Building a diversified portfolio is the priority for beginners who should consider adding index funds that capture the broader market, Swope says. Mutual funds and ETFs are the easiest solutions since they own hundreds to thousands of stocks and are less volatile than individual stocks. ETFs tend to have low minimums, allowing investors to spread their first $10,000 between a few funds and gain access to a variety of areas in the market, he says.
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.
Stock brokers are people or firms licensed to buy and sell stocks and other securities via the stock market exchanges. Back in the day, the only way for individuals to invest directly in stocks was to hire stock brokers to place trades on their behalf. But what was once a clunky, costly transaction conducted via landline telephones now takes place online in seconds, for a fraction of what full-service brokers used to charge for the service. Today, most investors place their trades through an online brokerage account. (A little lost? Check out our explainers on brokerage accounts and buying stocks.)
The two main types of IRAs are Roth and Traditional, and the difference between them has to do with when you pay taxes. With a Roth IRA, you contribute money after taxes, so your withdrawals are tax-free in retirement. In most cases, contributions to a Traditional IRA are tax deductible, but you'll pay taxes when you withdraw money in retirement.
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.
But building a diversified portfolio of individual stocks takes a lot of time, patience and research. The alternative is a mutual fund, the aforementioned ETF or an index fund. These hold a basket of investments, so you’re automatically diversified. An S&P 500 ETF, for example, would aim to mirror the performance of the S&P 500 by investing in the 500 companies in that index.
What would make me sell: Sometimes there are good reasons to split up. For this part of your journal, compose an investing prenup that spells out what would drive you to sell the stock. We’re not talking about stock price movement, especially not short term, but fundamental changes to the business that affect its ability to grow over the long term. Some examples: The company loses a major customer, the CEO’s successor starts taking the business in a different direction, a major viable competitor emerges, or your investing thesis doesn’t pan out after a reasonable period of time.