ETFs are typically index funds and do not generate as much in the way of taxable capital gains to pass on to investors as compared with actively managed funds. ETFs and mutual funds are becoming less distinct from each other, and investors need not own both types of investment. If you like the idea of buying and selling fund shares during (rather than at the end of) the trading day, ETFs are a good choice for you.
The price-to-earnings ratio is a common way of determining if a stock is undervalued. It simply divides a company's share price by its earnings. For example, if Company X is trading at $5 per share, with earnings of $1 per share, its price-to-earnings ratio is 5. That is to say, the company is trading at five times its earnings. The lower this figure, the more undervalued the company may be. Typical P/E ratios range between 15 and 20, although ratios outside that range are not uncommon. Use P/E ratios as only one of many indications of a stock's worth.
Now if you're wondering how many shares of a company you should aim to purchase, the answer is, it depends on the share price and the amount of money you have to work with. Technically speaking, you can invest in a company by buying just a single share of its stock. However, because you'll typically pay a fee or commission for each transaction you make, it's often preferable to buy multiple shares of a company at a time. Purchasing multiple shares also allows you to profit more when a company's stock price rises. If you buy a single share of a stock for $100 and it climbs to $150, you stand to make $50. That's not a whole lot. But if you own 20 shares, you'll be looking at $1,000. 
Learn a little bit about stocks. This is what most people think of when they consider "investing." Put simply, a stock is a share in the ownership of a business, a publicly-held company. The stock itself is a claim on what the company owns — its assets and earnings. [1] When you buy stock in a company, you are making yourself part-owner. If the company does well, the value of the stock will probably go up, and the company may pay you a "dividend," a reward for your investment. If the company does poorly, however, the stock will probably lose value.
There are plenty of online resources to help you learn how to analyze a stock or mutual fund, and feel more comfortable picking your own stocks and balancing your own portfolio. Use all of the resources you can to educate yourself, and before long, you might be able to handle the majority of your own investing. However, if you aren't interested in managing funds yourself, take the time to find a suitable professional who can help. You will pay for the privilege, but only you can decide which path is the best use of your money and time.
Don't look at the value of your portfolio more than once a month. If you get caught up in the emotions of Wall Street, it will only tempt you to sell what could be an excellent long-term investment. Before you buy a stock, ask yourself, "if this goes down, am I going to want to sell or am I going to want to buy more of it?" Don't buy it if your answer is the former.
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.
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.
Leveraging allows you to use borrowed money from banks and brokerage firms to invest in stocks, but you must pay back the amount you borrow with interest. Although leveraging allows you to buy shares that you otherwise might not have access to, if the shares you buy drop in value you’ll be out a lot of money. In general, avoid leveraging because it increases your investment risk.
This is where the fun begins, but you need to think things through carefully before you take the plunge. Firstly, you have to take a look at your personal finances and see if this is the right decision for you. Do you have savings set aside that you want to start earning money from? Are you in a comfortable financial position that doesn’t rely on the success of your stock marketing investments? If you want to invest in stocks purely as a source of primary income, then you’re going about things in the wrong way. This isn’t the article for you, this is about investing in stocks for beginners that are already financially stable and don’t depend on their investments.
The question you need to answer is how much time you want to spend on investing. If you have the time and desire to research individual stocks, active investment could be the way to go. If not, there's nothing wrong with passive investing. In fact, billionaire investor Warren Buffett believes that passive investing is the best way to go for many people.
Learn about mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Mutual funds and ETFs are similar investment vehicles in that each is a collection of many stocks and/or bonds (hundreds or thousands in some cases). Holding an individual security is a concentrated way of investing – the potential for gain or loss is tied to a single company – whereas holding a fund is a way to spread the risk across many companies, sectors or regions. Doing so can dampen the upside potential but also serves to protect against the downside risk.
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.

Full-service brokers are what most people visualize when they think about investing—well-dressed, friendly business people sitting in an office chatting with clients. These are the traditional stockbrokers who will take the time to get to know you personally and financially. They will look at factors such as marital status, lifestyle, personality, risk tolerance, age (time horizon), income, assets, debts, and more. By getting to know as much about you as they can, these full-service brokers can then help you develop a long-term financial plan.


