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.”
Like with the real world market, investing in a highly volatile market is a risky approach that can make you extremely rich or bring you to your knees. Besides the common sense approach to invest moderately (to limit the exposure of your other savings and personal finance needs), it is also recommended to spread the risk of investing in a volatile market amongst multiple assets.
A local financial regulator or competent monetary authority or institute is assigned the task of regulating the stock market of a country. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is the regulatory body charged with overseeing the U.S. stock markets. The SEC is a federal agency that works independently of the government and political pressure. The mission of the SEC is stated as: "to protect investors, maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and facilitate capital formation."
Phrases like “earnings movers” and “intraday highs” don’t mean much to the average investor, and in many cases, they shouldn’t. If you’re in it for the long term — with, say, a portfolio of mutual funds geared toward retirement — you don’t need to worry about what these words mean, or about the flashes of red or green that cross the bottom of your TV screen. You can get by just fine without understanding the stock market much at all.
Following the first-time share issuance IPO exercise called the listing process, the stock exchange also serves as the trading platform that facilitates regular buying and selling of the listed shares. This constitutes the secondary market. The stock exchange earns a fee for every trade that occurs on its platform during the secondary market activity.
You can buy stock directly using a brokerage account or one of the many available investment apps. These platforms give you the option to buy, sell, and store your purchased stocks, and the differences between them are mostly in fees and available resources. While traditional brokerage companies—like Fidelity, E-Trade, and TD Ameritrade—charge a commission fee per trade, newer companies like Robinhood and WeBull offer zero-commission trades.
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.
This is a more advanced topic for those who want to do what is called « day trading », i.e. those who plan to buy and sell on a daily basis as their main activity. Arbitraging is the process of leveraging price differences between exchanges to make a profit, by buying cryptocurrency cheap on a given exchange and selling it for a higher price on a different exchange.
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.
The exchange also earns from selling market data generated on its platform - like real-time data, historical data, summary data, and reference data – which is vital for equity research and other uses. Many exchanges will also sell technology products, like a trading terminal and dedicated network connection to the exchange, to the interested parties for a suitable fee.
In most cases, your broker will charge a commission every time that you trade stock, either through buying or selling. Trading fees range from the low end of $2 per trade but can be as high as $10 for some discount brokers. Some brokers charge no trade commissions at all, but they make up for it in other ways. There are no charitable organizations running brokerage services.
Sell walls: the action of artificially keeping the price of a cryptocurrency asset low by placing a large sell order. Large financial operators or investors (nicknamed « whales ») may want to artificially keep the price of a cryptocurrency low so that they can keep accumulating quietly, without causing a sharp rise in price. These are called « walls » because on exchanges, the graphics showing offer and demand will show a very high « wall » on the offer size. The mechanism is that the investor will put a very large sell order (usually 100 to 1000 times more cryptocurrency units than regular orders). Because of how exchanges operate, the sell will only take place if there is sufficient demand to fulfil the entire order, so smaller operators who have a real need/urge to sell would have to sell below that wall (i.e. cheaper) to make sure they can get paid. This will cause a condition where the price will stagnate, allowing those whales to put as much smaller buy orders as they need. Sell walls may be removed once the buying whales have reached their objectives.
It came out of the Great Recession, however, and that’s how bulls and bears tend to go: Bull markets are followed by bear markets, and vice versa, with both often signaling the start of larger economic patterns. In other words, a bull market typically means investors are confident, which indicates economic growth. A bear market shows investors are pulling back, indicating the economy may do so as well.
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.)
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.
The use of borrowed money “levers” or exaggerates the result of price movement. Suppose the stock moves to $200 a share and you sell it. If you had used your own money exclusively, your return would be 100% on your investment [($20,000 -$10,000)/$10,000]. If you had borrowed $5,000 to buy the stock and sold at $200 per share, your return would be 300 % [(20,000-$5,000)/$5,000] after repaying the $5,000 loan and excluding the cost of interest paid to the broker.
The stock exchanges also maintain all company news, announcements, and financial reporting, which can be usually accessed on their official websites. A stock exchange also supports various other corporate-level, transaction-related activities. For instance, profitable companies may reward investors by paying dividends which usually comes from a part of the company’s earnings. The exchange maintains all such information and may support its processing to a certain extent. (For related reading, see "How Does the Stock Market Work?")
If you have a job, your employer may offer a 401k or 403b retirement plan as part of your benefits package. These accounts invest your money for retirement, but your investment options are limited to the choices provided by your employer and plan provider. If your employer doesn't offer a retirement plan, you can open an IRA on your own with your bank or brokerage company.
Buy & Sell Orders – each exchange has their own method of placing buy or sell orders but generally speaking the interface is similar as that of a trading application. This requires some familiarisation with the exchange interfaces. In essence, there are two sides on any exchange: people who want to sell, and people who want to buy. Everybody can sell or buy at the price they want, but obviously buyers want to buy at the cheapest price and sellers want to make the biggest profit, which means that eventually a middle point will be reached where the transactions take place. It’s common for people to cancel their sell or buy orders and put in place new ones by 0.00001 increments just to get the « top » place on the buy or sell list, i.e. sell at the « lowest price » or buy at the « highest price » in order to have their order fulfilled. Once you buy (or sell) the balances get adjusted accordingly
Dollar-cost average: This sounds complicated, but it’s not. Dollar-cost averaging means investing a set amount of money at regular intervals, such as once per week or month. That set amount buys more shares when the stock price goes down and fewer shares when it rises, but overall, it evens out the average price you pay. Some online brokerage firms let investors set up an automated investing schedule.