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How to Start Investing in Stocks: A Beginner’s Guide

Investing is a way to set aside money while you are busy with life and have that money work for you so that you can fully reap the rewards of your labor in the future. Investing is a means to a happier ending. Legendary investor Warren Buffett defines investing as “… the process of laying out money now to receive more money in the future.”   The goal of investing is to put your money to work in one or more types of investment vehicles in the hopes of growing your money over time.

Let’s say that you have $1,000 set aside, and you’re ready to enter the world of investing. Or maybe you only have $10 extra a week, and you’d like to get into investing. In this article, we’ll walk you through getting started as an investor and show you how to maximize your returns while minimizing your costs.

Key Takeaways

  • Investing is defined as the act of committing money or capital to an endeavor with the expectation of obtaining an additional income or profit.
  • Unlike consuming, investing earmarks money for the future, hoping that it will grow over time.
  • Investing, however, also comes with the risk for losses.
  • Investing in the stock market is the most common way for beginners to gain investment experience.

What Kind of Investor Are You?

Before you commit your money, you need to answer the question, what kind of investor am I? When opening a brokerage account, an online broker like Charles Schwab or Fidelity will ask you about your investment goals and how much risk you’re willing to take on.

Some investors want to take an active hand in managing their money’s growth, and some prefer to “set it and forget it.” More “traditional” online brokers, like the two mentioned above, allow you to invest in stocks, bonds, exchange traded funds (ETFs), index funds and mutual funds.

Online Brokers

Brokers are either full-service or discount. Full-service brokers, as the name implies, give the full range of traditional brokerage services, including financial advice for retirement, healthcare and everything related to money. They usually only deal with higher-net-worth clients, and they can charge substantial fees, including a percent of your transactions, a percent of your assets they manage, and sometimes a yearly membership fee. It’s common to see minimum account sizes of $25,000 and up at full-service brokerages. Still, traditional brokers justify their high fees by giving advice detailed to your needs.

Discount brokers used to be the exception, but now they’re the norm. Discount online brokers give you tools to select and place your own transactions, and many of them also offer a set-it-and-forget-it robo-advisory service too. As the space of financial services has progressed in the 21st century, online brokers have added more features including educational materials on their sites and mobile apps.

In addition, although there are a number of discount brokers with no (or very low) minimum deposit restrictions, you may be faced with other restrictions, and certain fees are charged to accounts that don’t have a minimum deposit. This is something an investor should take into account if he or she wants to invest in stocks.

Robo-advisors

After the 2008 Financial Crisis, a new breed of investment advisor was born: the robo-advisor. Jon Stein and Eli Broverman of Betterment are often credited as the first in the space.   Their mission was to use technology to lower costs for investors and streamline investment advice.

Since Betterment launched, other robo-first companies have been founded, and established online brokers like Charles Schwab have added robo-like advisory services. According to a report by Charles Schwab, 58% of Americans say they will use some sort of robo-advice by 2025.   If you want an algorithm to make investment decisions for you, including tax-loss harvesting and rebalancing, a robo-advisor may be for you. And as the success of index investing has shown, if your goal is long-term wealth building, you might do better with a robo-advisor.

Investing Through Your Employer

If you’re on a tight budget, try to invest just one percent of your salary into the retirement plan available to you at work. The truth is, you probably won’t even miss a contribution that small.

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Work-based retirement plans deduct your contributions from your paycheck before taxes are calculated, which will make the contribution even less painful. Once you’re comfortable with a one percent contribution, maybe you can increase it as you get annual raises. You won’t likely miss the additional contributions. If you have a 401(k) retirement account at work, you may already be investing in your future with allocations to mutual funds and even your own company’s stock.

Minimums to Open an Account

Many financial institutions have minimum deposit requirements. In other words, they won’t accept your account application unless you deposit a certain amount of money. Some firms won’t even allow you to open an account with a sum as small as $1,000.

It pays to shop around some before deciding on where you want to open an account, and to check out our broker reviews. We list minimum deposits at the top of each review. Some firms do not require minimum deposits. Others may often lower costs, like trading fees and account management fees, if you have a balance above a certain threshold. Still, others may give a certain number of commission-free trades for opening an account.

Commissions and Fees

As economists like to say, there’s no free lunch. Though recently many brokers have been racing to lower or eliminate commissions on trades, and ETFs offer index investing to everyone who can trade with a bare-bones brokerage account, all brokers have to make money from their customers one way or another.