Dollar cost averaging is the process of buying into your investment positions gradually, rather than all at once. For example, rather than investing $5,000 in a single index fund, you can make periodic contributions of say, $100 per month into the fund. By doing this, you remove the possibility of buying at the top of the market. Rather, you’re buying into the fund at all different times and on a continuous basis. This also removes the “when” question, as in when to invest in a given security or fund.
You can set up an account by depositing cash or stocks in a brokerage account. Firms like Charles Schwab and Citigroup’s Smith Barney unit offer brokerage accounts that can be managed online or with a broker in person. If you prefer buying and selling stocks online, you can use sites like E-Trade or Ameritrade. Those are just two of the most well-known electronic brokerages, but many large firms have online options as well.

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.
How to get great advice: Feeling too intimidated to pick your first stock or fund? There are a lot of great -- and cheap -- services that will do it for you. Betterment and Wealthfront are good examples. They use computer models to figure out the best portfolio mix for you based on your age, income, goals and tax situation and they will invest your money for you.
As the name implies, the “GARP” approach combines elements of value and growth investing, seeking to buy companies whose prices don’t fully reflect their solid growth prospects. For example, a company might be stuck in an out-of-favor industry sector but have new products in the pipeline that could propel it into a more attractive category. The particular emphasis given to growth and value varies considerably, although one or the other is usually clearly dominant. Among professional investors, GARP is sometimes used as an exception to give a value manager more flexibility to buy higher-priced stocks.
A more reliable investment income strategy is to never sell your principle, and instead live off dividend and interest income. A diversified collection of dividend-paying blue chip stocks that have historically grown their dividends even through recessions, combined with some other assets for diversification, can produce more reliable investment income and makes it so you don’t have to touch your principle.

A more reliable investment income strategy is to never sell your principle, and instead live off dividend and interest income. A diversified collection of dividend-paying blue chip stocks that have historically grown their dividends even through recessions, combined with some other assets for diversification, can produce more reliable investment income and makes it so you don’t have to touch your principle.
The most important thing you can do is get an investing education first. Learn the basics of the stock market and if there is something that you don’t quite understand, ask. That’s the secret to successful investing for beginners. A good place to start is by reading Rule #1. It gives a great foundation to investing principles used by Warren Buffett and other great investors.
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.

We’re firm believers in the Golden Rule. If we wouldn’t recommend an offer to a close family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Ascent either. Our number one goal is helping people find the best offers to improve their finances. That is why editorial opinions are ours alone and have not been previously reviewed, approved, or endorsed by included advertisers. Editorial content from The Ascent is separate from The Motley Fool editorial content and is created by a different analyst team.
If you want to learn more about how to invest in a stock, check out the directory of Investing for Beginners articles I've written, sorted by topic or head over to my blog for more esoteric and advanced topics that aren't particularly appropriate for beginners. Whatever happens, remember that stocks are just one of many types of assets that you can use to build wealth and become financially independent. 

Ask yourself some basic questions: What will the market be for this stock in the future? Will it look bleaker or better? What competitors does this company have, and what are their prospects? How will this company be able to earn money in the future?[7] These should help you come to a better understanding of whether a company's stock is under- or over-valued.

This book has good intentions with plenty of information for beginners, however don't feel bad if you get a little lost when some of the terminology and assumption that all of it has been explained thoroughly. A glossary in the back is extremely helpful when dealing with new terms that I had no idea of what to do with like price/earning ratio, ETF, hedging fund expenses, etc. The plus side is the extensive step by step explanations of how to do pretty much anything like choosing a broker, selecting funds vs. stocks and more.


Put simply: Buying stocks online is easy, and yet it’s incredibly complicated to do it well. It’s almost always the best idea to let a professional handle it. With the current level of technology, you don’t need to even pick a professional — you can pick a program that a professional designed. That’s going to help you to grow a significant retirement nest egg, provided that you can leave the money sitting in your account long enough.
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.

