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The best way to practice: With a stock market simulator or paper-trading account. Many brokers offer these virtual trading platforms, and they essentially allow you to play the stock market with Monopoly money. Not only do you get to familiarize yourself with trading platforms and how they work, but you also get to test various trading strategies without losing real money. The link above has a list of brokers that offer these play platforms.
The least demanding way to invest in the stock market is to invest through a fund. There are two types of funds. First is the actively managed mutual funds which have higher fees—92% of these funds fail to beat the underlying index over any three-year period. The second type is the index tracking fund, which typically has lower costs and is more effective in matching the growth of the stock market. This means they are growing in popularity because of the higher return on investment you receive. You should also use the most tax efficient way to invest: using your Investment Retirement Account (IRA) first. It’s best to invest in a low-cost, index-tracking fund through your tax-free IRA.
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.
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.
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.
Bernard Baruch, known as “The Lone Wolf of Wall Street,” owned his own seat on the New York Stock Exchange by age 30 and became of the country’s best known financiers by 1910. Mr. Baruch, while a master of his profession, had no illusions about the difficulties of successful stock market investing, saying, “The main purpose of the stock market is to make fools of as many men as possible.” According to Ken Little, author of 15 books on investing and personal finance topics, “If you are an individual investor in the stock market, you should know that the system stacks the deck in its favor.”
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.
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.
The trading products you can purchase using these platforms can include stocks, commodities, derivatives, bonds etc. which can be traded between the traders on the stock market with intermediates such as investment banks, stock exchanges, brokers and market makers. A communication network is set-up between the various intermediates and the traders, which facilitates proper execution of the whole system.
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