In most cases, your broker will charge a commission every time that you trade stock, either through buying or selling. Trading fees range from the low end of $2 per trade but can be as high as $10 for some discount brokers. Some brokers charge no trade commissions at all, but they make up for it in other ways. There are no charitable organizations running brokerage services.

Depending on how often you trade, these fees can add up and affect your profitability. Investing in stocks can be very costly if you hop into and out of positions frequently, especially with a small amount of money available to invest.

Remember, a trade is an order to purchase or sell shares in one company. If you want to purchase five different stocks at the same time, this is seen as five separate trades, and you will be charged for each one.

Now, imagine that you decide to buy the stocks of those five companies with your $1,000. To do this, you will incur $50 in trading costs—assuming the fee is $10—which is equivalent to 5% of your $1,000. If you were to fully invest the $1,000, your account would be reduced to $950 after trading costs. This represents a 5% loss before your investments even have a chance to earn.

Should you sell these five stocks, you would once again incur the costs of the trades, which would be another $50. To make the round trip (buying and selling) on these five stocks would cost you $100, or 10% of your initial deposit amount of $1,000. If your investments do not earn enough to cover this, you have lost money by just entering and exiting positions.

If you plan to trade frequently, check out our list of brokers for cost-conscious traders.

Mutual Fund Loads (Fees)

Besides the trading fee to purchase a mutual fund, there are other cost associated with this type of investment. Mutual funds are professionally managed pools of investor funds that invest in a focused manner, such as large-cap U.S. stocks.

There are many fees an investor will incur when investing in mutual funds. One of the most important fees to consider is the management expense ratio (MER), which is charged by the management team each year, based on the number of assets in the fund. The MER ranges from 0.05% to 0.7% annually and varies depending on the type of fund. But the higher the MER, the more it impacts the fund’s overall returns.

You may see a number of sales charges called loads when you buy mutual funds. Some are front-end loads, but you will also see no-load, and back-end load funds. Be sure you understand whether a fund you are considering carries a sales load prior to buying it. Check out your broker’s list of no-load funds, and no-transaction-fee funds if you want to avoid these extra charges.

In terms of the beginning investor, the mutual fund fees are actually an advantage relative to the commissions on stocks. The reason for this is that the fees are the same, regardless of the amount you invest. Therefore, as long as you meet the minimum requirement to open an account, you can invest as little as $50 or $100 per month in a mutual fund. The term for this is called dollar cost averaging (DCA), and it can be a great way to start investing.

Diversify and Reduce Risks

Diversification is considered to be the only free lunch in investing. In a nutshell, by investing in a range of assets, you reduce the risk of one investment’s performance severely hurting the return of your overall investment. You could think of it as financial jargon for “don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.”

In terms of diversification, the greatest amount of difficulty in doing this will come from investments in stocks. As mentioned earlier, the costs of investing in a large number of stocks could be detrimental to the portfolio. With a $1,000 deposit, it is nearly impossible to have a well-diversified portfolio, so be aware that you may need to invest in one or two companies (at the most) to begin with. This will increase your risk.

This is where the major benefit of mutual funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs) come into focus. Both types of securities tend to have a large number of stocks and other investments within the fund, which makes them more diversified than a single stock.

The Bottom Line

It is possible to invest if you are just starting out with a small amount of money. It’s more complicated than just selecting the right investment (a feat that is difficult enough in itself) and you have to be aware of the restrictions that you face as a new investor.

You’ll have to do your homework to find the minimum deposit requirements and then compare the commissions to other brokers. Chances are, you won’t be able to cost-effectively buy individual stocks and still be diversified with a small amount of money. You will also need to make a choice on which broker you would like to open an account with.

The Minimum Capital Required to Start Day Trading Forex

Martin Child / Getty Images

It’s easy to start day trading currencies because the foreign exchange (forex) market is one of the most accessible financial markets. Some forex brokers require a minimum initial deposit of only $50 to open an account and some accounts can be opened with an initial deposit of $0.

And unlike the stock market, for which the Securities and Exchange Commission requires day traders to maintain an account with $25,000 in assets, there is no legal minimum amount required for forex trading.   

But just because you could start with as little as $50 doesn’t mean that’s the amount you should start with. You may want to consider some scenarios involving the potential risks and rewards of various investment amounts before determining how much money to put in your forex trading account.

Risk Management

Day traders shouldn’t risk more than 1% of their forex account on a single trade. You should make that a hard and fast rule. That means, if your account contains $1,000, then the most you’ll want to risk on a trade is $10. If your account contains $10,000, you shouldn’t risk more than $100 per trade.