Lend to others. We aren't talking about lending your brother $100. We are talking about peer-to-peer lending. Companies like Lending Club and Prosper offer automated programs for you to invest as little as $25. You can lend your $100 to 4 different people. This helps diversify your risk and bring you a higher rate of return. P2P lending is often faster than traditional bank lending. It also offers a low cost way for borrowers to get the money they need.
Investing is defined as “the outlay of money usually for income or profit.” The idea behind investing? Put your money to work for you in something you believe will increase in value over time. Investing your money in the stock market may seem like a foreign concept; how do you know which funds to invest in? How does trading actually work? And what the heck is a mutual fund?
Most online brokerage firms charge between $7 and $10 per trade. Though this does not sound like much, commissions can have a big impact on small accounts. For example, say you have $1,000 to invest in a single stock. Your buy and sell orders will each cost you $10, resulting in a transaction cost of $20. This equates to a 2% reduction in your actual returns. Once you start factoring in the costs, your profit may very well not justify the risk of trying to pick an individual stock, if you are investing a small amount in a taxable account.
The goal of your financial adviser/broker is to keep you as a client so that they can continue to make money off of you. They tell you to diversify so that your portfolio follows the Dow and the S&P 500. That way, they will always have an excuse when it goes down in value. The average broker/adviser has very little knowledge of the underlying economics of business. Warren Buffett is famous for saying, "Risk is for people who don't know what they're doing."
Why are voting rights important? Often, the matters you'll get to vote on will impact the value of your shares, either directly or indirectly. For example, if you're invested in a company proposing a stock split, the value of each share you own will be reduced as a result of that move (though you'll get double the number of shares) -- that's something you'll want a voice in. Similarly, you'll get to vote on things such as mergers and acquisitions and major structural changes within a company -- things that can impact cash flow and earnings, and therefore cause the value of your stocks to fluctuate. 
Many people just like you turn to the markets to help buy a home, send children to college, or build a retirement nest egg. But unlike the banking world, where deposits are guaranteed by federal deposit insurance, the value of stocks, bonds, and other securities fluctuates with market conditions. No one can guarantee that you’ll make money from your investments, and they may lose value.
As you near retirement, a full-service brokerage firm may make more sense because they can handle the complex “stuff” like managing your wealth in a tax-efficient way, or setting up a trust to pass wealth on to the next generation, and so on. At this point, it may be advantageous to pay…say, 0.50% of your assets in fees each year for advice and access to a certified public accountant who can help you with the nitty-gritty details that are more important as you start making withdrawals (rather than contributions) from your retirement accounts. That said, even discount brokers are getting into the advisory and wealth management business, so they shouldn’t be ruled out as a true start-to-finish solution for retirement.
Full-service brokers are what most people visualize when they think about investing—well-dressed, friendly business people sitting in an office chatting with clients. These are the traditional stockbrokers who will take the time to get to know you personally and financially. They will look at factors such as marital status, lifestyle, personality, risk tolerance, age (time horizon), income, assets, debts, and more. By getting to know as much about you as they can, these full-service brokers can then help you develop a long-term financial plan.
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.
Not only can these brokers help you with your investment needs, but they can also provide assistance with estate planning, tax advice, retirement planning, budgeting and any other type of financial advice, hence the term "full-service." They can help you manage all of your financial needs now and long into the future and are for investors who want everything in one package. In terms of fees, full-service brokers are more expensive than discount brokers but the value in having a professional investment advisor by your side can be well worth the additional costs. Accounts can be set up with as little as $1,000. Most people, especially beginners, would fall into this category in terms of the type of broker they require.

Discounted cash flow (DCF) model: the value of a stock is the present value of all its future cash flows. Thus, DCF = CF1/(1+r)^1 + CF2/(1+r)^2 + ... + CFn/(1+r)^n, where CFn = cash flow for a given time period n, r = discount rate. A typical DCF calculation projects a growth rate for annual free cash flow (operating cash flow less capital expenditures) for the next 10 years to calculate a growth value and estimate a terminal growth rate thereafter to calculate a terminal value, then sum up the two to arrive at the DCF value of the stock. For example, if Company A's current FCF is $2/share, estimated FCF growth is 7% for the next 10 years and 4% thereafter, using a discount rate of 12%, the stock has a growth value of $15.69 and a terminal value of $16.46 and is worth $32.15 a share.
But while the thought of losing money is what makes most people fear the stock market, one thing you ought to remember is that the market has historically spent more time up than down, and those who are in it for the long haul tend to come out ahead. Consider this: Between 1965 and 2015, the S&P 500 underwent 27 corrections where it lost 10% of its value or more, but it ultimately wound up recovering from each and every one. Therefore, if you're patient and willing to invest on a long-term basis, you really do stand to make money.
Typically sold as mutual funds or exchange-traded funds, these combine a number of stocks in one fund that is designed to mimic the returns of the Standard & Poor's 500 index, Russell 2000 or another stock market index. Each index tracks a section of the stock market. For instance, the Nasdaq composite tracks technology firms, while the Russell 2000 includes smaller businesses.
If you’re on a tight budget, try to invest just one percent of your salary into the retirement plan available to you at work. The truth is, you probably won’t even miss a contribution that small. You'll also get a tax deduction, which will make the contribution even less painful. Once you're comfortable with a one percent contribution, maybe you can increase it as you get annual raises. You won't likely miss the additional contributions
Picking specific stocks can be complicated, so consider investing in an index fund, which mirrors the performance of an entire stock market index. An index fund is a good option for new investors because it provides diversification, or a way to reduce investing risk by owning a range of assets across a variety of industries, company sizes and geographic areas. Research has shown that index funds, which are “passively managed” funds, perform better than actively managed funds, which have a fund manager choosing specific stocks and bonds in an attempt to outperform the market.
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.
Invest in companies that you understand. Perhaps you have some basic knowledge regarding some business or industry. Why not put that to use? Invest in companies or industries that you know, because you're more likely to understand revenue models and prospects for future success. Of course, never put all your eggs in one basket: investing in only one -- or a very few -- companies can be quite risky. However, wringing value out of a single industry (whose workings you understand) will increase your chances of being successful.
What's surprising to many investors is that this simple philosophy actually works better than alternatives. Many people believe that frequent trading is the key to making money in the stock market, and day-trading techniques purport to show people how to get rich quickly by counting on buying and selling shares quickly at small profits that add up over time. However, the vast majority of frequent traders lose money over any given year, and one research report found that fewer than 1% of day traders find ways to make money consistently on a regular basis.

