The least demanding way to invest in the stock market is to invest through a fund. There are two types of funds. First is the actively managed mutual funds which have higher fees—92% of these funds fail to beat the underlying index over any three-year period. The second type is the index tracking fund, which typically has lower costs and is more effective in matching the growth of the stock market. This means they are growing in popularity because of the higher return on investment you receive. You should also use the most tax efficient way to invest: using your Investment Retirement Account (IRA) first. It’s best to invest in a low-cost, index-tracking fund through your tax-free IRA.


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.
Stock mutual funds or exchange-traded funds. These mutual funds let you purchase small pieces of many different stocks in a single transaction. Index funds and ETFs are a kind of mutual fund that track an index; for example, a Standard & Poor’s 500 fund replicates that index by buying the stock of the companies in it. When you invest in a fund, you also own small pieces of each of those companies. You can put several funds together to build a diversified portfolio. Note that stock mutual funds are also sometimes called equity mutual funds.
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.

Considering that penny stocks are any shares that trade for less than $5, there are plenty of penny stocks on many of the major exchanges like the NYSE and the NASDAQ. There are even a few which trade for less than one dollar but still trade on these "big-board" markets. However, you will typically find most penny stocks trading at the following locations:
A stock split is when a company increases its total shares and is frequently done on a 2-for-1 ratio. So, if you own 100 shares of a stock priced at $80 per share and worth $8,000, after the split you'll have 200 shares priced at $40 each, and still worth $8,000. Stock splits occur when prices are rising in a way perceived to deter smaller investors. They can keep the trading volume up by making it easier for a larger buying pool to trade. If you invest in a stock, expect to experience a stock split at some point. 

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.

Competition has spurred many brokerages to slash commission fees, which can add up quickly if you buy and sell stocks, mutual funds or ETFs frequently. Robinhood is not the only company that does not charge commission fees. Starting in October, Interactive Brokers is providing an unlimited number of commission-free trades on U.S. exchange-traded stocks and ETFs along with no account minimums or inactivity fees.
The two types of brokers are full-service and discount brokers. Full-service brokers tailor recommendations and charge higher fees, service charges, and commissions. Once an account is set up, a discount broker can allow you to do it yourself at minimal cost through their website and offers support online, by phone, or in a branch when needed. The cost of buying continues to decrease with the introduction of apps. Apart from cost, a distinguishing factor is the research provided.
"I know stocks can be a great investment, but I'd like someone to manage the process for me." You may be a good candidate for a robo-advisor, a service that offers low-cost investment management. Virtually all of the major brokerage firms offer these services, which invest your money for you based on your specific goals. See our top picks for robo-advisors.
Experienced investors such as Buffett eschew stock diversification in the confidence that they have performed all of the necessary research to identify and quantify their risk. They are also comfortable that they can identify any potential perils that will endanger their position, and will be able to liquidate their investments before taking a catastrophic loss. Andrew Carnegie is reputed to have said, “The safest investment strategy is to put all of your eggs in one basket and watch the basket.” That said, do not make the mistake of thinking you are either Buffett or Carnegie – especially in your first years of investing.
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.
D (Weak) - The stock has underperformed the universe of other funds given the level of risk in its underlying investments, resulting in a weak risk-adjusted performance. Thus, its investment strategy and/or management has not been attuned to capitalize on the recent economic environment. While the risk-adjusted performance of any stock is subject to change, we believe that this fund has proven to be a bad investment over the recent past.
D (Weak) - The stock has underperformed the universe of other funds given the level of risk in its underlying investments, resulting in a weak risk-adjusted performance. Thus, its investment strategy and/or management has not been attuned to capitalize on the recent economic environment. While the risk-adjusted performance of any stock is subject to change, we believe that this fund has proven to be a bad investment over the recent past.
In contrast to finding an expert or two that seems to make valuable and careful decisions, do your best to avoid listening to share market 'tips' from friends or work colleagues. Typically these people will know less than you and have very little to base their suggestion on. No matter how well meaning it may be, advice from someone who knows next to nothing about the topic in question is not advice.
What are your financial goals for 10, 15, or 20 or more years down the line, and how do you plan on getting there? What is your level of risk tolerance, and what sort of investment approach will you take (value investing, dividend investing, or some combination of multiple strategies)? As you consciously outline your financial goals and the type of investor you want to be, you can experience success as a disciplined investor in the long run and stay on track with your plans.
Investment ideas can come from many places. Ask your family members what products and services they are most interested in—and why. Look at trends in the world and companies that are in a position to benefit from them. Stroll the aisles of your grocery store with an eye for what is emerging. You can also seek guidance from professional research services such as Standard & Poor's and ValueLine. Many online sources also exist for investment ideas.
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.
A $50 stock can be more expensive than an $800 stock because the share price means nothing on its own. The relationship of price-to-earnings and net assets is what determines if a stock is over- or under-valued. Companies can keep prices artificially high by never conducting a stock split, yet without having the underlying foundational support. Make no assumptions based on price alone.
D (Weak) - The stock has underperformed the universe of other funds given the level of risk in its underlying investments, resulting in a weak risk-adjusted performance. Thus, its investment strategy and/or management has not been attuned to capitalize on the recent economic environment. While the risk-adjusted performance of any stock is subject to change, we believe that this fund has proven to be a bad investment over the recent past.
Work-based retirement plans deduct your contributions from your paycheck before taxes are calculated, which will make the contribution even less painful. Once you're comfortable with a one percent contribution, maybe you can increase it as you get annual raises. You won't likely miss the additional contributions. If you have a 401(k) retirement account at work, you may already be investing in your future with allocations to mutual funds and even your own company's stock.
You’ll come across an overwhelming amount of information as you screen potential business partners. But it’s easier to home in on the right stuff when wearing a “business buyer” hat. You want to know how this company operates, its place in the overall industry, its competitors, its long-term prospects and whether it brings something new to the portfolio of businesses you already own.
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