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 While the innovations he brought to stock analysis have long been outdated and the red flags he used to watch out for in a company's accounts are now regulated against by the SEC, many of his insights about thinking about investment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.
A broker – Your broker will be your gatekeeper to the market. They will facilitate your trades in return for a commission on your trades. When you’re making so many trades each day, an expensive broker could seriously cut into your profits in the long term. Do your homework and find a broker that’s reliable and offers a straightforward, competitive fee structure. To compare platforms, visit our brokers page.
Understand blockchain – Whilst you don’t need a thorough understanding of the technical makeup of cryptocurrencies, understanding how blockchain works will only prove useful. Once you understand how they secure transactions (blocks) publicly and securely, you’ll be in a better position to gauge the market’s response to big news events. Such as a huge company incorporating blockchain technology into their everyday business operations.
If you’re interested in day trading, our recommendation is to allocate a small portion of your overall portfolio to the strategy – no more than 5% or 10%, tops. That way, if you lose money — as you are likely to do, at least at first — those losses are at least capped. The rest of your portfolio should be invested in long-term, diversified investments like low-cost index funds.
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.)
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.
The commission structure for options trades tends to be more complicated than its equivalent for stock trades. Until the commission cuts that swept the industry in the fall of 2019, most brokers charged a fee for each leg of an options spread, plus a commission per contract being traded. The per-leg fees, which made 2- and 4-legged spreads expensive, have been eliminated for the most part. We are seeing some brokers place caps on commissions charged for certain trading scenarios. 

This is an excellent learning experience and one that is vital to the long-term profitability of anyone in the stock market. To get the real experience, purchase some graph paper and chart the stock price movements each day by hand. Learn to compare this with the overall movements of the equity market or index and a whole new world of investment and money will begin to open up to you!
Before deciding where to allocate your investments, it’s critical to think about your long-term and short-term goals. It’s important to know how much risk you are willing to accept. As you approach retirement, fixed-income securities, such as highly-rated bonds and money market accounts, offer a greater level of safety. But a younger investor might want a more high-risk, high-reward strategy for at least part of their investments to maximize returns over a long period of time.

How user-friendly is their platform? – The trading platform provided by the broker needs to work for you. Most brokers offer several to choose from, some will tick the boxes for the average day trader, others will offer more advanced platforms for the veteran trader. Likewise, does it suit your hardware – is the platform compatible on Mac, PC, Linux, or whatever you use?


Fidelity earned our top spot for the second year running by offering clients a well-rounded package of investing tools and excellent order executions. It has continued to quietly enhance key pieces of its mobile-responsive website while committing itself to lowering the cost of investing for its clients. Fidelity joined in the rush to cut equity and base options commissions to zero in October 2019 but remains devoted to offering top-quality research and education offerings to its clients. The firm also makes it easy for clients to earn interest by sweeping uninvested cash into a money market fund. Fidelity also shares the revenue it generates from its stock loan program, and allows clients to choose which stocks in their portfolios can be loaned out.
Interactive Brokers is the best broker for international trading by a significant margin. Interactive Brokers allows investors to access 125 exchanges in 31 countries across the globe. This reach is combined with a massive inventory of assets and 60 different order types to plan your entry and exit from a position. Investors can also fund their account in their domestic currency and IBKR will handle the conversion at market rates when you want to buy assets denominated in a non-domestic currency. And, if all that were not enough, the quality of trading tools available through Traders Workstation (TWS) make it easy to execute multi-layered trades across international borders. Interactive Brokers has won this category two years running, and there is no sign of that changing in the near future.
E (Very Weak) - The stock has significantly underperformed most other funds given the level of risk in its underlying investments, resulting in a very weak risk-adjusted performance. Thus, its investment strategy and/or management has done just the opposite of what was needed to maximize returns in the recent economic environment. While the risk-adjusted performance of any stock is subject to change, we believe this fund has proven to be a very bad investment in the recent past.
An independent trading platform is used for visualising market data and managing your trading, but it needs to connect to one or more brokers to actually place a trade on the market. These professional day trading platforms typically offer a more advanced interface than that of the average brokerage, and help you to find and place trades with one or more brokers of your choosing. Using an independent trading platform you don’t have to relearn a whole new software just because you change to a different broker.

Michael R. Lewis is a retired corporate executive and entrepreneur. During his 40+ year career, Lewis created and sold ten different companies ranging from oil exploration to healthcare software. He has also been a Registered Investment Adviser with the SEC, a Principal of one of the larger management consulting firms in the country, and a Senior Vice President of the largest not-for-profit health insurer in the United States. Mike's articles on personal investments, business management, and the economy are available on several online publications. He's a father and grandfather, who also writes non-fiction and biographical pieces about growing up in the plains of West Texas - including The Storm.
If you are literally just getting started, the services offered by most major stockbrokers (information here) as a part of their trading account services will be a good place to start (and free). Firms such as Trade King, eTrade, Charles Schwab and Ameritrade provide a range of online tools. These will give you a feel for how portfolio management software works without having to pay extra to learn. However, these services typically offer no advice (known as execution only), which means that a separate service will be required for information analysis.
Tax considerations – Where you trade and where your broker is situated may affect what type of tax and how much tax you will have to pay. Will you pay capital gains tax? Will you pay net income tax? If you start day trading with brokers from Canada, will you pay tax abroad and domestically? If you’re thinking of signing up with a far afield broker, find out the tax ramifications first.

When investing in the stock market, you have to think long term and avoid the temptation to check your portfolio several times per day. All this will do is waste your time, stress you out, and increase the odds that you will make a big mistake and sell at the wrong time. Plan to set up automatic contributions to your investment so you can buy more investments no matter where you are.


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 it comes to investing for long-term growth and putting your money to work, it is immensely important to understand your goals and the investment philosophy you will adhere to. It can be easy to lose sight of your targets amidst the noise on social media or news outlets surrounding the latest and greatest investment trends, but if you define your goals and investment strategy, you can stay on track.
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.
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:
If investing in single stocks may be too risky for you, consider investing in good growth stock mutual funds. Mutual funds are a simple, even boring, investment plan, yet they work well for most people. Of course, all investing requires a degree of risk; there really is no sure thing. But mutual funds are a great balance of reasonable risk and excellent returns. They have built-in diversification that will keep you from putting all your eggs in one basket.

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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.

If you’re interested in day trading, our recommendation is to allocate a small portion of your overall portfolio to the strategy – no more than 5% or 10%, tops. That way, if you lose money — as you are likely to do, at least at first — those losses are at least capped. The rest of your portfolio should be invested in long-term, diversified investments like low-cost index funds.
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