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History shows that investing in stocks is one of the most profitable ways to build wealth over the long term. Nearly every member of the Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans got there because they own a large block of shares in a public or private corporation. Learning to invest wisely and with patience over a lifetime can yield a portfolio far outpacing the most modest income.
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 »
Should the company management and majority owners choose, they can pay one or more dividends per year to stockholders. The money for these dividends will typically come from profits earned within the business. In most countries, these dividends are subject to income tax payable by the receiver. Often there is a withholding tax taken at source to ensure that non-resident shareholders pay as well.
Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) -- Amazon is a great beginner-friendly stock for a few reasons. First of all, it is the clear leader in its fields. One of the largest retailers of any kind in the entire world, Amazon makes up nearly half of all U.S. e-commerce sales, and it is also the dominant provider of cloud services to businesses. The company is growing impressively and has several of the competitive advantages we like to see (network effect and cost advantages in particular).
Payout ratio -- The payout ratio is a good metric for dividend investors to know and is the company's annual dividend rate expressed as a percentage of its earnings. For example, if a company paid out $1.00 in dividends per share last year and earned $2.00, it would have a 50% payout ratio. A payout ratio can tell you if a company's dividend is sustainable or if a dividend cut could be possible.
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 this isn’t your typical market, and you can’t show up and pick your shares off a shelf the way you select produce at the grocery store. Individual traders are typically represented by brokers — these days, that’s often an online broker. You place your stock trades through the broker, which then deals with the exchange on your behalf. (Need a broker? See our analysis of the best stockbrokers for beginners.)
The idea of perception is important, especially in investing. As you gain more knowledge about investments – for example, how stocks are bought and sold, how much volatility (price change) is usually present, and the difficulty or ease of liquidating an investment – you are likely to consider stock investments to have less risk than you thought before making your first purchase. As a consequence, your anxiety when investing is less intense, even though your risk tolerance remains unchanged because your perception of the risk has evolved.