Our second pick, Fidelity Investments offers new investors an easy-to-use website and quality on-site education. While Fidelity's learning center is impressive, the broker does a fantastic job with its in-house market research and financial educational articles, Fidelity Viewpoints. Of all the brokers, I share and bookmark Fidelity Viewpoint articles the most. As far as subject matter goes, the broker's retirement education is exceptional. Read full review
Budgeting is an important step because you’ll want to know how liquid you are before you lock money into an investment. For example, if you need assets to pay for your student loans, you must plan ahead to make sure those funds are available in time. If you’re already 50 and don’t have any retirement savings, however, you won’t want to contribute as much to your child’s college fund as your retirement account.
Up until recently, you could use companies that allowed you to buy a single share of stock to get your name on a corporate shareholder list, then enroll in closed direct stock purchase plans or dividend reinvestment plans that forbid outsiders who didn't already own the stock. Unfortunately, in the financial industry's decision to move away from paper stock certificates, this has become all but untenable.
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.
TD Ameritrade offers two best-in-class platforms, designed for two different types of investors. Both platforms are free to use for any investor with a TD Ameritrade account. The web-based Trade Architect, though often in the shadow of thinkorswim, is streamlined and easy to use. It will appeal to beginning investors, or anyone who prefers a simplified, educational interface. Its tab-based navigation lets users flip between trading tools and account overview, plus charts, stock screeners, heat maps, and more. Since the company acquired Scottrade, our favorite platform for beginners, in 2016, we predict it will continue getting better at serving junior traders.
You can also invest in actively managed mutual funds. These funds pool money from many investors and put it primarily into stocks and bonds. Individual investors buy shares of the portfolio.  Fund managers usually create portfolios with particular goals in mind, such as long-term growth. However, because these funds are actively managed (meaning managers are constantly buying and selling stocks to achieve the fund’s goal), their fees can be higher. Mutual fund expense ratios can end up hurting your rate of return and impeding your financial progress. 
Most importantly, though, frequent trading takes your eye off the fundamental connection between a company and its stock. Over long periods of time, share prices tend to track the success of the underlying business, and growing companies usually see their stocks grow with them. Taking the time to search out the companies you'd be comfortable owning can pay off with years or even decades of market-beating performance that will make it easier for you to achieve your financial goals.
When people talk about investing in “the market,” what are they referring to? Today’s markets are largely exchanges — like the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) — that allow us to buy and sell investments to others. You’ve seen photos of business executives and celebrities “ringing the bell” to open the NYSE, but it’s not the only market; others include the NASDAQ, London Stock Exchange and many others.
For example, depending on your age and risk tolerance, you might want to have some of your portfolio invested in bond funds, growth and income funds, and international funds. You may also want to consider high dividend stocks among your individual stock holdings. Income earning securities tend to be less volatile than pure growth stocks, particularly in bear markets. You’ll want to develop a balance between your growth assets, and your income- or growth and income-holdings.
The Balance does not provide tax, investment, or financial services and advice. The information is being presented without consideration of the investment objectives, risk tolerance, or financial circumstances of any specific investor and might not be suitable for all investors. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Investing involves risk including the possible loss of principal.
How frequently you plan to trade. At most brokers suitable for new investors, stock trading commissions run between $5 and $10. Low commission costs will be more important to active traders, those who place 10 or more trades per month. (Learn more about the ins and outs of stock trading.) Infrequent traders should steer clear of brokers that charge inactivity fees.
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.
The best investors are in it for the long haul. Checking your account too often might make you react to the fluctuations in the market too quickly. Personal finance expert Ramit Sethi has written that you should check your investments, “probably every few months, with a major review every year.” On many sites, you can also set an alert if a stock dives. Other than that, just set a quarterly recurring appointment so you know you’ll handle it at the right time.
Like many new investors, you've decided to invest in a company and pick up your first shares of stock, but your limited knowledge leaves you wondering how to do it. Don't worry! This overview was designed to help you learn precisely that - how to invest in stocks. To be more specific, for you new investors, this page was put together to serve as an introductory depository of investment articles designed to get many of the basics out of the way before moving on to some of the more advanced topics which I've written over the past years.
The capital gains tax rate favors long-term investments. An investor who buys and sells their stocks within a few months will face a higher capital gains tax rate (25 percent) on their profits than an investor who buys and holds their stocks for a full year (15 percent). The larger your investment, the bigger the difference. Granted, there’s a risk to holding an investment for longer, but if you’re close to that one-year cutoff, it might be worth it to sit tight for a few more weeks.
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.
Interest rates on bonds normally reflect the prevailing market interest rate. Say you buy a bond with an interest rate of 3%. If interest rates on other investments then go up to 4% and you're stuck with a bond paying 3%, not many people would be willing to buy your bond from you when they can buy another bond that pays them 4% interest. For this reason, you would have to lower the price of your bond in order to sell it. The opposite situation applies when bond market rates are falling.
Review your needs and use the discount broker for dividend investors table to compare them and assess which platform will work for you. It’s easy to transfer in and out of Questrade, Qtrade or Virtual Brokers but the bank platforms are much easier if you bank with them. Nevertheless, it’s really easy to switch discount broker when you have a decent size portfolio as all the fees will be covered in case you are not happy with your first choice.
This is part of what led to the rise of index funds and exchange-traded funds. With these investments, as with mutual funds, you’re able to invest in the entire stock market or large segments of it (for example, all U.S. technology stocks), rather than just investing in individual companies piecemeal (and paying a commission each time you trade one).
Beyond that, we evaluated each firm on the services that matter most to different types of investors. For example, for active traders, we note providers offering volume discounts on trade commissions and robust mobile trading platforms. For people venturing into investing for the first time, we call out brokers that provide educational support (such as stock-picking tutorials) and on-call chat or phone support.
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.