Cost advantages -- A business can have a few different types of cost advantages. For example, an efficient distribution network can make it cheaper for a company to get its product around the country. A well-known brand name can give a company the ability to charge more than rivals. Or a proprietary manufacturing process can make it cheaper to produce a product. Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) is a great example. Not only does the company have a massive and efficient distribution network, it has one of the most recognizable and valuable brand names in the world.
Sector leader -- Most of the best starter stocks are either the leader in their respective businesses or very close to it. (You will note this later on in this article when we give some good beginner-friendly stock examples. There's a time and place to invest in up-and-coming companies, but it's smart to save those for after you've learned the ropes.)
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.
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 »
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.
3. Harness technology – With thousands of other traders out there, you need to utilise all the resources around you to stay ahead. With that being said, charting platforms offer a huge number of ways to analyse the markets. You can also backtest your strategy against historical data to fill in any cracks. Mobile apps will also ensure you have instant access to the market, almost anywhere. Combine that with a lightning fast internet connection and you can make fast, informed and accurate decisions.
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.
It’s best if you can automate your actual stock investments. Robo-advisors can do this for you, or if you must, you can manually buy stocks every time you receive a paycheck and have money in your savings or brokerage account. The important point is that you make regular investments so that you aren’t tempted to time the market. Regularly investing the same amount is a form of dollar cost averaging, and it helps reduce risk in your stock investments.
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.
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.
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