We all know someone who has “tried” investing in the stock market, lost a lot of money, and denounced it as a scam. The truth is that the stock market is not a scam; it is an incredible wealth-building tool. Most people who lose money in stocks do so because they get spooked by a dip in the market and then panic. Fearing that they will lose all of their investment, they hastily sell their shares, often at a loss. This should not be the case. Investors must keep in mind that over the long run, the stock market tends to increase in value, so they should think twice before selling their investments in a panic.
Accept losses – When you’re making so many trades every day, you’re bound to lose sometimes. It’s how you respond to those loses that defines your trading career. The loss trigger can quickly result in revenge trading, micro-managing and just flat out poor decisions. Instead, embrace small losses and remember you’re doing the correct thing, which is sticking to risk management.
PEG ratio -- Companies grow at different rates, and failure to take this into account is one of the key shortcomings of the P/E ratio. The price-to-earnings-growth ratio, or PEG ratio, levels the playing field. Simply divide the company's P/E ratio by its projected earnings growth rate. For example, a company with a P/E of 30 and a 15% expected growth rate would have a PEG ratio of 2.0. Like the P/E ratio, the PEG ratio is most useful for comparing companies in the same industry but with different growth rates.
Phrases like “earnings movers” and “intraday highs” don’t mean much to the average investor, and in many cases, they shouldn’t. If you’re in it for the long term — with, say, a portfolio of mutual funds geared toward retirement — you don’t need to worry about what these words mean, or about the flashes of red or green that cross the bottom of your TV screen. You can get by just fine without understanding the stock market much at all.
To make comparisons between companies, sectors and markets a little easier, there are a number of mathematical models used. The most common and often the most helpful is the P/E ratio. The Price to Earnings ratio takes the share price and is divided by the earnings per share. It is possible to calculate this using past earnings, projected future earnings and with all sorts of moving averages ;-) Therefore, this is one number that it is vital for any investor to know and understand.
Some scammers will buy up a ton of some near-bankrupt, almost lifeless penny stock, then use lies and exaggerations to push the share price much higher. They might say the company is about to get some huge business deal with Google or their neighbor just struck gold in their similar mine, or they are going to land a major FDA clearance. That typically helps increase the value of the penny stock, which creates a profit for the promoter or scam artist. As the shares increase in value, they sell their holdings. These shares usually collapse back down to near-worthless status once the promoter has taken their profits and moved on.
When choosing where to trade, do not rely on any site that can't point to a 100-percent unbiased guarantee. Regardless of what they call it, you only want to trust a website or service that ensures your best interests are front and center. They should commit to everyone that they will not trade in the shares they tell their customers about, and that they're not simply touting their own investments.
Most of these services offer some form of free portfolio tracking - this enables you to create a portfolio and track it properly to see how you do with no money on the line. This used to be known as paper trading in the 'good old days' before 2001. This kind of exercise can be a good way to learn and play around with things without being either serious or costly.
Depending on your goals, investing in individual stocks may be more trouble than it’s worth. Choosing index funds in a specific sector can provide your portfolio with the tilt you want, but with fewer dramatic swings. There are three criteria that can be leveraged to help guide fund choice. The most discussed is “expense ratio,” where lower means fewer fees to you. The second is the number of stocks in the fund. The higher the number, the more diverse the fund. Just as important is “total assets” under management. The more assets, the more other people also agree this is a great fund. When comparing two mutual funds, I’ll line up these three criteria for funds in the same category to make an informed decision.
Finally, the other factor: risk tolerance. The stock market goes up and down, and if you’re prone to panicking when it does the latter, you’re better off investing slightly more conservatively, with a lighter allocation to stocks. Not sure? We have a risk tolerance quiz — and more information about how to make this decision — in our article about what to invest in.
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.
Building a diversified portfolio is the priority for beginners who should consider adding index funds that capture the broader market, Swope says. Mutual funds and ETFs are the easiest solutions since they own hundreds to thousands of stocks and are less volatile than individual stocks. ETFs tend to have low minimums, allowing investors to spread their first $10,000 between a few funds and gain access to a variety of areas in the market, he says.
One of the first decisions you’ll have to make is deciding what you want to trade. Every market is different, bringing with them their own benefits and drawbacks. You need at least $25,000 to start investing in the stock market for example, whereas the forex market requires the least amount of capital. You could start day trading with just $500 in your account.
Bernard Baruch, known as “The Lone Wolf of Wall Street,” owned his own seat on the New York Stock Exchange by age 30 and became of the country’s best known financiers by 1910. Mr. Baruch, while a master of his profession, had no illusions about the difficulties of successful stock market investing, saying, “The main purpose of the stock market is to make fools of as many men as possible.” According to Ken Little, author of 15 books on investing and personal finance topics, “If you are an individual investor in the stock market, you should know that the system stacks the deck in its favor.”