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Investing in Stocks for Beginners

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Investing in stocks is simple as more companies have simplified the process and allow beginners to open an account through a website or mobile app.Common stocks allow stockholders to vote on company issues, but most of the time stockholders receive one vote per share. Several companies also give stockholders dividend payouts – these payouts typically change based on the company's profitability. Adding stocks in a portfolio means that you own a small percentage of a company that should increase its growth and value. Beginning investors should note there are two ways to make money from stocks: dividend payments and selling stocks when the share price goes up.How to Invest in StocksInvesting in stocks can be done in many ways. If you would like to form a strategy and manage your own investments, you can open a brokerage account. If you're unsure about where to start, consider opening an account with a robo advisor who will do the work at a lower cost. For those who want more guidance about their retirement plans, turning to financial advisors might be a good solution.For beginners who do not want to do the legwork in managing their portfolio or who are new to investing, a robo advisor could be a great first step, says Rick Swope, vice president of investor education at E-Trade, a New York-based brokerage.The portfolios managed by robo advisors typically consist of exchange-traded funds aligned to an investor's goals, risk tolerance and time horizon. ETFs also provide diversification at a lower cost."Young investors who are just starting out should look to simple solutions like robos and when investors graduate to more complex financial needs, like estate planning, they may turn to the services that a financial advisor can provide," he says.The number of companies offering brokerage accounts has increased, including banks such as Ally Bank. Some brokerage companies provide a simplified version such as Robinhood where investors can buy and sell stocks, ETFs, options and cryptocurrency from a mobile app for free. Although Robinhood doesn't offer trade options for mutual funds or foreign stocks. Stocks can also be purchased in individual retirement accounts such as a traditional or a Roth IRA. This allows investors to grow their retirement money in a tax-deferred account.Competition has spurred many brokerages to slash commission fees, which can add up quickly if you buy and sell stocks, mutual funds or ETFs frequently. Robinhood is not the only company that does not charge commission fees. Starting in October, Interactive Brokers is providing an unlimited number of commission-free trades on U.S. exchange-traded stocks and ETFs along with no account minimums or inactivity fees."Investing has become much easier," says Steve Sanders, executive vice president of marketing and new product development at Greenwich, Connecticut-based Interactive Brokers. "More of your hard-earned money will go straight toward your portfolio and not toward paying fees. I think this will be extremely helpful for beginning investors as well as others who like to save money."How Much Money Should You Invest in the Stock Market?Since many brokerages such as TD Ameritrade do not require a minimum amount to open a trading account, you can start investing with even $100.Discount brokers are a boon for beginners with little money, who are looking to get stock market exposure with smaller portfolios. But a discount broker does not typically provide advice or analysis. Many of these brokers do not require a minimum amount to start an account while some have a low beginning threshold of $1,000. Building a diversified portfolio is the priority for beginners who should consider adding index funds that capture the broader market, Swope says. Mutual funds and ETFs are the easiest solutions since they own hundreds to thousands of stocks and are less volatile than individual stocks. ETFs tend to have low minimums, allowing investors to spread their first $10,000 between a few funds and gain access to a variety of areas in the market, he says."A mix of ETFs, mutual funds and individual stocks can provide even broader diversification between investment vehicles," Swope says. "Bottom line: If you're just getting started, keep it simple."Good Stocks to Invest in for BeginnersChoosing the right stock can be a fool's errand, but investing in high-quality stocks such as blue chips and dividend-yielding ones are often good strategies. One reason investors opt for blue chips is because of the potential for growth and stability and because they produce dividends – these include companies such as Microsoft (ticker: MSFT), Coca-Cola Co. (KO) and Procter & Gamble Co. (PG). Coco-Cola, for example, generates a dividend of 2.9%, and the stock is less volatile as its share price has hovered between $44 and $55 during the past 52 weeks. Dividends can generate much-needed income for investors, especially higher-dividend ones.Another thing for beginners to consider is diversification. Diversifying your stocks and not concentrating on one sector is another advantage. One other tip is to be consistent. An investor's best bet is to invest consistently such as socking away $400 a month.The habit of saving and putting away money regularly is the single biggest decision "young people can make to ensure a good life down the road," says Ron McCoy, president and CEO of Florida-based Freedom Capital Advisors. Automatic investing can help remove the need to make decisions about when and how much to invest, creating consistent investing habits, Swope says. Automatic investing takes advantage of dollar-cost averaging, which often mitigates portfolio volatility over several decades."Instead of investing a lump sum all at once, investments are made incrementally with the same amount at regular intervals on a fixed and automatic schedule," he says.Dollar-cost averaging is a great way to accumulate long-term wealth because you are always the same number of shares which can be beneficial if you're buying during a downtown and paying a lower price before the stock rebounds, says Chris Osmond, chief investment officer at Prime Capital Investment Advisors."This strategy also helps remove emotion because you're systematically investing in a long-term plan," he says.The news cycle about a company's stock performance can be overwhelming. Instead, remove the short-term noise, so you can maintain perspective of your strategy for the long run, experts say."The secret with investing is to remove emotion," Osmond says. "When emotion is removed from the equation, an investor is less likely to sell and buy at the most inopportune times."Billionaire Warren Buffett, a legendary investor, advises people to buy and hold stocks for several decades instead of selling and re-buying them constantly. At a minimum, the stock should be one that an investor would own for at least 10 years, he advises.

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