Dividend growth -- This is the most optional characteristic on the list, as there are some great beginner-friendly stocks that don't pay dividends. Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.A) (NYSE:BRK.B) is a great example. However, if a stock does pay a dividend, an established track record of dividend growth is an excellent characteristic for long-term-focused beginning investors to look for.
Finding the best stocks to buy and watch starts with knowing what a big market winner looks like before it takes off. As noted above, IBD's study of the top-performing stocks in each market cycle since the 1880s has identified the seven telltale traits of market winners. Your goal is to find stocks that are displaying those same traits right now. Traits like explosive earnings and sales growth, a strong return on equity, a fast-growing and industry-leading product or service and strong demand among mutual fund managers.
Even when the stock price has performed as expected, there are questions: Should I take a profit now before the price falls? Should I keep my position since the price is likely to go higher? Thoughts like these will flood your mind, especially if you constantly watch the price of a security, eventually building to a point that you will take action. Since emotions are the primary driver of your action, it will probably be wrong.
"Investing has become much easier," says Steve Sanders, executive vice president of marketing and new product development at Greenwich, Connecticut-based Interactive Brokers. "More of your hard-earned money will go straight toward your portfolio and not toward paying fees. I think this will be extremely helpful for beginning investors as well as others who like to save money."
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.
Comparing the cash flow statements of companies is going to help you narrow your list down even further. So you’ve found a few sectors that are really going to benefit from these broad themes, that’s step one. Then you find the companies within those sectors that are able to generate cash for investors at a faster pace and that are using cash responsibly.
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 sometimes a yearly membership fee. It's common to see minimum account sizes of $25,000 and up at full-service brokerages. Still, traditional brokers justify their high fees by giving advice detailed to your needs.
Rarely is short-term noise (blaring headlines, temporary price fluctuations) relevant to how a well-chosen company performs over the long term. It’s how investors react to the noise that really matters. Here’s where that rational voice from calmer times — your investing journal — can serve as a guide to sticking it out during the inevitable ups and downs that come with investing in stocks.