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It requires that you develop the ability to assemble a tremendous amount of financial data about market performance. You also must develop "a feel" for what these data do and do not signify. This is why many investors buy the stock of products that they know and use. For such household products, try to envision economic conditions that might lead you to stop purchasing them, to upgrade, or to downgrade. If economic conditions are such that people are likely to buy a product you are very familiar with, this might be a good bet for an investment.
Focus your thinking. While trying to develop general expectations about the market and the types of companies that might be successful given present or expected economic conditions, it's important to establish predictions in some specific areas including: The direction of interest rates and inflation, and how these may affect any fixed-income or equity purchases.
Consumers have more money to make purchases, so they usually buy more. This leads to higher company revenues, which allows companies to invest in expansion. Thus, lower interest rates lead to higher stock prices. In contrast, higher interest rates can decrease stock prices. High interest rates make it more difficult or expensive to borrow money. Consumers spend less, and companies have less money to invest. Growth may stall or decline. Inflation is an overall rise in prices over a period of time.
Moderate or "controlled" inflation is usually considered good for the economy and the stock market. Low interest rates combined with moderate inflation usually have a positive effect on the market. High interest rates and deflation usually cause the stock market to fall.
Favorable conditions within specific sectors of an economy, along with a targeted microeconomic view. In strong economies, consumers are likely to feel confident about their futures, so they spend more money and make more purchases. These industries and companies are known as "cyclical. These industries and companies are usually not as affected by the economy. For example, utilities and insurance companies are usually less affected by consumer confidence, because people still have to pay for electricity and health insurance.
These industries and companies are known as "defensive" or "counter-cyclical. Part 2. Determine your asset allocations. In other words, determine how much of your money you will put in which types of investments. Decide how much money will be invested in stocks, how much in bonds, how much in more aggressive alternatives and how much you will hold as cash and cash equivalents certificates of deposit, Treasury bills, etc.
Securities and Exchange Commission Independent U. Select your investments. Your "risk and return" objectives will eliminate some of the vast number of options. As an investor, you can choose to purchase stock from individual companies, such as Apple or McDonalds. This is the most basic type of investing. A bottom-up approach occurs when you buy and sell each stock independently based on your projections of their future prices and dividends.
Investing directly in stocks avoids fees charged by mutual funds but requires more effort to ensure adequate diversification. Select stocks that best meet your investment needs. If you are in a high income tax bracket, have minimal short- or intermediate-term income needs, and have high risk tolerance, select mostly growth stocks that pay little or no dividends but have above-average expected growth rates. Low-cost index funds usually charge less in fees than actively-managed funds.
The fund would purchase most or all of the same assets, allowing it to equal the performance of the index, less fees. This would be considered a relatively safe but not terribly exciting investment. Advocates of active stock picking turn their noses up at such investments. Choose index funds with the lowest expense ratio and annual turnover.
See Decide Whether to Buy Stocks or Mutual Funds for more information whether individual stocks or mutual funds are better for you. An exchange-traded fund ETF is a type of index fund that trades like a stock. ETFs are unmanaged portfolios where stocks are not continuously bought and sold as with actively managed funds and can often be traded without commission.
You can buy ETFs that are based on a specific index, or based on a specific industry or commodity, such as gold. You can also invest in actively managed mutual funds. These funds pool money from many investors and put it primarily into stocks and bonds. Individual investors buy shares of the portfolio.
Go to source Fund managers usually create portfolios with particular goals in mind, such as long-term growth. Mutual fund expense ratios can end up hurting your rate of return and impeding your financial progress. These are "asset allocation" or "target date" funds that automatically adjust their holdings based on your age. For example, your portfolio might be more heavily weighted towards equities when you are younger and automatically transfer more of your investments into fixed-income securities as you get older.
In other words, they do for you what you might be expected to do yourself as you get older. Costs and fees can eat into your returns and reduce your gains. It is vital to know what costs you will be liable for when you purchase, hold, or sell stock. For funds, costs may include management fees, sales loads, redemption fees, exchange fees, account fees, 12b-1 fees, and operating expenses. Determine the intrinsic value and the right price to pay for each stock you are interested in.
