If your savings goal is more than 20 years away (like retirement), almost all of your money can be in stocks, Waldman says. The stock market can be unpredictable, with huge ups and downs depending on how well the economy is doing, but you’re likely to make more money there than with less risky assets (like bonds, or keeping cash in a savings account). Over nearly the last century, the stock market’s average return is about 10% annually.
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.
When Should You Invest in Stocks? – Obviously, the stock market rises and falls. However, as noted above, it will almost certainly provide you with higher returns over time than other investments. Consequently, you should normally be invested in stocks. Trying to time when the best moment is to enter or exit the market is nearly impossible, even for professional investors. Therefore, the best time to invest in stocks is generally today.

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It is never too soon to start investing. Investing is the smartest way to secure your financial future and to begin letting your money make more money for you. Investing is not just for people who have plenty of spare cash. On the contrary, anyone can (and should) invest. You can get started with just a little bit of money and a lot of know-how. By formulating a plan and familiarizing yourself with the tools available, you can quickly learn how to start investing.
Your strategy depends on your saving goals (and how much money you’ll allocate to each) and how many years you plan to let your money grow, says Mark Waldman, an investment advisor and former personal finance professor at American University in Washington, D.C. “The longer the time frame associated with your goal, the higher percentage you should have in stocks.”

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There are additional conditions you can place on a limit order to control how long the order will remain open. An “all or none” (AON) order will be executed only when all the shares you wish to trade are available at your price limit. A “good for day” (GFD) order will expire at the end of the trading day, even if the order has not been fully filled. A “good till canceled” (GTC) order remains in play until the customer pulls the plug or the order expires; that’s anywhere from 60 to 120 days or more.
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.

Never fear. Company names, as you may have noticed from watching CNBC, are usually abbreviated as stock "tickers" consisting of anywhere from one to five letters -- and it's those ticker symbols you enter when buying or selling a stock. But figuring out which ticker represents a little difficulty. Simply type into Google "[company name] ticker" -- that is to say, for example, "general motors ticker" -- and you'll be presented with the correct ticker for the stock you want to buy.
The main difference between ETFs and index funds is that rather than carrying a minimum investment, ETFs are traded throughout the day and investors buy them for a share price, which like a stock price, can fluctuate. That share price is essentially the ETF’s investment minimum, and depending on the fund, it can range from under $100 to $300 or more.

1. Target Date Retirement Fund: A target date retirement fund enables investors to get instant diversification with just one mutual fund. These funds take your contributions and split them among multiple stock and bond mutual funds. In addition, there is no need to rebalance your investments as you age. Target date retirement funds adjust the allocation between stocks and bonds as the investor nears retirement.


What makes this risk management tool so great is that it focuses almost exclusively on the financials of the business, rather than how Wall Street perceives it through price action. This is in contrast to other risk management tools such as trailing stops or momentum indicators, which could be based more on emotion rather than business financial reality.  
Common stock also typically (but not always) comes with voting rights. Investors can have a say in the management of the company that’s proportional to the number of shares that they have. If enough shareholders don’t like the way things are going, they can have the leadership of the company forced out. It’s one of the risks companies take when they go public. We’ll talk about how some companies choose to get around this while still selling common stock in a minute.
The "miracle" of compound interest: earning interest on previously earned interest is what Albert Einstein called "the eighth wonder of the world." Compounding is guaranteed to make your retirement years easier if you let it work its magic by leaving your money invested and untouched for as long as possible. Many years of compounding can bring astonishingly good results.
To further raise the odds of a big run-up after a breakout, it's best to buy when the market is in a confirmed uptrend. Three of four stocks will eventually follow the market's direction, so it doesn't make sense to buy during a correction or when the market is under pressure. (Always read The Big Picture column so you can stay on the correct side of the market.)
Notice: Information contained herein is not and should not be construed as an offer, solicitation, or recommendation to buy or sell securities. The information has been obtained from sources we believe to be reliable; however no guarantee is made or implied with respect to its accuracy, timeliness, or completeness. Authors may own the stocks they discuss. The information and content are subject to change without notice.
Online/discount brokers, on the other hand, do not provide any investment advice and are basically just order takers. They are much less expensive than full-service brokers since there is typically no office to visit and no certified investment advisors to help you. Cost is usually based on a per-transaction basis and you can typically open an account over the internet with little or no money. Once you have an account with an online broker, you can usually just log on to its website and into your account and be able to buy and sell stocks instantly.
Other key clues to look out for are how long the management team has been serving the company. Longevity is often a good sign that the folks in charge are doing something right. You'll also want a management team that's innovative and willing to take risks, but not too many risks. By reading up on a company and its history, you can get a sense of the sort of decisions its management team has made, and how those decisions have panned out.
Consider using the services of a financial planner or advisor. Many planners and advisors require that their clients have an investment portfolio of at least a minimum value, sometimes $100,000 or more. This means it could be hard to find an advisor willing to work with you if your portfolio isn't well established. In that case, look for an advisor interested in helping smaller investors.
1. Restrictions apply: The standard online $4.95 commission does not apply to foreign stock transactions, large block transactions requiring special handling, or restricted stock transactions (except for vested equity awards issued from an employer or corporate stock plan trades). See the Charles Schwab Pricing Guide for Individual Investors for full fee and commission schedules.
"Here's the trap for the new person," Seiden says. "They will focus on the stocks where the news is good, but by the time they get the news, everyone else [in the know] has already bought it." This cycle means new investors are often buying when prices are highest. A better route is to watch a stock price and buy when it's down, a tactic Seiden encourages as a way to buy shares at a sale price.

