When thinking about a stock exchange it is worth remembering that it is a capital market. The primary purpose of a capital market is to enable businesses to raise money to provide working capital to fund expansion and growth. In exchange for this money, the companies issue equity in the form of stock, creating stockholders. Each stockholder ownes a piece of the active business relative to the amount of money they invested.
To make comparisons between companies, sectors and markets a little easier, there are a number of mathematical models used. The most common and often the most helpful is the P/E ratio. The Price to Earnings ratio takes the share price and is divided by the earnings per share. It is possible to calculate this using past earnings, projected future earnings and with all sorts of moving averages ;-) Therefore, this is one number that it is vital for any investor to know and understand.
"Investing has become much easier," says Steve Sanders, executive vice president of marketing and new product development at Greenwich, Connecticut-based Interactive Brokers. "More of your hard-earned money will go straight toward your portfolio and not toward paying fees. I think this will be extremely helpful for beginning investors as well as others who like to save money."
Before deciding where to allocate your investments, it’s critical to think about your long-term and short-term goals. It’s important to know how much risk you are willing to accept. As you approach retirement, fixed-income securities, such as highly-rated bonds and money market accounts, offer a greater level of safety. But a younger investor might want a more high-risk, high-reward strategy for at least part of their investments to maximize returns over a long period of time.
Dividend growth -- This is the most optional characteristic on the list, as there are some great beginner-friendly stocks that don't pay dividends. Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.A) (NYSE:BRK.B) is a great example. However, if a stock does pay a dividend, an established track record of dividend growth is an excellent characteristic for long-term-focused beginning investors to look for.
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.
It is also worth trying to keep up to date with the latest thinking related to the area of investment that you are trying to specialise in. Therefore, if you plan to invest in defensive or income stocks, for example, it would be wise to read regularly about value investing and dividends. If you plan to invest in growth stocks, it would be wise to read about technology and the latest trends. Perhaps you could subscribe to one or more trade publications that relate to the sector(s) that you are most interested in.
By understanding your risk tolerance, you can avoid those investments which are likely to make you anxious. Generally speaking, you should never own an asset which keeps you from sleeping in the night. Anxiety stimulates fear which triggers emotional responses (rather than logical responses) to the stressor. During periods of financial uncertainty, the investor who can retain a cool head and follows an analytical decision process invariably comes out ahead.
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