At the same time, there are literally hundreds of thousands of individuals who buy and sell corporate securities on one of the regulated stock exchanges or the NASDAQ regularly and are successful. A profitable outcome is not the result of luck, but the application of a few simple principles derived from the experiences of millions of investors over countless stock market cycles.
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.
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.)
It is also worth trying to keep up to date with the latest thinking related to the area of investment that you are trying to specialise in. Therefore, if you plan to invest in defensive or income stocks, for example, it would be wise to read regularly about value investing and dividends. If you plan to invest in growth stocks, it would be wise to read about technology and the latest trends. Perhaps you could subscribe to one or more trade publications that relate to the sector(s) that you are most interested in.
Finally, trading platforms may have specific requirements to qualify for their use. For example, day trading platforms may require that traders have at least $25,000 in equity in their accounts and be approved for margin trading, while options platforms may require approval to trade various types of options before being able to use the trading platform.
Every investor should try to establish what their goals and objectives are prior to investing. There isn’t necessarily a wrong objective, but it’s more important to understand your goals because that will help drive your decisions. For instance, if you plan to regularly trade in and out of stocks, you might be better off opening an IRA account so you don’t have to pay taxes on your trades. If you plan to be a long-term investor, taxes won’t be as important of a factor and you could hold your account in a taxable or tax-free account.
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.
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.
Astute readers will realise that the above guidance is mainly taking different angles to help prepare for and guide decision making by the investor. The ability to confidently make decisions is vital for investment profits and long-term success. This pdf about the decision making models of Charlie Munger (business partner to Warren Buffett at Berkshire Hathaway - both are certified investment immortals) is almost certain to prove helpful.
A stop-loss order is designed to limit losses on a position in a security. For long positions, a stop loss can be placed below a recent low, or for short positions, above a recent high. It can also be based on volatility. For example, if a stock price is moving about $0.05 a minute, then you may place a stop loss $0.15 away from your entry to give the price some space to fluctuate before it moves in your anticipated direction.