Plug Power is an excellent example of the volatility investors may experience when they buy stocks beneath $5 – in the early months of 2020, shares of Plug Power rocketed up over 80%, only to suffer 50% losses shortly thereafter. While speculators may have enjoyed the pop and drop, true investors would be wise to buy and hold Plug, which makes hydrogen fuel cells for commercial vehicles. Plug’s fuel cell shipments have increased dramatically over the last two years, and the company recently announced a partnership that will usher the world’s first fuel cell-powered, zero-emission commercial trucks onto the road. This opens Plug to new business opportunities as companies around the world turn toward clean energy solutions.
The stock market works like an auction, and buyers and sellers can be individuals, corporations, or governments. When there are more sellers than buyers, the price of a stock will go down. When there are more buyers than sellers, the price will go up. A company's performance doesn't directly influence its stock price; it's investors' reaction to the performance that decides how the stock fluctuates. If a company is performing well, more people will want to own the stock—consequently driving the price up. The opposite is true when a company underperforms.
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Blue-chip stocks—which get their name from poker, where the most valuable playing chip color is blue—are well-known, well-established companies that have a history of paying out consistent dividends, regardless of the economic conditions. Investors like them because they tend to grow dividend rates faster than the rate of inflation, so the owner increases income without having to buy another share. Blue-chip stocks are not flashy, but they have solid balance sheets and steady returns.
Risk tolerance is a psychological trait that is genetically based, but positively influenced by education, income, and wealth (as these increase, risk tolerance appears to increase slightly) and negatively by age (as one gets older, risk tolerance decreases). Your risk tolerance is how you feel about risk and the degree of anxiety you feel when risk is present. In psychological terms, risk tolerance is defined as “the extent to which a person chooses to risk experiencing a less favorable outcome in the pursuit of a more favorable outcome.” In other words, would you risk $100 to win $1,000? Or $1,000 to win $1,000? All humans vary in their risk tolerance, and there is no “right” balance.
Thirty-two percent of Americans who were invested in the stock market during at least one of the last five financial downturns pulled some or all of their money out of the market. That’s according to a NerdWallet-commissioned survey, which was conducted online by The Harris Poll of more than 2,000 U.S. adults, among whom over 700 were invested in the stock market during at least one of the past five financial downturns, in June 2018. The survey also found that 28% of Americans would not keep their money in the stock market if there were a crash today.
The Intelligent Investor by Ben Graham ought to be required reading for every private investor. While the innovations he brought to stock analysis have long been outdated and the red flags he used to watch out for in a company's accounts are now regulated against by the SEC, many of his insights about thinking about investment still stand. For example, his description of Mr Market is still an excellent way of understanding how a crowd moves with the daily news.
Merrill Edge is the online brokerage arm of Bank of America, which is open to all investors, regardless if they are a current banking customer. Alongside $0 trades, Merrill Edge offers excellent stock research (Merrill Edge was rated #1 for environmental, social, and governance “ESG” research). Also, Merrill Edge offers the best rewards program. Reward perks include credit card bonus cash back, savings interest bonuses, priority customer service, and more. My wife and I have personally been members of the program since it launched in 2014. It’s awesome. Full review.
Most of these services offer some form of free portfolio tracking - this enables you to create a portfolio and track it properly to see how you do with no money on the line. This used to be known as paper trading in the 'good old days' before 2001. This kind of exercise can be a good way to learn and play around with things without being either serious or costly.
Buy in thirds: Like dollar-cost averaging, “buying in thirds” helps you avoid the morale-crushing experience of bumpy results right out of the gate. Divide the amount you want to invest by three and then, as the name implies, pick three separate points to buy shares. These can be at regular intervals (e.g., monthly or quarterly) or based on performance or company events. For example, you might buy shares before a product is released and put the next third of your money into play if it’s a hit — or divert the remaining money elsewhere if it’s not.