETFs are from Vanguard and offer low expense fees and ease of purchasing through any brokerage account.
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.
Real estate investing is nearly as old as mankind itself. There are several ways to make money investing in real estate, but it typically comes down to either developing something and selling it for a profit, or owning something and letting others use it in exchange for rent or lease payments. For a lot of investors, real estate has been a path to wealth because it more easily lends itself to using leverage. This can be bad if the investment turns out to be a poor one, but, applied to the right investment, at the right price, and on the right terms, it can allow someone without a lot of net worth to rapidly accumulate resources, controlling a far larger asset base than he or she could otherwise afford.
The performance data contained herein represents past performance which does not guarantee future results. Investment return and principal value will fluctuate so that shares, when redeemed, may be worth more or less than their original cost. Current performance may be lower or higher than the performance quoted. For performance information current to the most recent month end, please contact us.
Researching individual companies takes time, and sometimes, even if you perform your due diligence, you may come to find that a certain business has a bad year, gets nailed by a scandal, or experiences some other shakeup that causes its stock price to plummet. As an investor, that's clearly not good news. Therefore, when you think about buying stocks, it pays to load up on a wide range from a variety of industries in order to establish a diversified portfolio.And that's where investing in mutual funds can be advantageous.
John Jagerson is a CFA and CMT charter holder and a founder of Learning Markets, which provides analysis and education for individual and professional investors. He is an author or co-author of five books on investing, currencies, bonds, and stocks. John has appeared in outlets like Forbes.com, BBC Radio, Nasdaq.com, and CBS for his financial strategy expertise. After graduating with a B.S. in Business from Utah Valley University, John completed the PLD program at Harvard Business School. Once the markets close each day, he can be found back on his mountain bike or in his running shoes on the trails of the Wasatch Mountains near his home.
Along with competitive pricing, OptionsHouse has one of the most accessible platforms. Clean design and user-friendly tools help make heaps of information easier to digest. And automize: Trigger Alerts lets users set up their accounts to automatically purchase an order based on a particular scenario. For example, you can set an alert to buy any number of shares of one stock if its direct competitor falls by a certain percentage. When that’s triggered, you get an alert on any device that lets you confirm the purchase or ignore in one simple reply.
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.
If you’re saving for a short-term goal, like a down payment for a house in the next five years, the risk associated with stocks makes it more likely you’ll lose money in that time frame. That means the percentage of your investments in stocks will decrease. If the time separating you from that goal is less than five years, invest in a money market fund or a bond fund. Both will bring you lower returns than stocks but are safer places to put money in the short term.
How to get great advice: Feeling too intimidated to pick your first stock or fund? There are a lot of great -- and cheap -- services that will do it for you. Betterment and Wealthfront are good examples. They use computer models to figure out the best portfolio mix for you based on your age, income, goals and tax situation and they will invest your money for you.
The one truth is that in the long term, productivity will go up so over the long term so will the stock market. This graph is on a roughly 100-year scale. It’s easy to understand all zoomed out but when you’re in the thick of it, it’s hard to see where you are in the cycle. Don’t worry, all you need to do is hold on the long-term and you will do just fine.