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.
But building a diversified portfolio of individual stocks takes a lot of time, patience and research. The alternative is a mutual fund, the aforementioned ETF or an index fund. These hold a basket of investments, so you’re automatically diversified. An S&P 500 ETF, for example, would aim to mirror the performance of the S&P 500 by investing in the 500 companies in that index.
Nerd tip: If you're tempted to open a brokerage account but need more advice on choosing the right one, see our 2019 roundup of the best brokers for stock investors. It compares today's top online brokerages across all the metrics that matter most to investors: fees, investment selection, minimum balances to open and investor tools and resources. Read: Best online brokers for stock investors »
Most Wall Street pundits will tell you it's impossible to time the stock market. While it's unrealistic to think you'll get in at the very bottom and out at the very top of a market cycle, there are ways to spot major changes in market trends as they emerge. And by spotting those changes, you can position yourself to capture solid profits in a new market uptrend and keep the bulk of those gains when the market eventually enters a downturn.
Understand that for both beginning investors and seasoned stock market pros, it's impossible to always buy and sell the best stocks at exactly the right time. But also understand that you don't have to be right every time to make money. You just need to learn some basic rules for how to identify the best stocks to watch, the ideal time to buy them, and when to sell stocks to lock in your profits or quickly cut any losses.
Whilst some day traders are tuned in every day from 09:30 to 16:30 EST (for the U.S stock market), many trade for just a 2-3 hour window instead. As a beginner especially this will prevent you making careless mistakes as your brain drops down a couple of gears when your concentration wanes. The hours you’ll want to focus your attention on are as follows:
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.
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.