This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of NerdWallet from June 14-18, 2018, among 2,024 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, among whom 787 were invested in in the stock market during at least one of the past five financial downturns. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact Megan Katz at [email protected]
Since the underlying businesses operate in differing markets, sectors and countries, their quoted prices move independently as supply and demand in them rises and falls and new information is released to the public about the current business situation. It is the changing of prices that offer investors the opportunity to make a capital gain (or loss) via ownership.
In the professional world, one of the key concepts is diversification. Harry Markowitz is a Nobel prize winning economist and one of his major discoveries was that adding new asset classes can dramatically alter the overall risk profile of a portfolio. His finding was that a portfolio that contained very low risk assets would normally benefit from lower volatility and higher returns if a higher risk asset was added. This is due to the likely lack of correlation between high and low risk asset classes.
Investing in stocks can be done in many ways. If you would like to form a strategy and manage your own investments, you can open a brokerage account. If you're unsure about where to start, consider opening an account with a robo advisor who will do the work at a lower cost. For those who want more guidance about their retirement plans, turning to financial advisors might be a good solution.

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.
Before making your first investment, take the time to learn the basics about the stock market and the individual securities composing the market. There is an old adage: It is not a stock market, but a market of stocks. Unless you are purchasing an exchange traded fund (ETF), your focus will be upon individual securities, rather than the market as a whole. There are few times when every stock moves in the same direction; even when the averages fall by 100 points or more, the securities of some companies will go higher in price.
The solution to both is investing in stock index funds and ETFs. While mutual funds might require a $1,000 minimum or more, index fund minimums tend to be lower (and ETFs are purchased for a share price that could be lower still). Two brokers, Fidelity and Charles Schwab, offer index funds with no minimum at all. Index funds also cure the diversification issue because they hold many different stocks within a single fund.
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.
If you are literally just getting started, the services offered by most major stockbrokers (information here) as a part of their trading account services will be a good place to start (and free). Firms such as Trade King, eTrade, Charles Schwab and Ameritrade provide a range of online tools. These will give you a feel for how portfolio management software works without having to pay extra to learn. However, these services typically offer no advice (known as execution only), which means that a separate service will be required for information analysis.
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.

However, it might be best to not become too much of a market "expert". Some of the most famous and successful investors of all time, such as Peter Lynch, the famed manager of the huge Fidelity Magellan fund. He suggested that looking for clues in normal life is a great way to find opportunities. Lynch used to closely follow the shopping habits of his wife to see what brands people were buying. He believed that most people working professionally on the NYSE lived in a bubble.
It pays to shop around some before deciding on where you want to open an account, and to check out our broker reviews. We list minimum deposits at the top of each review. Some firms do not require minimum deposits. Others may often lower costs, like trading fees and account management fees, if you have a balance above a certain threshold. Still, others may give a certain number of commission-free trades for opening an account.

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.
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.
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.
What would make me sell: Sometimes there are good reasons to split up. For this part of your journal, compose an investing prenup that spells out what would drive you to sell the stock. We’re not talking about stock price movement, especially not short term, but fundamental changes to the business that affect its ability to grow over the long term. Some examples: The company loses a major customer, the CEO’s successor starts taking the business in a different direction, a major viable competitor emerges, or your investing thesis doesn’t pan out after a reasonable period of time.
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