The most feared words on any stock exchange are margin call. A margin call is made when a position is losing money and more money is required by the broker to keep the trade open. If and when a stock ticker moves quickly, there can be people whose borrowing levels literally bankrupt them as things get worse ... fast. Volatility can be either a blessing or a curse, but if you have too much leverage, it can break a trader.
Buy “the basket”: Can’t decide which of the companies in a particular industry will be the long-term winner? Buy ’em all! Buying a basket of stocks takes the pressure off picking “the one.” Having a stake in all the players that pass muster in your analysis means you won’t miss out if one takes off, and you can use gains from that winner to offset any losses. This strategy will also help you identify which company is “the one” so you can double down on your position if desired.
Automated trading – A platform that offers automation capabilities enables a trader to make market moves even if he/she is not at the computer at the time. The classic “stop loss” feature is a simple form of automation, but there are much more advanced platforms that enable you to program your own trading robot to carry out elaborate strategies or to react much faster than you can do yourself.

ECN/Level 2 quotes: ECNs, or electronic communication networks, are computer-based systems that display the best available bid and ask quotes from multiple market participants and then automatically match and execute orders. Level 2 is a subscription-based service that provides real-time access to the Nasdaq order book composed of price quotes from market makers registering every Nasdaq-listed and OTC Bulletin Board security. Together, they can give you a sense of orders being executed in real time.
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.

One constant principle of investing is that markets fluctuate. Stock prices will rise and fall for a number of reasons: the economy, investor sentiment, political uncertainty at home or abroad, energy or weather problems, or even corporate scandals. This means market performance isn’t always predictable. That is why diversification, or spreading the investments in your portfolio among different asset classes and across different sectors within each class, is such an important strategy. Diversification is a time-tested way to manage risk.


Matt is a Certified Financial Planner® and investment advisor based in Columbia, South Carolina. He writes personal finance and investment advice for The Ascent and its parent company The Motley Fool, with more than 4,500 published articles and a 2017 SABEW Best in Business award. Matt writes a weekly investment column ("Ask a Fool") that is syndicated in USA Today, and his work has been regularly featured on CNBC, Fox Business, MSN Money, and many other major outlets. He’s a graduate of the University of South Carolina and Nova Southeastern University, and holds a graduate certificate in financial planning from Florida State University.
What are your financial goals for 10, 15, or 20 or more years down the line, and how do you plan on getting there? What is your level of risk tolerance, and what sort of investment approach will you take (value investing, dividend investing, or some combination of multiple strategies)? As you consciously outline your financial goals and the type of investor you want to be, you can experience success as a disciplined investor in the long run and stay on track with your plans.

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.
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Features: Now that most online brokers don't charge commissions, it's more important than ever to compare the features you get. Some online brokers have tons of research available, educational tools to help you learn how to invest, and more. These can be very valuable assets for beginning investors, so keep this in mind when comparing brokers. After all, if the cost of investing is the same (zero) at most online brokers, you might as well get as much value for your money as possible.
Fees are another important consideration while choosing trading platforms. For example, traders who employ scalping as a trading strategy will gravitate towards platforms with low fees. In general, lower fees are always preferable but there may be trade-offs to consider. For example, low fees may not be advantageous if they translate to fewer features and informational research.
Over the long run, value stocks outperform growth, so look for stocks trading at relatively cheap valuations based on price-to-earnings ratio (P/E), price-to-sales ratio (P/S), and price-to-free-cash-flow ratio (P/FCF). It is vital not to chase opportunities, but rather wait for them because patience always pays. Solid fundamentals and a large moat (barrier to entry) are also vital for long-term sustained success. Also, use technical analysis and charting to better help pinpoint both the entry and exit points for the stock under consideration—both for a target profit area and a stop loss.
Finally, keep in mind that if trading on margin—which means you're borrowing your investment funds from a brokerage firm (and bear in mind that margin requirements for day trading are high)—you're far more vulnerable to sharp price movements. Margin helps to amplify the trading results not just of profits, but of losses as well if a trade goes against you. Therefore, using stop losses is crucial when day trading on margin.
Online discount brokers: This label is generally given to the companies you see on the list here. While discount brokers are increasingly offering "extras" like research on stocks and funds, they primarily exist to help you place orders to buy investments at a very low cost. Many investors don't need the hand-holding of a full-service broker, and would prefer to save money by paying no commission for online stock trades. That way they ensure more of their money goes toward their investment portfolio, not paying for frills.
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.)

To make comparisons between companies, sectors and markets a little easier, there are a number of mathematical models used. The most common and often the most helpful is the P/E ratio. The Price to Earnings ratio takes the share price and is divided by the earnings per share. It is possible to calculate this using past earnings, projected future earnings and with all sorts of moving averages ;-) Therefore, this is one number that it is vital for any investor to know and understand.
In late 2014, legendary self-help and business guru Tony Robbins published a book called Money: Master The Game. In it he explains the strategies and ideas used by the very best investors in the world - hedge fund managers, asset allocators and billionaires - that he gleaned from them during four years of interviews and how their lessons should be applied by the rest of us.
TradeStation offers the most advanced desktop trading platform in the industry and is excellent for stocks, ETFs, options, and futures trading. Meanwhile, TradeStation’s web-based platform and mobile app offer $0 stock trades and are great for casual traders. What I love most about TradeStation is the true focus on traders. Whether you are a new trader just learning the ropes, a casual trader, or an active trader who day trades or swing trades, TradeStation has you covered. Full review.
If you are an active trader who prefers making frequent, small trades, Interactive Brokers may be the best fit. There is no pre-trade fee and options commissions are $0.70 cents per contract. High volume traders can qualify for lower pricing down to $0.15 cents per contract with 100,000+ contracts per month. This brokerage also offers pricing that is attractive to active stock and ETF traders. Different pricing applies to non-US options.
If you are an active trader who prefers making frequent, small trades, Interactive Brokers may be the best fit. There is no pre-trade fee and options commissions are $0.70 cents per contract. High volume traders can qualify for lower pricing down to $0.15 cents per contract with 100,000+ contracts per month. This brokerage also offers pricing that is attractive to active stock and ETF traders. Different pricing applies to non-US options.

Whilst some day traders are tuned in every day from 09:30 to 16:30 EST (for the U.S stock market), many trade for just a 2-3 hour window instead. As a beginner especially this will prevent you making careless mistakes as your brain drops down a couple of gears when your concentration wanes. The hours you’ll want to focus your attention on are as follows:
When deciding between trading platforms, traders and investors should consider both the fees involved and features available. Day traders and other short-term traders may require features like Level 2 quotes and market maker depth charts to assist in decision-making, while options traders may need tools that are specifically designed to visualize options strategies.
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