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.
Choosing the right stock can be a fool's errand, but investing in high-quality stocks such as blue chips and dividend-yielding ones are often good strategies. One reason investors opt for blue chips is because of the potential for growth and stability and because they produce dividends - these include companies such as Microsoft (ticker: MSFT), Coca-Cola Co. (KO) and Procter & Gamble Co. (PG). Coco-Cola, for example, generates a dividend of 2.9%, and the stock is less volatile as its share price has hovered between $44 and $55 during the past 52 weeks. Dividends can generate much-needed income for investors, especially higher-dividend ones.
The Intelligent Investor by Ben Graham ought to be required reading for every private investor. While the innovations he brought to stock analysis have long been outdated and the red flags he used to watch out for in a company's accounts are now regulated against by the SEC, many of his insights about thinking about investment still stand. For example, his description of Mr Market is still an excellent way of understanding how a crowd moves with the daily news.
Stock investing is filled with intricate strategies and approaches, yet some of the most successful investors have done little more than stick with the basics. That generally means using funds for the bulk of your portfolio — Warren Buffett has famously said a low-cost S&P 500 index fund is the best investment most Americans can make — and choosing individual stocks only if you believe in the company’s potential for long-term growth.
A stock's market capitalization (cap) is its true value, the sum of the total shares multiplied by price. It has more meaning than the share price because it allows you to evaluate a company in the context of others of the same size in its industry. You can use a market cap as a filter to screen for companies to balance your portfolio. A small-cap company with stock capitalization of $250 million to $2 billion shouldn't be compared to a large cap, which ranges from $10 billion to $100 billion. Market capitalization influences your investment returns.
Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) -- Amazon is a great beginner-friendly stock for a few reasons. First of all, it is the clear leader in its fields. One of the largest retailers of any kind in the entire world, Amazon makes up nearly half of all U.S. e-commerce sales, and it is also the dominant provider of cloud services to businesses. The company is growing impressively and has several of the competitive advantages we like to see (network effect and cost advantages in particular).
It is also worth trying to keep up to date with the latest thinking related to the area of investment that you are trying to specialise in. Therefore, if you plan to invest in defensive or income stocks, for example, it would be wise to read regularly about value investing and dividends. If you plan to invest in growth stocks, it would be wise to read about technology and the latest trends. Perhaps you could subscribe to one or more trade publications that relate to the sector(s) that you are most interested in.
Diversification allows you to recover from the loss of your total investment (20% of your portfolio) by gains of 10% in the two best companies (25% x 40%) and 4% in the remaining two companies (10% x 40%). Even though your overall portfolio value dropped by 6% (20% loss minus 14% gain), it is considerably better than having been invested solely in company E.
The recent market turbulence has reinforced the importance of this approach. The stock market has gone through each of the three possible stages in recent months: market in confirmed uptrend, uptrend under pressure and market in correction. To stay protected throughout these changes, follow the No. 1 rule of investing: Always cut your losses short. While you can't control what the stock market does, this basic rule lets you control how you react.
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.
You can buy stock directly using a brokerage account or app. Other options exist for those who are employed—either a 401k plan or a 403b plan if you work for a non-profit. Then there's the IRA—be it a Traditional IRA, Roth IRA, Simple IRA, or SEP-IRA account. You can also set up a direct stock purchase plan or dividend reinvestment plan (DRIP). Each type of account has different tax implications.
The biggest obstacle to stock market profits is an inability to control one’s emotions and make logical decisions. In the short-term, the prices of companies reflect the combined emotions of the entire investment community. When a majority of investors are worried about a company, its stock price is likely to decline; when a majority feel positive about the company’s future, its stock price tends to rise.
Intuitive Surgical (NASDAQ:ISRG) -- Intuitive Surgical is a healthcare company that makes surgical robots and is the clear leader in the space. There are tens of thousands of doctors trained on the company's da Vinci surgical robots and more than 4,400 of the robots installed worldwide. As more surgical applications are found for the technology, these machines become more valuable to the hospitals that own and use them.
Businesses you don't understand -- Here's a great rule of thumb that works for beginners and expert investors alike. If you can't clearly explain what a company does and how it makes money in a sentence or two, don't invest in it. There are literally thousands of publicly traded companies to choose from, and you should be able to find plenty of opportunities in easy-to-understand businesses.
History shows that investing in stocks is one of the most profitable ways to build wealth over the long term. Nearly every member of the Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans got there because they own a large block of shares in a public or private corporation. Learning to invest wisely and with patience over a lifetime can yield a portfolio far outpacing the most modest income.
Before you raise your hand to complain, yes, we know that a computer can track price changes much better than most humans. We get it. But the aim of the exercise is to get a 'feel' for the movements in price and that is unlikely to happen by using a computer program and pressing a button. We are talking here about stocks for beginners, and beginners need the learning experience, not the quick fix automation. Just trust us...