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.

Finally, you’re going to be looking for catalysts or roadblocks to growth for each company. This means looking in the financial news, reading analyst reports and management presentations. By this time in the process, maybe you’re only looking at four to six companies in a sector so this level of deep research won’t take more than a couple of hours.
It also takes the reader through a path that should help anyone make better decisions based on their own personal circumstances so that they can plan their own path. In other words, there are no short-term investment tips here, only sound fundamental guidance for the long-term. This book redefines investment related advice and is highly recommended for investors at all levels.

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When thinking about the mindset of investors, The Great Crash 1929 by J.K.Galbraith (reviewed here) should also be required reading. Typically, any sustained fall in prices - known as a bear market - is very destructive to wealth. However, as Galbraith explains wonderfully, each bear market is unique and is a reflection of the bull market that came before it. The book explains a great deal about the feedback loops that can exist when prices rise and fall as more people are either sucked into or forced out of holdings. It is the reference work about a very important slice of Wall Street history.
Rarely is short-term noise (blaring headlines, temporary price fluctuations) relevant to how a well-chosen company performs over the long term. It’s how investors react to the noise that really matters. Here’s where that rational voice from calmer times — your investing journal — can serve as a guide to sticking it out during the inevitable ups and downs that come with investing in stocks.
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