So you’ve seen it on TV, everybody talks about it in office or between friends, and everybody knows « that guy who invested xx months/years ago and is now rich », and you want in too. Like a vast majority of people, you are not in because you believe in the world-changing capabilities of cryptocurrencies but you just want to make some nice amounts of cash. Fair enough!
While some people do buy winning tickets or a common stock that quadruples or more in a year, it is extremely unlikely, since relying upon luck is an investment strategy that only the foolish or most desperate would choose to follow. In our quest for success, we often overlook the most powerful tools available to us: time and the magic of compounding interest. Investing regularly, avoiding unnecessary financial risk, and letting your money work for you over a period of years and decades is a certain way to amass significant assets.
A stock's market capitalization (cap) is the sum of the total shares outstanding multiplied by price. For example, if a company has 1 million outstanding shares priced at $50, its market cap would be $50 million. It has more meaning than the share price because it allows you to evaluate a company in the context of similar-sized companies in its industry. A small-cap company with a capitalization of $500 million shouldn't be compared to a large-cap company worth more than $10 billion. Here are how companies are generally grouped:
The recent market turbulence from the coronavirus pandemic has reinforced the importance of this approach. The stock market has recently gone through each of the three possible stages: market in confirmed uptrend, uptrend under pressure and market in correction. To stay protected throughout these changes, follow the No. 1 rule of investing: Always cut your losses short. While you can't control what the stock market does, this basic rule lets you control how you react.
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.
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.
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.
A warning on backup phrases: It is absolutely crucial if you’re into this seriously to WRITE DOWN ON PAPER the sequence of words, write it down properly, and check it rather twice than once. NEVER EVER store it on a cloud drive, as a file on your computer, or even worse as a screenshot/photo on your mobile. Store it in a safe place where you and anyone you deem to be a trustworthy person knows. Don’t leave it on your desk, don’t leave it in the kids room, as there are many horror stories of people who lost money because of this.
Benjamin Graham, who is known as the father of value investing, has preached that the real money in investing will have to be made—as most of it has been in the past—not out of buying and selling, but out of owning and holding securities, receiving interest and dividends, and benefiting from their long-term increase in value. This practice has created millionaires.
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.
** Merrill waives its commissions for all online stock, ETF and option trades placed in a Merrill Edge® Self-Directed brokerage account. Brokerage fees associated with, but not limited to, margin transactions, special stock registration/gifting, account transfer and processing and termination apply. $0 option trades are subject to a $0.65 per-contract fee. Other fees and restrictions may apply. Pricing is subject to change without advance notice.
Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated (also referred to as "MLPF&S" or "Merrill") makes available certain investment products sponsored, managed, distributed or provided by companies that are affiliates of Bank of America Corporation ("BofA Corp."). MLPF&S is a registered broker-dealer, a registered investment adviser, Member Securities Investor Protection (SIPC) popup and a wholly owned subsidiary of Bank of America Corporation ("BofA Corp").
If you are literally just getting started, the services offered by most major stockbrokers (information here) as a part of their trading account services will be a good place to start (and free). Firms such as Trade King, eTrade, Charles Schwab and Ameritrade provide a range of online tools. These will give you a feel for how portfolio management software works without having to pay extra to learn. However, these services typically offer no advice (known as execution only), which means that a separate service will be required for information analysis.
Bernard Baruch, known as “The Lone Wolf of Wall Street,” owned his own seat on the New York Stock Exchange by age 30 and became of the country’s best known financiers by 1910. Mr. Baruch, while a master of his profession, had no illusions about the difficulties of successful stock market investing, saying, “The main purpose of the stock market is to make fools of as many men as possible.” According to Ken Little, author of 15 books on investing and personal finance topics, “If you are an individual investor in the stock market, you should know that the system stacks the deck in its favor.”