Intrinsic value is how much a stock is worth, which can be different from the current stock price. The right price to pay is generally a fraction of the intrinsic value, to allow a margin of safety MOS. There are many techniques used to value stocks: Dividend discount model : the value of a stock is the present value of all its future dividends.
Discounted cash flow DCF model : the value of a stock is the present value of all its future cash flows. A typical DCF calculation projects a growth rate for annual free cash flow operating cash flow less capital expenditures for the next 10 years to calculate a growth value and estimate a terminal growth rate thereafter to calculate a terminal value, then sum up the two to arrive at the DCF value of the stock.
It compares the stock's current price ratios with an appropriate benchmark and the stock's historic average ratios to determine the price at which the stock should sell. Purchase your stock. Once you've decided which stocks to buy, it is time to purchase your stocks.
Find a brokerage firm that meets your needs and place your orders. You can select a discount broker, who will simply order the stocks you want to purchase. You can also choose a full-service brokerage firm, which will cost more but will also provide information and guidance. The most important factor to consider here is how much commission is charged and what other fees are involved. Some brokers offer free stock trades if your portfolio meets a certain minimum value e.
Merrill Edge Preferred Rewards , or if you invest within a select list of stocks whose companies pay the transaction costs e. Some companies offer direct stock purchase plans DSPPs that allow you to purchase their stock without a broker. If you are planning on buying and holding or dollar cost averaging, this may be your best option.
Search online or call or write the company whose stock you wish to buy to inquire whether they offer such a plan. Build a portfolio containing between five and 20 different stocks for diversification. Diversify across different sectors, industries, countries, company size, and style "growth" vs. Hold for the long term, five to ten years or preferably longer. Avoid the temptation to sell when the market has a bad day, month or year. The long-range direction of the stock market is always up.
On the other hand, avoid the temptation to take profit sell even if your stocks have gone up 50 percent or more. As long as the fundamental conditions of the company are still sound, do not sell unless you desperately need the money. It does make sense to sell, however, if the stock price appreciates well above its value see Step 3 of this Section , or if the fundamentals have drastically changed since you bought the stock so that the company is unlikely to be profitable anymore.
Invest regularly and systematically. Dollar cost averaging forces you to buy low and sell high and is a simple, sound strategy. Set aside a percentage of each paycheck to buy stocks. Remember that bear markets are for buying. That may sound scary, but the market has always bounced back, even from the crash that occurred between and The most successful investors have bought stocks when they were "on sale.
Part 3. Establish benchmarks. It is important to establish appropriate benchmarks in order to measure the performance of your stocks, as compared to your expectations. Develop standards for how much growth you require of each specific investment in order to consider it worth keeping.
Typically these benchmarks are based on the performance of various market indexes. These allow you to determine whether your investments are performing at least as well as the market overall. It may be counter-intuitive, but just because a stock is going up does not mean it is a good investment, especially if it is going up more slowly than similar stocks. Conversely, not all shrinking investments are losers when similar investments are doing even worse.
Compare performance to expectations. You must compare the performance of each investment to the expectations you established for it in order to determine its worth. This goes for assessing your other asset allocation decisions as well. Investments that do not meet expectations should be sold so your money can be invested elsewhere, unless you have good reason to believe your expectations will soon be met.
Give your investments time to work out. One-year or even three-year performance is meaningless to the long-term investor. The stock market is a voting machine in the short term and a weighing machine in the long term. Be vigilant and update your expectations. Once you have purchased stock, you must periodically monitor the performance of your investments.
This is a part of investing. The key is to properly process and assess all new information and implement any changes according to the guidelines set in the previous steps. Consider whether your market expectations were correct.
If not, why not? Use these insights to update your expectations and investment portfolio. Consider whether your portfolio is performing within your risk parameters. It may be that your stocks have done well, but the investments are more volatile and risky than you had anticipated. If you aren't comfortable with these risks, it's probably time to change investments.
Consider whether you are able to achieve the objectives you set. It may be that your investments are growing within acceptable risk parameters but are growing too slowly to meet your goals. If this is the case, it's time to consider new investments. Guard against the temptation to trade excessively.
