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 While the innovations he brought to stock analysis have long been outdated and the red flags he used to watch out for in a company's accounts are now regulated against by the SEC, many of his insights about thinking about investment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.

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.
Understand the risks associated with the stocks you are investing in. In the company’s 10-K, there is an extensive section that talks about the company’s risks. You also need to understand your own tolerance for risk. If you invest in a stock that is highly volatile and you are not comfortable with market fluctuation, owning the investment will make you anxious and more likely to sell when it does not make sense strategically.
Finally, keep in mind that if trading on margin—which means you're borrowing your investment funds from a brokerage firm (and bear in mind that margin requirements for day trading are high)—you're far more vulnerable to sharp price movements. Margin helps to amplify the trading results not just of profits, but of losses as well if a trade goes against you. Therefore, using stop losses is crucial when day trading on margin.
In contrast to finding an expert or two that seems to make valuable and careful decisions, do your best to avoid listening to share market 'tips' from friends or work colleagues. Typically these people will know less than you and have very little to base their suggestion on. No matter how well meaning it may be, advice from someone who knows next to nothing about the topic in question is not advice.
Before making your first investment, take the time to learn the basics about the stock market and the individual securities composing the market. There is an old adage: It is not a stock market, but a market of stocks. Unless you are purchasing an exchange traded fund (ETF), your focus will be upon individual securities, rather than the market as a whole. There are few times when every stock moves in the same direction; even when the averages fall by 100 points or more, the securities of some companies will go higher in price.
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.
If there are any lessons to be learned from the American sub-prime mortgage crisis, the 2008 stock market crash (information here) and Wall Street bailout that followed - and there are lots of lessons - it is that borrowed money can be very dangerous in investments, even when it is being handled professionally. The failure of LTCM, Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Northern Rock and many others shows just how precarious a business model can be with too much gearing.
Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. The data and prices on the website are not necessarily provided by any market or exchange, but may be provided by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual price at any given market, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Fusion Media and any provider of the data contained in this website will not accept liability for any loss or damage as a result of your trading, or your reliance on the information contained within this website.
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.