1. Restrictions apply: The standard online $4.95 commission does not apply to foreign stock transactions, large block transactions requiring special handling, or restricted stock transactions (except for vested equity awards issued from an employer or corporate stock plan trades). See the Charles Schwab Pricing Guide for Individual Investors for full fee and commission schedules.
Plan for retirement. $100 won't get you far in retirement, but if you are still young, that $100 could be much more in 20 years. It's always a good idea to invest in your employer's 401(k), especially if your employer matches contributions. Most employers withdraw the money right from your paycheck each pay period. You set the amount and your employer handles the rest.
One type of broker isn’t necessarily better for everyone. In fact, many people use both types of services over their lifetime. A saver who is just starting out might have more reason to use a discount broker, so as to save money while accumulating assets for retirement. Given a full-service broker might charge you as much as $500 in fees to invest $10,000 in a fund, whereas a discount broker might charge as little as $5, the cost difference alone is reason enough for new investors to use a discount brokerage firm.
The next best way to buy stock without a broker is to enroll in a stock's dividend reinvestment program or DRIP. Some of the reasons you should consider investing through a DRIP can be found in the linked story, but it would also be helpful to revisit them here so you understand the appeal. DRIPs allow you to take cash dividends paid out by the company you own and plow them back into buying more shares, charging either nominal fees or nothing at all depending upon the specifics of the individual plan.
It is no coincidence that most wealthy people invest in the stock market. While fortunes can be both made and lost, investing in stocks is one of the best ways to create financial security, independence, and generational wealth. Whether you are just beginning to save or already have a nest egg for retirement, your money should be working as efficiently and diligently for you as you did to earn it. To succeed in this, however, it is important to start with a solid understanding of how stock market investment works. This article will guide you through the process of making investment decisions and put you on the right path to becoming a successful investor. This article discusses investing in stocks specifically. For stock trading, see How to Trade Stocks. For mutual funds, see How to Decide Whether to Buy Stocks or Mutual Funds.
Based on 1,820 data points, our top pick for beginners is TD Ameritrade. New investors have access to a user-friendly website, hundreds of monthly webinars, videos, and free premium courses and quizzes. TD Ameritrade is the only broker to gamify the entire learning experience, offering customers a points system tied to progress tracking, and even badges to encourage continued learning. Oh, and customers can practice trading with fake money. Read full review

CONSISTENT DIVIDEND GROWTH is what has been working. I did start with high yield stock and it was nice to see the dividend income but my total portfolio growth was not where it should have been. What can I say? I was a newbie dividend investor and I wanted to generate retirement income from my portfolio and that’s what I was doing – only generating income and not growing my portfolio. In my strive to become a better investor, I stumbled upon the 10% dividend growth, the chowder rule, and the total return value of a portfolio. Let me show you why those 3 concepts matter.

