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.

If you're going to be investing in individual stocks, or mutual funds and ETFs that aren't commission-free, you need to find a broker that allows you to trade for free. Both M1 Finance and Robinhood are potential options. Robinhood is no-frills, but free. M1 Finance is closer to full-service, but doesn't have all the options of a major broker does.


Diversify. Diversifying your portfolio is one of the most important things that you can do, because it diminishes your risk. Think of it this way: If you were to invest $5 in each of 20 different companies, all of the companies would have to go out of business before you would lose all your money. If you invested the same $100 in just one company, only that company would have to fail for all your money to disappear. Thus, diversified investments "hedge" against each other and keep you from losing lots of money because of the poor performance of a few companies.
To the inexperienced investor, investing may seem simple enough - all you need to do is go to a brokerage firm and open up an account, right? What you may not know, however, is that all financial institutions have minimum deposit requirements. In other words, they won't accept your account application unless you deposit a certain amount of money. With a sum as small as $1,000, some firms won't allow you to open an account.
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.

If people don’t vote for their politicians and then complain about their governance actions, then maybe they should vote next time. Similarly, if they complain about corporate behavior but don’t vote any of their company shares, and outsource all their ownership to index companies who just abstain on most things, then maybe they should own a stock or two and actually vote. Each individual vote is tiny, but they add up.
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.
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.
Investing for beginners starts with figuring out your financial goals – do you want short-term cash for something like a car, or do you want to invest your money long-term for something like a college fund? Your timeline will help you determine which financial vehicles you should consider, whether it is in the form of something like stocks, mutual funds or money market account. You should also decide whether you want to work with a professional broker or financial adviser who can help you create your financial portfolio. As with any financial decision, what you do with your money is ultimately up to you, so investing for beginners is something that you’ll be able to customize to best suit your financial goals.
After selecting the stocks that you want to purchase, you can either make a “market order” or a “limit order.” A market order is one in which you request a stock purchase at the prevailing market price. A limit order is when you request to buy a stock at a limited price. For example, if you want to buy stock in Dell at $60 a share, and the stock is currently trading at $70, then the broker would wait to acquire the shares until the price meets your limit.
Use a college cost calculator to determine how much you will need to save for your children’s college, how much parents are expected to contribute and the various types of financial aid your children may qualify for, based on your income and net worth. Remember that costs vary widely depending on the location and type of school (public, private, etc.). Also remember that college expenses include not only tuition, but also fees, room and board, transportation, books and supplies. [6]
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).

To make mutual fund investing even more hassle-free, stay with index funds. For example, index funds that track the Standard & Poor’s 500 index are invested in the broad market, so your investment performance will track that index precisely. While you’ll never outperform the market in an index fund, you’ll never under-perform it either. As a new investor, this is as it should be.
Some companies offer specialized portfolios for retirement investors. These are “asset allocation" or "target date" funds that automatically adjust their holdings based on your age. For example, your portfolio might be more heavily weighted towards equities when you are younger and automatically transfer more of your investments into fixed-income securities as you get older. In other words, they do for you what you might be expected to do yourself as you get older. [30] Be aware that these funds typically incur greater expenses than simple index funds and ETFs, but they perform a service the latter investments do not.
If you have a more complex financial situation or you’d rather have a dedicated advisor to talk to, a traditional financial advisor may be a better fit. An advisor matching tool like SmartAsset’s can help you find a person to work with to meet your needs. First you’ll answer a series of questions about your situation and goals. Then the program will narrow down your options from thousands of advisors to up to three registered investment advisors who suit your needs. You can then read their profiles to learn more about them, interview them on the phone or in-person and choose who to work with in the future. This allows you to find a good fit while the program does much of the hard work for you.

