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Investing in the Stock Market

Much like 401(k) plans, learning about stocks can be awfully confusing. In fact, investing is not the easiest of topics to fully comprehend, let alone master and invest like a pro. What are the basics you need to know about the stock market and how to invest?


Stock Investment Made Simple


Simply put, a stock is a share in the ownership of a company. Stock represents a claim on the company\'s assets and earnings.


As a shareholder -that is, an owner of stock in a company - you are entitled to a portion of the company\'s profits and have a claim on assets. The more shares you own, the larger the portion of the profits you get.


There are no guarantees when it comes to individual stocks. Some companies pay out dividends, but many others do not. Without dividends, an investor can make money on a stock only through its appreciation in the market.


There is always risk involved, and your stock\'s company may go bankrupt, making your stock worthless.


How are Stocks Priced?


Stock prices change every day as a result of market forces. Share prices change because of supply and demand. If more people want to buy a stock than sell it, then the price goes up. On the other hand, if more people wanted to sell a stock than buy it, there would be greater supply than demand, and the price would fall.


The most important factor that affects the value of a company is its earnings. Public companies are required to report their earnings every financial season. Analysts base their future value of a company on their earnings projection-if a company\'s results are better than expected, the price skyrockets. If a company\'s results are worse than expected, then the price will plummet.


No one really knows why stock prices change so drastically. Some believe that it\'s impossible to predict how stock prices will change, while others think they can determine when to buy and sell based on past performances. The only thing that is sure about stocks is that they can change quickly.


Steps for Stock Investing


Get a broker! A broker is the person who handles transactions for you when you are investing.


Whether you\'re deciding between an online broker and a physical person, a first time investor can really benefit from having someone to answer all his or her questions. Online trading has made it very easy to get into the market with very little initial capital needed, so if you\'re looking for an online company, make sure to choose one with solid customer service.


Carefully research your broker. Know what the upfront fees and transaction fees are. Only choose reputable brokers, whether online or in person. Ask for references and do some digging.


Major online brokers:



  • Charles Schwab

  • TradeKing

  • E*Trade

  • Interactive Brokers

  • Share Builder


Stock Picking Strategies- How to Invest in Stock


Again, do your research. If you\'re unsure of what to invest in, this is where a broker would really come in handy. When researching an investment there are typically five documents you want to get your hands on to research the relative merit of a potential stock:




  1. Form 10-K: this is the annual filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)

  2. The most recent 10-Q: this is the quarterly filing with the SEC

  3. Proxy statement: this includes information on the Board of Directors as well as management pay and shareholder proposals

  4. The company\'s most recent annual report. Read the report from the Chairman, CEO and other high-ranking officers to see how they view the business.

  5. A statistical showing going back five or ten years.


After you look over these, preferably with your broker, you are ready to buy your stocks. Try to only look after your portfolio once a month and don\'t get too obsessed with it-the market fluctuates daily.


Use WikInvest if you need to research any terms or companies.


 



 

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