The best brokerages for beginners have associated account minimums ranging from $0 to $2,500. Many of these companies offer Roth IRAs with no minimum balance. Through your Roth IRA, you can invest a few hundred dollars in mutual funds or commission-free ETFs, or exchange-traded funds (ETFs), which reflect stock market indexes but often cost less than an index fund, without needing to save up thousands of dollars first.


Invest in a Roth IRA as soon in your working career as possible. If you're earning taxable income and you're at least 18, you can establish a Roth IRA. This is a retirement account to which you can contribute up to an IRS-determined maximum each year (the latest limit is the lesser of $5,500 or the amount earned plus an additional $1,000 "catch up" contribution for those age 50 or older). This money gets invested and begins to grow. A Roth IRA can be a very effective way to save for retirement.

By creating a budget, you can determine how much money you have to invest. You can assign portions of your income to various savings goals, ranging from shorter-term ones, like buying a house, to longer-term ones, like retirement. Before you allocate money to your investment goals, however, many financial experts recommend putting aside money for an emergency fund.
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.
With or without a broker, one great investment for beginners is to enroll in your company’s 401k plan. While enrollment itself is not technically an investment, the account can become a place for you to hold investments like stocks, bonds, mutual funds and cash. A 401k plan is great for beginning investors because it offers not only a place to prepare for retirement, but also an account that avoids income taxes until you withdraw the funds. Many employers offer matching funds, in which they will match the amount of money you deposit into your 401k account to encourage your retirement investment. This free money is just one way you can begin to build your financial portfolio.
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.
Not if you can supply your own financial acumen and practical level-headedness. If you are not clueless about finances, or if you're personally acquainted with someone with considerable financial experience to share with you, there's no need to pay for advice. Having said that, however, the more money you have at risk, the more an advisor is worth hiring.
Make a list of things you want. To set your goals, you’ll need to have an idea of what things or experiences you want to have in your life that require money. For example, what lifestyle do you want to have once you retire? Do you enjoy traveling, nice cars, or fine dining? Do you have only modest needs? Use this list to help you set your goals in the next step. [1]
Your strategy depends on your saving goals (and how much money you’ll allocate to each) and how many years you plan to let your money grow, says Mark Waldman, an investment advisor and former personal finance professor at American University in Washington, D.C. “The longer the time frame associated with your goal, the higher percentage you should have in stocks.”
That may sound confusing, but hang on. Many people choose to open an investment savings account and gain access to the stock market through there. This is where you open an account, invest your money in the account – as you would any other savings account. The difference is, your money won’t just sit still and gain interest. Instead, someone working for the investment division of the bank will invest your money in different stocks and shares from all over the world. You’ll get a breakdown of what they invest in when you open your account.
Brokers are either full-service or "discount." Full-service brokers, as the name implies, give the full range of traditional brokerage services, including financial advice for retirement, healthcare and everything related to money. They usually only deal with higher net-worth clients, and they can charge substantial fees, including a percent of your transactions, a percent of your assets they manage and a yearly membership fee. It's common to see minimum account sizes of $25,000 and up at full-service brokerages.

Investing in mutual funds is sort of like buying a big bucket of stocks, and that offers you a degree of protection. Remember, if you buy an individual stock and the issuing company has a bad year, you might lose quite a bit of money. But if you're invested in a mutual fund that owns 200 different stocks, and only one has a bad year, you won't feel the impact nearly as much. Buying shares of mutual funds also takes some of the legwork out of researching investments -- though you should still perform your due diligence regardless.

A "record date" is the date a dividend distribution is declared, the date at the close of which one must be the shareholder in order to receive the declared dividend. An "ex-dividend date" is typically two business days before the record date. When shares of a stock are sold near the record date of a dividend declaration, the ex-dividend date is the last day on which the seller is clearly entitled to the dividend payment.
Understand that for both beginning investors and seasoned stock market pros, it's impossible to always buy and sell the best stocks at exactly the right time. But also understand that you don't have to be right every time to make money. You just need to learn some basic rules for how to identify the best stocks to watch, the ideal time to buy them, and when to sell stocks to lock in your profits or quickly cut any losses.

And if you’re interested in learning how to invest, but you need a little help getting up to speed, robo-advisors can help there, too. It’s useful to see how the service constructs a portfolio and what investments are used. Some services also offer educational content and tools, and a few even allow you to customize your portfolio to a degree if you wish to experiment a bit in the future.
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