If you're going to be investing in individual stocks, or mutual funds and ETFs that aren't commission-free, you need to find a broker that allows you to trade for free. Both M1 Finance and Robinhood are potential options. Robinhood is no-frills, but free. M1 Finance is closer to full-service, but doesn't have all the options of a major broker does.
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 important thing to note is that you aren’t going to learn investing overnight. Learning how to invest in the stock market is a skill you’ll acquire with patience and some guidance. Becoming a successful investor, and learning how to identify investments with high returns, is a process. It will take some time to understand all of the ins and outs of financial investing 101, but by reading this guide, you’ll be on your way.
Commissions for equity and options trades are $6.95 with a $0.75 fee per options contract. To qualify for $4.95 commissions for equity and options trades and a $0.50 fee per options contract, you must execute at least 30 equity or options trades per quarter. To continue receiving $4.95 equity and options trades and a $0.50 fee per options contract, you must execute at least 30 equity or options trades by the end of the following quarter. Regulatory and exchange fees may apply.
Announcer:                        00:00                     You’re tuned in to the Investing for Beginners podcast. Finally, step by step premium investment guidance for beginners lead by Andrew Sather and Dave Ahern to decode industry jargon, silence crippling confusion and help you overcome emotions by looking at the numbers. Your path to financial freedom starts now.
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.
Investing is the one place where a “head in the sand” strategy might be the smartest method. Set up auto deposits into your investment accounts each month and only look at your portfolio once every three to six months. This reduces the likelihood of panic selling when the market falls or piling in more money when everything seems like rainbows and butterflies.
If you already have a firm handle on your investment strategy and want to maximize your profits, OptionsHouse is excellent. What it lacks in some of the investor education features that competitors like TD Ameritrade can claim, it makes up with its low-cost, streamlined trading platform. Like Ally Invest, it’s been a longtime leader in rock-bottom pricing, with a $4.95 trade commission, and, unlike many brokerages catering to active investors, no account minimums or inactivity fees. Fees for a single-leg options contract are $5.45 all-in. Plus, if you have $5,000 to invest, you’ll receive $1,000 worth of commission-free trades.

You'll have to do your homework to find the minimum deposit requirements and then compare the commissions to other brokers. Chances are, you won't be able to cost-effectively buy individual stocks and still be diversified with a small amount of money. You will also need to make a choice on which broker you would like to open an account with. To make sense of all the different platforms, browse the different online broker and roboadvisor options in Investopedia's broker center.
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.
Margin accounts -- A margin account allows you to use borrowed money to invest. Typically, investors who use margin accounts can borrow up to 50% of the value of the investment. Thus, to buy $5,000 of stock, an investor would only have to put up $2,500 of cash, and borrow the other $2,500 from the broker. We don’t think margin accounts are particularly good choices for beginning investors, because while using borrowed money can increase your returns, it also increases the risk you lose money. If you use margin and the investments you own decline in value, a broker can sell your investments without your authorization, potentially forcing you to sell at an inopportune time.
Limit orders can cost investors more in commissions than market orders. A limit order that can’t be executed in full at one time or during a single trading day may continue to be filled over subsequent days, with transaction costs charged each day a trade is made. If the stock never reaches the level of your limit order by the time it expires, the trade will not be executed.
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.
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.
Futures were originally used as a "hedging" technique by farmers. Here's a simple example of how it works: Farmer Joe grows avocados. The price of avocados, however, is typically volatile, meaning that it goes up and down a lot. At the beginning of the season, the wholesale price of avocados is $4 per bushel. If Farmer Joe has a bumper crop of avocados but the price of avocados drops to $2 per bushel in April at harvest, Farmer Joe may lose a lot of money.
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.
Avoid buying on hope and selling on fear. It's very easy and too tempting to follow the crowd when investing. We often get caught up in what other people are doing and take it for granted that they know what they're talking about. Then we buy stocks just because other people buy them or sell them when other people do. Doing this is easy. Unfortunately, it's a good way to lose money. Invest in companies that you know and believe in — and tune out the hype — and you'll be fine.
There’s good news: You largely can, thanks to robo-advisors. These services manage your investments for you using computer algorithms. Due to low overhead, they charge low fees relative to human investment managers — a robo-advisor typically costs 0.25% to 0.50% of your account balance per year, and many allow you to open an account with no minimum.
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