Even great traders have strings of losses; if you keep the risk on each trade small, a losing streak can’t significantly deplete your capital. Risk is determined by the difference between your entry price and the price at which your stop-loss order goes into effect, multiplied by the position size and the pip value.

Pip Values and Trading Lots

The forex market moves in pips. Let’s say the euro-U.S. dollar (EUR/USD) currency pair is priced at 1.3025. That means the value of one euro, the first currency in the pair, which is known as the base currency, is $1.3025.

For most currency pairs, a pip is 0.0001, which is equivalent to 1/100th of a percent. If the EUR/USD price changes to 1.3026, that’s a one pip move. If it changes to 1.3125, that’s a 100 pip move. An exception to the pip value “rule” is made for the Japanese yen. A pip for currency pairs in which is the yen is the second currency—called the quote currency—is 0.01, which is equivalent to 1 percent.   

Forex pairs trade in units of 1,000, 10,000 or 100,000, called micro, mini, and standard lots. 

When USD is listed second in the pair, as in EUR/USD or AUD/USD (Australian dollar-U.S. dollar), and your account is funded with U.S. dollars, the value of the pip per type of lot is fixed. If you hold a micro lot of 1,000 units, each pip movement is worth $0.10. If you hold a mini lot of 10,000, then each pip move is $1. If you hold a standard lot of 100,000, then each pip move is $10. Pip values can vary by price and pair, so knowing the pip value of the pair you’re trading is critical in determining position size and risk.

Stop-Loss Orders

When trading currencies, it’s important to enter a stop-loss order in case the value of the base currency goes in the opposite direction of your bet. A simple stop-loss order would be 10 pips below the current price when you expect the price to rise or 10 pips above the current price when you expect the price to fall.

Capital Scenarios

$100 in the Account

Assume you open an account for $100. You will want to limit your risk on each trade to $1 (1% of $100).

If you place a trade in EUR/USD, buying or selling one micro lot, your stop-loss order must be within 10 pips of your entry price. Since each pip is worth $0.10, if your stop loss were 11 pips away, your risk would be $1.10 (11 x $0.10), which is more risk than you want.

You can see how opening an account with only $100 severely limits how you can trade. Also, if you are risking a very small dollar amount on each trade, by extension you’re going to be making only small gains when you bet correctly. To make bigger gains—and possibly derive a reasonable amount of income from your trading activity—you will require more capital.

$500 in the Account

Now assume you open an account with $500. You can risk up to $5 per trade and buy multiple lots. For example, you can set a stop loss 10 pips away from your entry price and buy five micro lots and still be within your risk limit (because 10 pips x $0.10 x 5 micro lots = $5 at risk).

Or if you choose to place a stop loss 25 pips away from the entry price, you can buy two micro lots to keep the risk on the trade below 1% of the account. You would buy only two micro lots because 25 pips x $0.10 x 2 micro lots = $5.

Starting with $500 will provide greater trading flexibility and produce more daily income than starting with $100. But most day traders will still be able to make only $5 to $15 per day off this amount with any regularity.

$5,000 in the Account

If you start with $5,000, you have even more flexibility and can trade mini lots as well as micro lots. If you buy the EUR/USD at 1.3025 and place a stop loss at 1.3017 (eight pips of risk), you could buy 6 mini lots and 2 micro lots.

Your maximum risk is $50 (1% of $5,000), and you can trade in mini lots because each pip is worth $1 and you’ve chosen an 8 pip stop-loss. Divide the risk ($50) by (8 pips x $1) to get 6.25 for the number of mini lots you could buy without exceeding your risk. You would break up 6.25 mini lots into 6 mini lots (6 x $1 x 8 pips = $48) and 2 micro lots (2 x $0.10 x 8 pips = $1.60), which puts a total of only $49.60 at risk.

With this amount of capital and the ability to risk $50 on each trade, the income potential moves up, and traders can potentially make $50 to $150 a day, or more, depending on their forex strategy.

Starting out with at least $500 gives you flexibility in how you can trade that an account with only $100 in it does not have. Starting with $5,000 or more is even better because it can help you produce a reasonable amount of income that will compensate you for the time you’re spending on trading.

Best Binary Options Brokers: 2020 Ranking
  • Binarium
    Binarium

    Best Choice! The leader in our ranking!
    Perfect for beginners!
    Free Demo Acc + Free Trading Education!

  • Binomo
    Binomo

    Good choice for experienced traders!

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