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.
In terms of the beginning investor, the mutual fund fees are actually an advantage relative to the commissions on stocks. The reason for this is that the fees are the same, regardless of the amount you invest. Therefore, as long as you meet the minimum requirement to open an account, you can invest as little as $50 or $100 per month in a mutual fund. The term for this is called dollar cost averaging (DCA), and it can be a great way to start investing.
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.
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