After all, you are an investor, not a speculator. In addition, every time you take a profit, you incur capital-gains taxes. Besides, every trade comes with a broker's fee. Avoid stock tips. Do your own research and do not seek or pay attention to any stock tips, even from insiders. Warren Buffett says that he throws away all letters that are mailed to him recommending one stock or another. He says that these salesmen are being paid to say good things about a stock so that the company can raise money.
Don't pay too much attention to media coverage of the stock market. Focus on investing for the long term at least 20 years , and don't be distracted by short-term price gyrations. Consult a reputable broker, banker, or investment adviser if you need to. Never stop learning, and continue to read as many books and articles as possible written by experts who have successfully invested in the types of markets in which you have an interest.
You will also want to read articles helping you with the emotional and psychological aspects of investing, to help you deal with the ups and downs of participating in the stock market. It is important for you to know how to make the smartest choices possible when investing in stocks, and even when you do make wise decisions you should be prepared to deal with losses in the event that they occur. Did you know you can get expert answers for this article?
Unlock expert answers by supporting wikiHow. Ara Oghoorian, CPA. Support wikiHow by unlocking this expert answer. Not Helpful 0 Helpful 0. Not Helpful 1 Helpful 3. Include your email address to get a message when this question is answered. Buy companies that have little or no competition. Airlines, retailers and auto manufacturers are generally considered bad long-term investments, because they are in fiercely competitive industries.
This is reflected by low profit margins in their income statements. In general, stay away from seasonal or trendy industries like retail and regulated industries like utilities and airlines, unless they have shown consistent earnings and revenue growth over a long period of time. Few have. Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0.
Wall Street focuses on the short-term. This is because it is difficult to make predictions about future earnings, especially far into the future. Most analysts project earnings for up to ten years and use discounted cash flow analysis to set target prices. You can beat the market only if you hold a stock for many years. Information is the lifeblood of successful investment in the stock and fixed-income markets. The key is to stay disciplined in implementing your research and in assessing its performance by monitoring and adjusting.
Helpful 1 Not Helpful 0. That way, they will always have an excuse when it goes down in value. Warren Buffett is famous for saying, "Risk is for people who don't know what they're doing. Look for chances to buy high-quality stocks at temporarily low valuations. That is the essence of value investing. Remember that you are not trading pieces of paper that go up and down in value. You are buying shares of a business.
The health and profitability of the business and the price you will pay are the only two factors that should influence your decision. Don't look at the value of your portfolio more than once a month. If you get caught up in the emotions of Wall Street, it will only tempt you to sell what could be an excellent long-term investment. Before you buy a stock, ask yourself, "if this goes down, am I going to want to sell or am I going to want to buy more of it?
Be mindful of your biases and do not let emotion dictate your decisions. Trust in yourself and the process, and you will be well on your way to becoming a successful investor. Companies with strong brand names are a good choice. Invest in companies that are shareholder-oriented.
Most businesses would rather spend their profits on a new private jet for the CEO than pay out a dividend. Long-term-focused executive compensation, stock-option expensing, prudent capital investments, a sound dividend policy, and growing EPS and book-value-per-share are all evidence of shareholder-oriented companies. Understand why blue chips are good investments: their quality is based on a history of consistent revenue and earnings growth. Identifying such companies before the crowd does will permit you to reap larger rewards.
Learn to be a 'bottom up' investor. Invest in tax sheltered accounts such as Roth IRA or k and max them out each year before putting money into taxable accounts. You can save a great deal in taxes over the long run. Before buying stocks, you might want to try "paper trading" for a while. This is simulated stock trading. Keep track of stock prices, and make records of the buying and selling decisions you would make if you were actually trading.
Check to see if your investment decisions would have paid off. If this upfront cost would eat up most of your investment money, you may be better starting with a fund that has slightly higher expenses and lowers initial investment. But beware: Many poor-quality funds attempt to attract investors with low initial investments. Before you look elsewhere, see what high-quality fund providers like Vanguard , Fidelity , and Charles Schwab have to offer.
