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.
Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG) -- As a beginning investor, it wouldn't be surprising if you haven't heard the name Alphabet before, but it's likely you've heard of the company's main subsidiary, Google. As the dominant leader in internet search, Google has an effective duopoly on internet advertising, along with Facebook. Its massive stockpile of consumer data makes its ads extremely effective, and it's tough to imagine any competitor stealing any significant percentage of the market. And Google has the second-most-valuable brand name in the entire world, with an estimated value of more than $130 billion, according to Forbes. The fact that Google's brand has become synonymous with internet search and several other functions gives tremendous pricing power when it comes to selling ads.
News events and earnings reports can change the perceived value of a company. Because the stock market functions as an auction, prices sometimes need to adapt for a trade to occur. When there are more sellers than buyers, the price will go down. Alternately, a stock that has more who want to buy than sell will experience a price increase. Buyers and sellers can be individuals, corporations, asset management companies, or others. Price fluctuations can be dramatic in just one day.
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.
Diversify your portfolio to make sure that you don’t have too much exposure to one sector. This will help lessen your risks. Make sure to ease into your positions. You don’t need to invest all your money at once, and by easing in, you cost-average your position. Understand that investing in the market is a long-term strategy and historically, with time, the market goes up.
Michael R. Lewis is a retired corporate executive and entrepreneur. During his 40+ year career, Lewis created and sold ten different companies ranging from oil exploration to healthcare software. He has also been a Registered Investment Adviser with the SEC, a Principal of one of the larger management consulting firms in the country, and a Senior Vice President of the largest not-for-profit health insurer in the United States. Mike's articles on personal investments, business management, and the economy are available on several online publications. He's a father and grandfather, who also writes non-fiction and biographical pieces about growing up in the plains of West Texas - including The Storm.

Buy in thirds: Like dollar-cost averaging, “buying in thirds” helps you avoid the morale-crushing experience of bumpy results right out of the gate. Divide the amount you want to invest by three and then, as the name implies, pick three separate points to buy shares. These can be at regular intervals (e.g., monthly or quarterly) or based on performance or company events. For example, you might buy shares before a product is released and put the next third of your money into play if it’s a hit — or divert the remaining money elsewhere if it’s not.
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