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 international trading category, category weightings for the range of offerings were adjusted upwards to measure which broker offered the largest selection of assets across international markets. After that, overall platform functionality and variety of orders types were also measured as these are important to successful trading when undertaking position management in markets that span the globe. These adjustments revealed a clear winner for international trading in the 2020 review.
TD Ameritrade was ranked #1 Online Broker 2020 by StockBrokers.com*. TD Ameritrade charges $0 for regular stock and ETF trades and is best known for its trading platform, thinkorswim, alongside its outstanding learning center for beginners. Alongside #1 Overall, TD Ameritrade received top awards for its trading tools, mobile apps, research, customer service, and education. Full review.

Money is increasingly flowing out of the mutual fund industry and into exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Some investors (and most robo-advisors) use ETFs exclusively to build a balanced portfolio meant to walk the optimal line between risk and reward. To determine the best online broker for investing in ETFs, we looked at research capabilities specific to finding the best ETFs for a customer’s specific purpose. Top-notch screeners, analyst reports, fundamental and technical data, and the ability to compare ETFs are the main components of this award.
When you are choosing an online stock broker you have to think about your immediate needs as an investor. Are you a beginner? Maybe you need a broker that has great educational material about the stock market. Do you only have a small amount of money you can put aside to invest? Some online brokers allow for small minimum deposits which can be a great option for those with limited funds. Are you always on the go and in need of a robust mobile platform? Some online brokers have incredible mobile apps delivering nearly all the features that their desktop counterparts do.
The use of borrowed money “levers” or exaggerates the result of price movement. Suppose the stock moves to $200 a share and you sell it. If you had used your own money exclusively, your return would be 100% on your investment [($20,000 -$10,000)/$10,000]. If you had borrowed $5,000 to buy the stock and sold at $200 per share, your return would be 300 % [(20,000-$5,000)/$5,000] after repaying the $5,000 loan and excluding the cost of interest paid to the broker.
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.
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. 
Depending on your goals, investing in individual stocks may be more trouble than it’s worth. Choosing index funds in a specific sector can provide your portfolio with the tilt you want, but with fewer dramatic swings. There are three criteria that can be leveraged to help guide fund choice. The most discussed is “expense ratio,” where lower means fewer fees to you. The second is the number of stocks in the fund. The higher the number, the more diverse the fund. Just as important is “total assets” under management. The more assets, the more other people also agree this is a great fund. When comparing two mutual funds, I’ll line up these three criteria for funds in the same category to make an informed decision.
A major perk of working with Fidelity is the abundance of research available. Investors can benefit from stock research from leading experts like Thomson Reuters and Recognia. There is also ETF research and options analysis software LiveVol. All of this data is calculated into an Equity Summary Score that you can use to make investment decisions.  However, don’t expect to find Forex, cryptocurrencies, or futures available.
Fidelity earned our top spot for the second year running by offering clients a well-rounded package of investing tools and excellent order executions. It has continued to quietly enhance key pieces of its mobile-responsive website while committing itself to lowering the cost of investing for its clients. Fidelity joined in the rush to cut equity and base options commissions to zero in October 2019 but remains devoted to offering top-quality research and education offerings to its clients. The firm also makes it easy for clients to earn interest by sweeping uninvested cash into a money market fund. Fidelity also shares the revenue it generates from its stock loan program, and allows clients to choose which stocks in their portfolios can be loaned out.

