How much liquidity (i.e. resources that can easily be converted to cash) do you need for your shorter-term goals and to maintain a proper cash reserve? Don't invest in stocks until you have at least six to twelve months of living expenses in a savings account as an emergency fund in case you lose your job. If you have to liquidate stocks after holding them less than a year, you're merely speculating, not investing. The World's Worst Stock Investment Advice
These options can — and should — supplement your employer-sponsored retirement account. If your employer offers one, you’ll be able to contribute a percentage of your salary each pay period to your 401(k). In most cases, you choose the mix of assets you invest your 401(k) money in, depending on your tolerance for risk. Some employers will match your contributions with company funds — extra money you’ll usually have access to once you’ve stayed at the company for a certain amount of time.

Value investors seek to buy stocks that they believe are underpriced by the market. These companies may be out of favor because of the economic cycle, or because they have suffered setbacks such as disappointing earnings or unexpected competition. Whatever the reason, value investors are looking for stocks whose low prices are temporary. The idea is that current perceptions about the stock do not reflect its potential and that eventually the market will recognize the company’s true value.
If you still have high-interest debt, such as credit cards or personal loans, you should hold off on investing. Your money works harder for you by eliminating that pesky interest expense than it does in the market. This is because paying off $1 of debt balance saves you 12%, 14%, or more in future interest expense. More than traditional investments can be expected to return.

A Roth IRA, on the other hand, is funded with post-tax dollars. This means you’ve already paid your income tax, so when you withdraw it in retirement, you don’t pay income or capital gains tax. The money is all yours. Roth IRAs offer excellent tax benefits but are only available to certain income levels. If you make more than $135,000 a year as a single filer or over $199,000 as a married filer, you aren’t eligible for a Roth IRA.


What is a broker? A broker is someone that helps you make your stock market investments. You sign up for a service and get to listen to the advice of a seasoned stock market veteran. Brokers spend their life monitoring stocks and figuring out what makes a good investment and what makes a bad one. They can point you in the right direction and also inform you of any investment opportunities. They’re your middleman between you and the stock market, but everything ends with you. They can only invest when you give them the go ahead, so you still remain in control.
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.
How much money do I need to get started investing? Not much. Note that many of the brokers above have no account minimums for both taxable brokerage accounts and IRAs. Once you open an account, all it takes to get started is enough money to cover the cost of a single share of a stock and the trading commission. (See “How to Buy Stocks” for step-by-step instructions on placing that first trade.)
** J.D. Power 2018 Certified Contact Center ProgramSM recognition is based on successful completion of an evaluation and exceeding a customer satisfaction benchmark through a survey of recent servicing interactions. For more information, visit www.jdpower.com/ccc. The ranking or ratings shown here may not be representative of all client experiences because they reflect an average or sampling of the client experiences. These rankings or ratings are not indicative of any future performance or investment outcome.

If you were to sell these five stocks, you would once again incur the costs of the trades, which would be another $50. To make the round trip (buying and selling) on these five stocks it would cost you $100, or 10% of your initial deposit amount of $1,000. If your investments don't earn enough to cover this, you have lost money by just entering and exiting positions.

Hiring human brokers to make phone calls and sell clients on investing is costly. Because discount brokers avoid this cost, they can pass on the advantage to customers in the form of lower commissions. A simple rule in the financial world is that clients pay the brokers’ expenses, so the lower the brokers’ expenses, the lower the fees and commissions.

You must buy and sell Vanguard ETF Shares through Vanguard Brokerage Services (we offer them commission-free) or through another broker (who may charge commissions). See the Vanguard Brokerage Services commission and fee schedules for limits. Vanguard ETF Shares are not redeemable directly with the issuing fund other than in very large aggregations worth millions of dollars. ETFs are subject to market volatility. When buying or selling an ETF, you will pay or receive the current market price, which may be more or less than net asset value.
When investing, look to get in with stocks in the areas you typically follow and have an interest in. If you’re already reading news and keeping up on these things anyway, it’ll make it that much easier to keep up on your investments. If you have expertise through interests or work, you likely know enough about the sector to make intelligent investments.

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.

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.
The good thing about stocks is that they trade on a public exchange, which means it's easy to get up-to-the-minute information on what various companies' shares are selling for. But how do you actually acquire those shares? Well, you need a broker -- either an actual person or an online brokerage firm. These days, many investors opt for the latter, but keep in mind that some accounts have a minimum funding balance you'll need to meet. For example, you might need $1,000 to open an account and start trading.
You can turn to financial advisors and use online calculators to help you break down your goals. If you need more capital to invest to increase your potential annual earnings, set shorter-term savings goals — like saving a certain amount of money to open a high-yield certificate of deposit or money market account. Your plan will likely involve using several financial tools and account types to achieve your goal.
Commission prices are the key advantage of online discount brokers. Consider that a popular full-service brokerage firm charges a minimum of $50 just to buy or sell stock. The commission is variable, so the larger the order, the larger the commission. To buy or sell $10,000 of stock, a client would pay $80. On a $25,000 order, the commission surges to $205! Commissions for funds can be even higher!
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.

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.

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.

Individual stocks. We won’t sugarcoat it: Buying individual stocks requires a fair amount of research, ongoing diligence and a stomach for risk. Those aren’t things that most retirement savers want to deal with. In fact, many 401(k) plans don’t even allow participants to buy individual stocks within the plan. If buying stocks sounds exciting to you, we recommend devoting no more than 10% of your retirement portfolio’s overall value to them.
For instance, if you purchased an S&P 500 ETF, you are only buying one “thing”. However, that ETF owns stock of all 500 companies in the S&P, meaning you effectively own small pieces of all 500 companies. Your investment would grow, or decline, with the S&P, and you would earn dividends based on your share of the dividend payouts from all 500 companies.
Online discount brokers -- This label is generally given to the companies you see on the list here. While discount brokers are increasingly offering “extras” like research on stocks and funds, they primarily exist to help you place orders to buy investments at a very low cost. Many investors don’t need the handholding of a full-service broker, and would prefer to pay a low commission on every trade to save money and ensure more of their money goes toward their investment portfolio, not paying for frills.

Consider whether or not to short sell. This can be a "hedging" strategy, but it can also amplify your risk, so it's really suitable only for experienced investors. The basic concept is as follows: Instead of betting that the price of a security is going to increase, "shorting" is a bet that the price will drop. When you short a stock (or bond or currency), your broker actually lends you shares without your having to pay for them. Then you hope the stock's price goes down. If it does, you "cover," meaning you buy the actual shares at the current (lower) price and give them to the broker. The difference between the amount credited to you in the beginning and the amount you pay at the end is your profit.

Mutual funds. A mutual fund is a basket that contains a bunch of different investments — often mostly stocks — that all have something in common, be it companies that together make up a market index (see the box for more about the joys of index funds), a particular asset class (bonds, international stocks) or a specific sector (companies in the energy industry, technology stocks). There are even mutual funds that invest solely in companies that adhere to certain ethical or environmental principles (aka socially responsible funds).
When you buy a stock that everyone else has bought, you're buying something that's probably worth less than its price (which has probably risen in response to the recent demand). When the market corrects itself (drops), you could end up buying high and then selling low, just the opposite of what you want to do. Hoping that a stock will go up just because everyone else thinks it will is foolish.
There are many fees an investor will incur when investing in mutual funds. One of the most important fees to focus on is the management expense ratio (MER), which is charged by the management team each year, based on the amount of assets in the fund. The MER ranges from 0.05 percent to 0.7 percent annually and varies depending on the type of fund. But the higher the MER, the worse it is for the fund's investors. Happy Independence Day
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