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.
For the active trader, execution speed and fill price are very important. I won’t get too in depth here but I have tested many of these brokers and there can be noticeable differences in trade execution times and quality. For the majority of investors, saving a penny per share on a 100 shares order isn’t the end of the world, but for active traders it is something to look into. To understand Order Execution, read this guide.
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.
Why I’m buying: Spell out what you find attractive about the company and the opportunity you see for the future. What are your expectations? What metrics matter most and what milestones will you use to judge the company’s progress? Catalog the potential pitfalls and mark which ones would be game-changers and which would be signs of a temporary setback.
An asset class that your author has been researching substantially is cryptocurrency. Bitcoin and the other alt coins, appear to be like very few other investment assets and so far moves in very different ways to almost every other asset. While it is very volatile and high risk and has quite a learning curve, it might be useful for some investors to understand and add to their portfolio.
Fortunately, at least in the United States, investors do not have too much to worry about when it comes to account security. This is especially true when choosing a brokerage that is large, well known, and properly regulated. Every website should be secured with SSL encryption, and client data should be stored in secure servers. Dual-factor authentication and Face ID are other security protocols quickly growing in popularity.
In addition to knowledge of basic trading procedures, day traders need to keep up on the latest stock market news and events that affect stocks—the Fed's interest rate plans, the economic outlook, etc. So do your homework. Make a wish list of stocks you'd like to trade and keep yourself informed about the selected companies and general markets. Scan business news and visit reliable financial websites. 
We think a low minimum to open an account is a real advantage when you're just starting out. That's because you can start with…say, $500, and then add to your balance over time with monthly or annual contributions to your account. The hardest step in investing is often just getting started, so we prefer brokers who have a low minimum to open an account and place a trade, which cuts out a potential roadblock on the way to saving and investing.
Individual Accounts – With this account, your broker will manage your capital individually and make investment decisions tailored to your needs. The main benefit is having an experienced professional on your side. However, you will pay for that privilege with account maintenance fees and commissions. In addition, some brokers will impose high minimum investments of at least $10,000.
For the active trader, execution speed and fill price are very important. I won’t get too in depth here but I have tested many of these brokers and there can be noticeable differences in trade execution times and quality. For the majority of investors, saving a penny per share on a 100 shares order isn’t the end of the world, but for active traders it is something to look into. To understand Order Execution, read this guide.
Have a complete 360-degree view of what you’re buying before you buy it. Fundamentally, take a look at what’s under the hood of the company with regard to earnings ratios. Technically, understand what’s happening in the short and long term with support and resistance. Know your exit strategy and your money management strategy, including stop losses.
When thinking about the mindset of investors, The Great Crash 1929 by J.K.Galbraith (reviewed here) should also be required reading. Typically, any sustained fall in prices - known as a bear market - is very destructive to wealth. However, as Galbraith explains wonderfully, each bear market is unique and is a reflection of the bull market that came before it. The book explains a great deal about the feedback loops that can exist when prices rise and fall as more people are either sucked into or forced out of holdings. It is the reference work about a very important slice of Wall Street history.
In the professional world, one of the key concepts is diversification. Harry Markowitz is a Nobel prize winning economist and one of his major discoveries was that adding new asset classes can dramatically alter the overall risk profile of a portfolio. His finding was that a portfolio that contained very low risk assets would normally benefit from lower volatility and higher returns if a higher risk asset was added. This is due to the likely lack of correlation between high and low risk asset classes.
Experienced investors such as Buffett eschew stock diversification in the confidence that they have performed all of the necessary research to identify and quantify their risk. They are also comfortable that they can identify any potential perils that will endanger their position, and will be able to liquidate their investments before taking a catastrophic loss. Andrew Carnegie is reputed to have said, “The safest investment strategy is to put all of your eggs in one basket and watch the basket.” That said, do not make the mistake of thinking you are either Buffett or Carnegie – especially in your first years of investing.
It’s best if you can automate your actual stock investments. Robo-advisors can do this for you, or if you must, you can manually buy stocks every time you receive a paycheck and have money in your savings or brokerage account. The important point is that you make regular investments so that you aren’t tempted to time the market. Regularly investing the same amount is a form of dollar cost averaging, and it helps reduce risk in your stock investments.
Traditional full-service stockbrokers do more than assist with the buying and selling of stocks or bonds. They often offer a wide array of services and products, including financial and retirement planning, investing and tax advice and regular portfolio updates. But they can charge substantial fees and transaction costs that can erode long-term investment gains.

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.

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.
NerdWallet’s ratings for brokers and robo-advisors are weighted averages of several categories, including investment selection, customer support, account fees, account minimum, trading costs and more. Our survey of brokers and robo-advisors includes the largest U.S. providers by assets under management, plus notable and/or emerging players in the industry. Factors we consider, depending on the category, include advisory fees, branch access, user-facing technology, customer service and mobile features. The stars represent ratings from poor (one star) to excellent (five stars). Ratings are rounded to the nearest half-star.
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