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.”
What would make me sell: Sometimes there are good reasons to split up. For this part of your journal, compose an investing prenup that spells out what would drive you to sell the stock. We’re not talking about stock price movement, especially not short term, but fundamental changes to the business that affect its ability to grow over the long term. Some examples: The company loses a major customer, the CEO’s successor starts taking the business in a different direction, a major viable competitor emerges, or your investing thesis doesn’t pan out after a reasonable period of time.
When deciding between trading platforms, traders and investors should consider both the fees involved and features available. Day traders and other short-term traders may require features like Level 2 quotes and market maker depth charts to assist in decision-making, while options traders may need tools that are specifically designed to visualize options strategies.
Some trading platforms may be agnostic to a specific intermediary or broker, while other trading platforms are only available when working with a particular intermediary or broker. As a result, investors should also consider the reputation of the intermediary or broker before committing to a specific trading platform to execute trades and manage their accounts.
Every online brokerage firm on the list above has its strengths and weaknesses. It might be ideal for one customer and at the same time might not work for someone else. Before opening an account, there are a lot of parameters to consider besides commissions, well-known brokerage name, and pretty website. Some of the most important of these parameters are surcharges and fees; friendliness to client's knowledge level (perhaps one is a beginner? or needs a professional-level trading platform?); availability of investment products a client wants to buy (for example forex, futures, or NTF mutual funds) as well as availability of online community, virtual trading, and discounts. We suggest to investors to take a time to read brokerage reviews, and see for themselves if a particular firm is the right fit.
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.
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.
Interactive Brokers (IBKR) earns this award due to its wealth of tools for sophisticated investors and its wide pool of assets and markets. The firm makes a point of connecting to as many electronic exchanges as possible. You can trade equities, options, and futures around the world and around the clock. Interactive Brokers’ order execution engine stays on top of changes in market conditions to re-route all or parts of your order to achieve optimal execution, attain price improvement, and maximize any possible rebate. The order routing algorithms seek out a speedy execution and can access hidden institutional order flows (dark pools) to execute large block orders. The wide array of order types include a variety of algorithms as well as conditional orders such as one-cancels-another and one-triggers-another. You can also set up conditional orders based on price, volume, daily P&L, margin cushion, number of shortable shares available, rebate available from the trading venue, and other factors.
Trading successfully is a lot easier when investors have great tools at their disposal. A top stock broker should offer access to a wide variety of trade tools to help make the most of each and every trade. From real-time streaming quotes to last sale tickers, quality stock scanners, mobile trading apps, and level II quotes to name a few. Strong tools are essential for active investors.
Another important thing to consider is the distinction between investing and trading. When people talk about investing they generally mean the purchasing of assets to be held for a long period of time. These types of investments are usually made to reach a retirement goal or to put your money into assets that may grow faster than it would in a standard savings account accruing interest. Trading, on the other hand, most commonly involves the buying and selling of assets in short periods. Trading is generally considered riskier than investing.
Automated trading – A platform that offers automation capabilities enables a trader to make market moves even if he/she is not at the computer at the time. The classic “stop loss” feature is a simple form of automation, but there are much more advanced platforms that enable you to program your own trading robot to carry out elaborate strategies or to react much faster than you can do yourself.
Access to current and historic market data – A day trader needs to be notified of market price changes as soon as possible to be able to act before an opportunity is gone or a loss is materialised. Historic data is necessary for technical analysis and backtesting of trading strategies. Not all platforms have a backtesting feature though, so check before you commit to a specific software.
The idea of perception is important, especially in investing. As you gain more knowledge about investments – for example, how stocks are bought and sold, how much volatility (price change) is usually present, and the difficulty or ease of liquidating an investment – you are likely to consider stock investments to have less risk than you thought before making your first purchase. As a consequence, your anxiety when investing is less intense, even though your risk tolerance remains unchanged because your perception of the risk has evolved.

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.
In order to be successful at both stock trading and investing, you need to be patient and maintain your composure in every situation. The nature of work is stressful, almost hectic, and you are bound to be losing substantial amounts of money some days. It could be very tempting to try to recuperate your losses by “doubling up” on your gamble, or opening high-risk positions that were not a part of your game plan, but this is precisely what you should be avoiding. That does not mean you shouldn’t dynamically adjust your investment plan to fit the current market conditions—it just means you shouldn’t modify your plans in a rushed or disorganized manner while carrying an emotional burden.
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.
Another important thing to consider is the distinction between investing and trading. When people talk about investing they generally mean the purchasing of assets to be held for a long period of time. These types of investments are usually made to reach a retirement goal or to put your money into assets that may grow faster than it would in a standard savings account accruing interest. Trading, on the other hand, most commonly involves the buying and selling of assets in short periods. Trading is generally considered riskier than investing.

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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