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.
Bonus Stock Market Tip: Everything above is related to how best to invest actively - in other words buying and selling into companies that have been selected by you. But what if you don't have the time, money or inclination? What if the paragraphs above put you off? Perhaps you were looking for a simpler guide? The stock market for dummies perhaps?
When thinking about a stock exchange it is worth remembering that it is a capital market. The primary purpose of a capital market is to enable businesses to raise money to provide working capital to fund expansion and growth. In exchange for this money, the companies issue equity in the form of stock, creating stockholders. Each stockholder ownes a piece of the active business relative to the amount of money they invested.

In that case, it is possible to invest passively in capital markets. This means that a private investor puts aside either a lump sum or an amount each month and the money is invested into a fund. That fund contains the savings of lots of other private investors and is managed by a professional equities investor. The fund will then be invested in an equity market (such as the NYSE) or a sector (such as energy).
To trade stocks online successfully, some stock traders rely purely on their trading tools. Trading platforms come in one of three forms: desktop, web (browser), or mobile. Advanced charting, scanning, hotkeys, virtual trading, watch lists, ladder trading, Level II quotes, and backtesting are just a sampling of the features some brokers offer. To compare trading platform features, use the online brokerage comparison tool.
All of these factors must be considered before choosing an online broker. Do you want to trade or invest? Do you want a great mobile app to check your portfolio wherever you are? What types of assets are you looking to invest in? Answering these questions is not always easy. You can check out our guide to choosing a stock broker to gain further insight so you can make a sound decision. Once you've made a decision on a broker, you can also check out our guide to opening a brokerage account.
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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