It's true: If you buy a total stock market index fund at regular intervals over a long enough timeline, you will almost certainly have satisfactory results. Yet many investors forgo the financial rewards of simplified investing for the psychological reward of "stock picking.
For small- or beginning-investors, trading stocks is a fool's game. If you do make winning trades, transaction costs and taxes will eat away at your returns, not to mention you'll be trading against PhD-level mathematicians and the computer programs they've written to pick your pockets.
But there is long-term value to be had in buying the stocks of great companies and holding on to them for many years. Even more so if your stocks pay dividends an actual cash payment of the company's profits. The amount of wealth that reinvested dividends can create is simply amazing.
What's even more amazing is that many online stock brokers offer dividend reinvestment as a free service. This luxury gives the patient investor an even bigger advantage over the frenetic stock trader. There's a mutual fund -- about as old as Warren Buffett -- that has never changed the stocks it holds; not in over 75 years.
With the very long term in mind the fund was originally scheduled to liquidate in , since extended to , the original advisors wanted to find blue-chip, dividend-paying companies that could thrive for decades When looking this far out, decisions are driven more by enduring factors such as brands and sustainable competitive advantages rather than earnings projections It's notable that no financials companies of any kind were included originally.
If you can find 30 dividend-paying stocks -- selling at a reasonable price -- that make goods and services that people will use decades from now, you will almost certainly be richer by holding them. First, you'll need to learn how to value a company. When you're buying a stock, you're buying part-ownership of a company.
Therefore, if it makes financial sense to buy the entire company, it would make sense to buy a fractional part of the company. Figuring this out takes a little bit of math, but nothing more difficult than multiplication and division. Don't get scared off. There are several ways to value a company and its stock -- by all means, read as much as you can on the subject if you can't make sense of a balance sheet or cash flow statement , you're not ready to invest in stocks.
But at the end of the day, the question that you need to answer is:. If you knew that a company could maintain or grow its profits at a fixed-rate every year in the future, valuing the stock would be an exact science. To find stocks that have a good chance of surviving into the future, think about the products that you use every day.
Did your parents also use these products? Their parents? Also, don't invest in companies that you don't like. If you hate smoking, you will not feel good about owning a tobacco company -- even if the company makes you money. Some of your stock picks will probably lose money, but one great investment can make up the difference and then some.
As long as you are diversified owning stocks that aren't very similar -- and assuming that you have not overpaid for your investments -- you should do fine in the long run. Then again, you can save yourself the trouble and buy a mutual fund that owns the entire stock market see above.
Investing in stocks takes a lot of time and research -- it's up to you to determine how much your free time is worth. Being a successful investor requires money, patience, and just as important, confidence. Having the confidence to make- and stand-by your financial decisions requires education. Never stop learning. If you're looking for a good investing book, you owe it to yourself to read Benjamin Graham's The Intelligent Investor.
Graham's writing style isn't for everyone, in which case you may prefer The Rediscovered Benjamin Graham -- a collection of interviews and lectures with the "father of value investing. Lastly, TheStreet has been publishing investment guides since -- if you're just getting started, you may be interested in our glossary of financial terms and articles on investing basics.
For more advanced readers, you're free to enjoy daily stock ideas from professional traders and investors. Free Newsletters. TheStreet Smarts. Receive full access to our market insights, commentary, newsletters, breaking news alerts, and more.
I agree to TheMaven's Terms and Policy. Why Investing Can Be Scary For many of us, money and investments weren't discussed at home and the Dow Jones may not be a familiar term. Having said all of this, the first investment that you make will probably be the hardest.
The Goal of Investing Of course, everyone has different financial goals -- and the more you learn, the more confident you'll be in determining your path. But here's a basic financial goal to strive toward: Notice the first part of this goal is about hard work. What Should I Invest In? But if you have extra money left over from each paycheck, you have a few choices that can each have a positive impact on your finances: 1.
Use all of your extra money to pay down debts mortgage, credit card, student loans. Use all of your extra money to buy investments stocks, bonds, funds. Use some of your extra money to buy investments and some to pay down debts. Scroll to Continue. TheStreet Recommends. Exclusive Investor Content. Kass: What's Going On? By Rob Lenihan. By Luc Olinga.