However, do not equate the ease of opening an account with the ease of making good investment decisions. It is generally recommended that beginners speak to a qualified financial advisor. New investors should read "The Intelligent Investor" by Benjamin Graham. Smart investing can be highly satisfying so take it slow, do your research, and seek out an advisor that has your best interests in mind.

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.
Let’s say you’re interested in investing in Nike. If you look that up, the stock symbol is NKE on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). The first number you’ll probably notice on any financial news site with a stock tracker is the current share price. In the United States, this is measured in dollars and cents, but the units may vary depending on where in the world you’re investing. In London, for example, they measure stock prices in pence.
With this information in hand, you're ready to place your trade. Enter the stock symbol for the company you want to buy (or sell). Pick an action (buy or sell). Enter the number of shares you want to buy or sell, and confirm whether you're willing to pay whatever the current price is for that stock (that's a market order), or whether you're willing to wait and hope the stock reaches a specified price (a limit order).

Worth noting: A 401(k) is a type of investment account, and if you’re participating in one, you may already be invested in stocks, likely through mutual funds. However, a 401(k) won’t offer you access to individual stocks, and your choice in mutual funds will likely be quite limited. Employer matching dollars make it worth contributing despite a limited investment selection, but once you’re contributing enough to earn that match, you can consider investing through other accounts.
Speaking of which, don't react when the stock market takes a tumble. It may be disheartening to log on to your brokerage account and see that your portfolio value is lower one day than it was the week before, but remember this: Until you actually sell off your investments at a price that's less than what you paid for them, you're only looking at a loss on paper (or, in your case, a loss on screen). If you sit tight and wait for the value of your stocks to come back up, you won't lose a dime.
Once you identify a company that seems undervalued, the next step is to estimate its true value. One way is to calculate the present value of future cash flows. Most individual investors rely on professionals to make both the necessary estimates and the calculations. Keep in mind that all the players in the market have access to those same estimates, so they are often—but not always—baked into the price of the stock.
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.
Which brokerage offers the best educational videos? TD Ameritrade, hands down. TD Ameritrade's educational video library is made entirely in-house and provides hundreds of videos covering every investment topic imaginable, from stocks to ETFs, mutual funds, options, bonds, and even retirement. Progress tracking is also part of the learning experience.
Don't look at the value of your portfolio more than once a month. If you get caught up in the emotions of Wall Street, it will only tempt you to sell what could be an excellent long-term investment. Before you buy a stock, ask yourself, "if this goes down, am I going to want to sell or am I going to want to buy more of it?" Don't buy it if your answer is the former.
Do any brokers offer interactive learning, such as quizzes or similar? TD Ameritrade and Fidelity are both outstanding for providing unique, handcrafted courses that include individual lessons and roadmaps for learning about the markets. Quizzes to test your knowledge are scored and even tracked so you know if you've completed them or not. No other brokers come close to challenging TD Ameritrade and Fidelity in terms of interactive learning.
How to pick the right stock. While new investors don't need to worry too much about learning stock terms, experts do recommend they put in plenty of time researching which stock to buy. Annual reports and price-earnings ratios are helpful, but Reeves says his best piece of advice is for people to buy what they know. "Say I'm a doctor," he says. "It may make sense to invest in medical device companies because that's what I understand."
However, do not equate the ease of opening an account with the ease of making good investment decisions. It is generally recommended that beginners speak to a qualified financial advisor. New investors should read "The Intelligent Investor" by Benjamin Graham. Smart investing can be highly satisfying so take it slow, do your research, and seek out an advisor that has your best interests in mind.
The first and often easiest method of buying stock without a broker is in situations where companies, often blue chips, sponsor a special type of program called a DSPP, or Direct Stock Purchase Plan. These plans were originally conceived generations ago as a way for businesses to let smaller investors buy ownership directly from the company, working through a transfer agent or plan administrator responsible for dealing with the day-to-day paperwork and transactions. Most plans will allow investors to buy stock without a broker if they agree to either have a reasonable amount taken out of their checking or savings account every month for six months (often $50 is the acceptable minimum) or they make a one-time purchase, often $250 or $500.
Short selling can be dangerous, however, because it's not easy to predict a drop in price. If you use shorting for the purpose of speculation, be prepared to get burned sometimes. If the stock's price were to go up instead of down, you would be forced to buy the stock at a higher price than what was credited to you initially. If, on the other hand, you use shorting as a way to hedge your losses, it can actually be a good form of insurance.

