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Normally a broker will offer their customers a branded trading platform that’s more or less unique to that individual broker, but there are also independent platforms that can connect to multiple brokers. An independent platform can be a good choice for the experienced trader, while using a broker’s own platform is the easiest way to get started for beginners.
Equity investments historically have enjoyed a return significantly above other types investments while also proving easy liquidity, total visibility, and active regulation to ensure a level playing field for all. Investing in the stock market is a great opportunity to build large asset value for those who are willing to be consistent savers, make the necessary investment in time and energy to gain experience, appropriately manage their risk, and are patient, allowing the magic of compounding to work for them. The younger you begin your investing avocation, the greater the final results – just remember to walk before you begin to run.
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.
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.
Define and write down the conditions under which you'll enter a position. "Buy during uptrend" isn't specific enough. Something like this is much more specific and also testable: "Buy when price breaks above the upper trendline of a triangle pattern, where the triangle was preceded by an uptrend (at least one higher swing high and higher swing low before the triangle formed) on the two-minute chart in the first two hours of the trading day."
If the strategy is within your risk limit, then testing begins. Manually go through historical charts to find your entries, noting whether your stop loss or target would have been hit. Paper trade in this way for at least 50 to 100 trades, noting whether the strategy was profitable and if it meets your expectations. If it does, proceed to trading the strategy in a demo account in real time. If it's profitable over the course of two months or more in a simulated environment, proceed with day trading the strategy with real capital. If the strategy isn't profitable, start over.
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.
While it doesn’t offer as much for beginner traders and new traders, you could host a family office or business portfolio on TradeStation with no problems. In fact, its tools are so good it sells many of them for a fee to professional investors with accounts at other brokers. With an active account at TradeStation, you get those tools for free. Just beware the minimum $2,000 balance or five trades per year to avoid a $95 annual account fee.
We hope that this beginner stock market investing guide sets you on a good path towards further research and learning, investment success and profits. It really is possible to be a successful investor if you want to be, but it will take time, effort, dedication and patience. If you can find those within yourself and treat investing as a journey that will take years, you can do it too.
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.
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.
Accept losses – When you’re making so many trades every day, you’re bound to lose sometimes. It’s how you respond to those loses that defines your trading career. The loss trigger can quickly result in revenge trading, micro-managing and just flat out poor decisions. Instead, embrace small losses and remember you’re doing the correct thing, which is sticking to risk management.
Successful traders have to move fast, but they don't have to think fast. Why? Because they've developed a trading strategy in advance, along with the discipline to stick to that strategy. It is important to follow your formula closely rather than try to chase profits. Don't let your emotions get the best of you and abandon your strategy. There's a mantra among day traders: "Plan your trade and trade your plan."
If you’re an active trader looking to try your hand at beating the market, you probably have a good idea of what you want in a brokerage: low costs, premium research, innovative strategy tools and a comprehensive trading platform. Below, we’ve selected the best online brokers in a variety of categories so you can choose one based on your personal priorities.