Growth investors look for companies whose sales and earnings are expected to increase at a faster rate than that of the market average or the average of their peers. The key difference between the growth and value philosophies is that the former places much more emphasis on a company’s revenue, unit sales, and market share, and somewhat less on earnings. Thus, growth investors tend to buy stocks that are already in favor and to pay prices that are relatively high in terms of P/E ratio. In the bull market of the late 1990s, growth investors tended to do very well, and growth returned to favor after the Great Recession.
A limit order gives you more control over the price at which your trade is executed. If XYZ stock is trading at $100 a share and you think a $95 per-share price is more in line with how you value the company, your limit order tells your broker to hold tight and execute your order only when the ask price drops to that level. On the selling side, a limit order tells your broker to part with the shares once the bid rises to the level you set.
There are several reasons for this. First, transaction costs like commissions and taxes eat into profits and can exacerbate overall losses. Second, the short-term randomness of share-price movements makes day trading like gambling, and it's tough to maintain emotional detachment in that setting, leaving you open to mistakes that can cause massive losses.
Commissions can play a big role in how profitable your investing can be, especially if you're only trading on a little bit of money. This is why commissions matter in investing. For example, if you're investing $100, and pay a $7 commission - that's the equivalent of losing 7% of your investment on day 1. Given that the stock market returns about 7% on average - you're literally going to be lucky to break even for the entire year!
The most important thing you can do is get an investing education first. Learn the basics of the stock market and if there is something that you don’t quite understand, ask. That’s the secret to successful investing for beginners. A good place to start is by reading Rule #1. It gives a great foundation to investing principles used by Warren Buffett and other great investors.
Invest in ETFs. Mutual funds usually aren't an option with just $100. They often require much larger initial investments. Enter ETFs. They combine a variety of securities into one investment. They often don't charge annual maintenance fees. But, you do pay a trading fee when you buy or sell them. We recommend sticking with ETFs that track index funds, such as the S&P 500.
If you want to learn more about how to invest in a stock, check out the directory of Investing for Beginners articles I've written, sorted by topic or head over to my blog for more esoteric and advanced topics that aren't particularly appropriate for beginners. Whatever happens, remember that stocks are just one of many types of assets that you can use to build wealth and become financially independent. 
At the other end of the spectrum, higher-risk companies can offer even bigger rewards for those who can find the best prospects. If you look at smaller companies' stocks, you can make discoveries early in a company's existence that can result in much higher returns than if you wait until a company is large enough to hit the radar screens of those in the mainstream investment community. Often, the stocks with the highest growth potential won't fit neatly into any one category, but even once the investing public starts to notice them and bids up their shares to what can appear to be extremely expensive levels, choosing the right stocks can leave you with opportunities for future gains.

Know a bit about investing in property. Investing in real estate can be a risky but lucrative proposition. There are lots of ways you can invest in property. You can buy a house and become a landlord. You pocket the difference between what you pay on the mortgage and what the tenant pays you in rent. You can also flip homes. That means you buy a home in need of renovations, fix it up, and sell it as quickly as possible. Real estate can be a profitable vehicle for some, but it is not without substantial risk involving property maintenance and market value.
Some retirement plans and accounts also have asset protection benefits. For instance, some have unlimited bankruptcy protection, meaning that if you suffer a medical disaster or some other event that wipes out your personal balance sheet and forces you to declare bankruptcy, your retirement savings will be out of the reach of creditors. Others have limitations on the asset protection afforded to them, but still reach into the seven-figures.
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