The stock market refers to the collection of markets and exchanges where regular activities of buying, selling, and issuance of shares of publicly-held companies take place. Such financial activities are conducted through institutionalized formal exchanges or over-the-counter (OTC) marketplaces which operate under a defined set of regulations. There can be multiple stock trading venues in a country or a region which allow transactions in stocks and other forms of securities.
Fees beyond trade commissions include inactivity fees (common with active trading brokers such as Interactive Brokers, Lightspeed, and TradeStation) and IRA fees for having a retirement account. While most brokers do not charge predatory fees, it’s still important to do your due diligence. Just like a bank account, stock brokers also make a portion of their profits off miscellaneous fees.
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While today it is possible to purchase almost everything online, there is usually a designated market for every commodity. For instance, people drive to city outskirts and farmlands to purchase Christmas trees, visit the local timber market to buy wood and other necessary material for home furniture and renovations, and go to stores like Walmart for their regular grocery supplies.
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A stock split is when a company increases its total shares by dividing up the ones it currently has. It is typically done on a 2:1 ratio. For example, if you own 100 shares of a stock priced at $80 per share, after the split, you'll have 200 shares priced at $40 each. The number of shares changes, but the value remains the same. Stock splits occur when prices are increasing in a way that deters and disadvantages smaller investors. They can also keep the trading volume up by creating a larger buying pool to trade. If you invest in a stock, expect to experience a stock split at some point.
Once you are familiar with the concepts above, and know that you can (and eventually will) be influenced, you need to do some research on what projects you want to invest into. There are to date 1400+ cryptocurrency projects listed on coinmarketcap, a website that tracks projects, market value etc. This is a good start to understand market capitalisation, price of the cryptocurrency unit in what we understand when we begin (fiat currency i.e. dollars or anything else), total amount of assets in circulation etc.
Warning 2: this is serious. If you don’t believe me, just go on Reddit (r/Cryptocurrency) and look for posts of people who ask for help. There are some devastating stories out there which are all based on greed, credulity, inexperience and/or outright stupidity. You may become rich, but you may also lose everything. People are taking loans with high repayment rates to buy at peak price and will end up ruined. Young inexperienced people have burned their relatives’ lifetime savings, others have no money to pay their university tuition. Don’t be those guys.
Instant-access exchanges offer speed and anonymity. You will most often trade your cryptocurrency against another at a fixed rate, but without the hassle of having to set up an account on a full exchange, without having to fund balances (you must use your own wallets – more on wallets below), place buy/sell orders, then withdraw to your wallet. You will have to provide two addresses (in cryptocurrencies, addresses are where your funds reside to make it short): a payment address (for the cryptocurrency you want to purchase, i.e. the address of your target wallet) and a refund address (the address from where you are sending the money from, in case the exchange order cannot be fulfilled. These exchanges are for example Evercoin, Nexchange, ShapeShift or Changelly (Changelly is not anonymous though). Some of those will even allow to purchase cryptocurrency with fiat currency.
Such dedicated markets serve as a platform where numerous buyers and sellers meet, interact and transact. Since the number of market participants is huge, one is assured of a fair price. For example, if there is only one seller of Christmas trees in the entire city, he will have the liberty to charge any price he pleases as the buyers won’t have anywhere else to go. If the number of tree sellers is large in a common marketplace, they will have to compete against each other to attract buyers. The buyers will be spoiled for choice with low- or optimum-pricing making it a fair market with price transparency. Even while shopping online, buyers compare prices offered by different sellers on the same shopping portal or across different portals to get the best deals, forcing the various online sellers to offer the best price.
Pro tip: Another way to make sure your portfolio is diversified is to invest if different types of investments. Some people like to mix things up by investing in fine art through Masterworks. Fun fact – blue chip art returned 10.6% in 2018 compared to a 5.1% loss for the S&P 500. Others choose to invest in real estate through a company like DiversyFund.
For example, there may be three buyers who have placed orders for buying Microsoft shares at $100, $105 and $110, and there may be four sellers who are willing to sell Microsoft shares at $110, $112, $115 and $120. The exchange (through their computer operated automated trading systems) needs to ensure that the best buy and best sell are matched, which in this case is at $110 for the given quantity of trade.
Risk tolerance is also affected by one’s perception of the risk. For example, flying in an airplane or riding in a car would have been perceived as very risky in the early 1900s, but less so today as flight and automobile travel are common occurrences. Conversely, most people today would feel that riding a horse might be dangerous with a good chance of falling or being bucked off because few people are around horses.
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In the professional world, one of the key concepts is diversification. Harry Markowitz is a Nobel prize winning economist and one of his major discoveries was that adding new asset classes can dramatically alter the overall risk profile of a portfolio. His finding was that a portfolio that contained very low risk assets would normally benefit from lower volatility and higher returns if a higher risk asset was added. This is due to the likely lack of correlation between high and low risk asset classes.
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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.