It’s like reverse inflation: The hamburger you could buy for $1 when you were a kid would cost you $5 decades later. But you can’t store the $1 burger away for years and sell when it’s worth $5. Instead, you can buy shares in a bunch of companies involved in making that burger — the bun and beef manufacturers, packaging producers, retailers and restaurants (we’ll show you how in a moment) — and reap the rewards of their growth right alongside them.
There are three caveats, however. The first is that you will have to meet the minimum account balance required to open a brokerage account. The second is that the selection of commission-free ETFs is limited and, from a performance and strategy standpoint, you may be better off paying commissions to get the ETF you want. Three, both ETF and mutual fund capital gains and distributions can be subject to taxes, which hurts your realized returns. (You will not incur taxes on capital gains or dividends from for funds and stocks held in a tax-deferred account, such as an IRA. Taxes are due when a distribution is made from a traditional IRA account.)
An online brokerage account likely offers your quickest and least expensive path to buying stocks, funds and a variety of other investments. With a broker, you can open an individual retirement account, also known as an IRA — here are our top picks for IRA accounts — or you can open a taxable brokerage account if you’re already saving adequately for retirement elsewhere.
Schwab Trading Services™ includes access to StreetSmart® trading platforms, the Schwab Trading Community, and Schwab trading specialists (a Schwab brokerage account is required). There are no fees to use Schwab Trading Services. Other account fees, optional data fees, fund expenses, and brokerage commissions may apply. Schwab reserves the right to restrict or modify access at any time. Schwab brokerage account online applications that have the “Schwab Trading Services” box checked will automatically be enrolled. For questions, call 888-245-6864 to speak to a Schwab Trading Services representative.
Knowing how to secure your financial well-being is one of the most important things you’ll ever need in life. You don’t have to be a genius to do it. You just need to know a few basics, form a plan, and be ready to stick to it. There is no guarantee that you’ll make money from investments you make. But if you get the facts about saving and investing and follow through with an intelligent plan, you should be able to gain financial security over the years and enjoy the benefits of managing your money. For more information, SEC’s publication Saving and Investing: A Roadmap To Your Financial Security Through Saving and Investing.

The material provided by E*TRADE Financial Corporation or any of its direct or indirect subsidiaries (E*TRADE) or by a third party not affiliated with E*TRADE is for educational purposes only and is not an individualized recommendation. The information contained in the third-party material has not been endorsed or approved by E*TRADE, and E*TRADE is not responsible for the content. This information neither is, nor should be construed as, an offer or a solicitation of an offer to buy, sell, or hold any security, financial product, or instrument discussed herein or to engage in any specific investment strategy by E*TRADE.

Worth noting: A 401(k) is a type of investment account, and if you’re participating in one, you may already be invested in stocks, likely through mutual funds. However, a 401(k) won’t offer you access to individual stocks, and your choice in mutual funds will likely be quite limited. Employer matching dollars make it worth contributing despite a limited investment selection, but once you’re contributing enough to earn that match, you can consider investing through other accounts.
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.

Another thing to look for is businesses in a commanding position within their market. What this means is that they’re at the top of their pile, and their rivals can’t find a way to knock them off their perch. A good example of this is Google. They’re easily the number one search engine in the world and have the most-used web browser, advertising platforms, etc. It’s hard for competitors to unseat them at the top, which means their stock will more likely grow than drop.
Speaking of which, the stock market is well-known for being one of the best places to invest your money. However, many beginners will have absolutely no idea where to start. From the outside, the stock market can seem incredibly scary. Most people only come into contact with it through films or when something bad happens in the news. As a result, you can have a very warped view that the stock market is full of price crashes and billionaires throwing around loads of money.
When it comes to research, Fidelity is in a league of its own. The intellectually curious can dive into research from more than 20 providers, including Recognia, Ned Davis, and McLean Capital Management. Fidelity’s Learning Center featured videos are organized by topic, but don’t stop after explaining the concept. They cover how to apply principles to your own Fidelity investments.
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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