But this isn’t your typical market, and you can’t show up and pick your shares off a shelf the way you select produce at the grocery store. Individual traders are typically represented by brokers — these days, that’s often an online broker. You place your stock trades through the broker, which then deals with the exchange on your behalf. (Need a broker? See our analysis of the best stockbrokers for beginners.)

Cost advantages -- A business can have a few different types of cost advantages. For example, an efficient distribution network can make it cheaper for a company to get its product around the country. A well-known brand name can give a company the ability to charge more than rivals. Or a proprietary manufacturing process can make it cheaper to produce a product. Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) is a great example. Not only does the company have a massive and efficient distribution network, it has one of the most recognizable and valuable brand names in the world.


In most cases, your broker will charge a commission every time that you trade stock, either through buying or selling. Trading fees range from the low end of $2 per trade but can be as high as $10 for some discount brokers. Some brokers charge no trade commissions at all, but they make up for it in other ways. There are no charitable organizations running brokerage services.


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.
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.

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.
Buy in thirds: Like dollar-cost averaging, “buying in thirds” helps you avoid the morale-crushing experience of bumpy results right out of the gate. Divide the amount you want to invest by three and then, as the name implies, pick three separate points to buy shares. These can be at regular intervals (e.g., monthly or quarterly) or based on performance or company events. For example, you might buy shares before a product is released and put the next third of your money into play if it’s a hit — or divert the remaining money elsewhere if it’s not.
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