Of course, if you really want to get a sense of a company's value and growth potential, you'll need to look at some numbers. You can start by reviewing its balance sheet, which lists its various assets and liabilities. You can access public companies' balance sheets on the SEC's EDGAR website. Similarly, you can look at a company's cash flow statement to get a sense of how it manages its money, and its income statement to get a sense of its profits and losses.
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.
What brings them to this list is that they are currently running a promotion that allows you 300 commission free trades, and up to 2 years to use them. So, if you don't take advantage of their many free products, you can still invest for free and buy stocks online for free at Fidelity. That's a great deal. Even after your free trades are up, they have one of the lowest commission rates at just $4.95 per trade.
Discretionary accounts -- This account allows another person to buy or sell stock on your behalf without telling you. These are commonly used by people who hire a registered investment advisor (RIA) to manage their portfolio for them. Self-directed investors have no need for a discretionary account. It’s only useful if you hire someone else to manage your portfolio for you.
Hold for the long term, five to ten years or preferably longer. Avoid the temptation to sell when the market has a bad day, month or year. The long-range direction of the stock market is always up. On the other hand, avoid the temptation to take profit (sell) even if your stocks have gone up 50 percent or more. As long as the fundamental conditions of the company are still sound, do not sell (unless you desperately need the money. It does make sense to sell, however, if the stock price appreciates well above its value (see Step 3 of this Section), or if the fundamentals have drastically changed since you bought the stock so that the company is unlikely to be profitable anymore.
If you're going to invest in stocks, you have a couple of choices. The easier method is to buy a mutual fund or exchange-traded fund that owns all of the stocks in a popular index like the Dow Jones Industrials or S&P 500. By doing so, you're essentially buying the whole universe of stocks within the index you choose, participating in the general growth of the entire market.
Market order -- This is an order that will be placed immediately at the prevailing market price. Thus, if you enter an order to buy 10 shares of Amazon, your trade will be filled by matching it with someone who wants to sell shares of Amazon, though not at a known price per share. I like to call this the “get me in!” order type, since it will be filled quickly, although you could end up paying a slight premium for every share to do it.
Robo-advisors like Wealthsimple, Wealthfront, and Betterment use algorithms to determine your investment strategy. You just plug in your time frame and risk tolerance and their computers do the rest. And because they’re targeted for a younger crowd, fees are rock bottom. Wealthsimple and Betterment both have no account minimum, while Wealthfront requires $500. Wealthsimple charges an annual 0.5% advising fee; Wealthfront and Betterment charge just 0.25%.
There are a few other risks that come with bonds. Because their rates are fixed, they fail to take inflation into account. Additionally, if interest rates increase, existing bonds’ prices will fall. Although you technically won’t lose value if you buy the bond before the drop, having money in a bond with a lower rate means your missing out on better fixed-income investments. The World's Worst Stock Investment Advice