How can I Get Started Trading Stocks?
If you’re a beginner, it might be a little overwhelming to join the fast-paced world of trading stocks. It can certainly be risky to dive in without educating yourself on the basics. Luckily, good stockbrokers will offer tools to help educate and advise new traders.
What is Stock Trading?
Stock traders buy and sell shares of companies, indexes, or funds. But while all market participants want to capitalize on the price fluctuations of an asset, there are different approaches to trading. A short-term trader bets that they can make a profit by taking advantage of the intraday market swings. A long-term trader buys stock in a blue-chip company (meaning one that is considered a reliable investment) and holds it for years, seeking to profit gradually over time.
Day Trading vs. Long-Term Investing
Day trading and long-term investing are two distinct approaches to investing in the stock market. Day trading involves buying and selling stocks within the same day, with the goal of making quick profits. Day traders typically rely on technical analysis to identify short-term price movements and use leverage to magnify their gains. In contrast, long-term investing involves buying stocks with the intention of holding onto them for an extended period, often years or even decades. Long-term investors focus on fundamental analysis to identify companies with strong growth potential and invest for the long haul, weathering the ups and downs of the market.
One of the main differences between day trading and long-term investing is the time horizon. Day traders focus on short-term gains and may buy and sell stocks multiple times in a single day, while long-term investors have a much longer time horizon and are willing to hold onto their investments through market fluctuations. As a result, day trading can be much more volatile and risky, as traders need to make quick decisions and react quickly to changes in the market, whereas long-term investing allows for a more measured approach.
Another key difference is the level of involvement required. Day traders need to be constantly monitoring the market and making trades throughout the day, while long-term investors can take a more hands-off approach, checking in on their investments periodically and making adjustments as necessary. Day trading can be more time-intensive and require a higher level of skill and knowledge, while long-term investing requires patience, discipline, and a long-term perspective. Ultimately, the choice between day trading and long-term investing will depend on an individual’s goals, risk tolerance, and investment strategy.
Opening a Brokerage Account
Selecting and opening your brokerage account is the first step to a successful trading career, and it is important to get it right. Stock trading requires you to fund a brokerage account, which is an account designed to hold investments. You can open this account in just a few minutes, but the process of selecting your broker should take much longer.
Do I Need A Stockbroker?
Direct access trading and trading through a stockbroker are two different things. Direct access trading lets investors trade with market makers and specialists. They don’t go through a broker. Direct access traders use specialized (legal) software that links them directly to the major ECNs—Electronic Communications Networks—and stock exchanges.
Though a broker isn’t strictly necessary, it is worth it. Brokers offer guidance, advice, and an established foundation. Some offer account management. It is difficult to trade stocks alone, especially if you are new to the industry. Technical difficulties and the complex nature of the stock market are two factors that necessitate a broker.
Everyone can benefit from having a stockbroker, even if just for the research, data, and analysis to help make decisions. Plus, you can choose the level of involvement you want, whether you want a hands-off broker or a personalized experience.
How Do Stockbrokers Make Money?
Brokers primarily generate revenue through commissions charged on trades. Depending on the type of security being traded, the volume of trades made, and the account size, brokers may charge a fixed commission per trade, a percentage of the trade value, or a combination of both. Commissions are a significant source of revenue for brokers, particularly for those with a large volume of trades and high-value accounts.
Another way brokers generate revenue is through payment for order flow (PFOF). PFOF involves brokers selling their clients’ orders to market makers or high-frequency trading firms, who execute the trades. In exchange, the broker receives a payment for each order. Market makers benefit from receiving a large volume of trades, which enables them to profit from the spread between the bid and ask price, while the broker receives a payment for each order. PFOF has faced criticism in recent years, with some experts arguing that it can create conflicts of interest for brokers and result in less favorable execution prices for clients.
What Should I Look For When Choosing A Stockbroker?
In this section, we’ll discuss the main features of a good broker. This list is not exhaustive, but it contains five of the main features to look for: products, user experience, transparency, research and data, and customer service.
Products: The quality and variety of products is important. How many stocks do they offer? The “Big Four” in America (Charles Schwab, E*Trade, Fidelity Investments, and TD Ameritrade) offer thousands upon thousands of stocks from which to choose. For example, Charles Schwab offers stocks from over thirty-five countries, as well as any company on the S&P 500. Schwab also gives customers access to over sixty international stock markets. Though not all firms will have that high a level of variety, they should have an expansive selection.
User Experience: Fees and commissions, platform functionality, and trade execution are the three main subcategories of user experience. Fees and commissions will take a bite out of your wallet if you’re not careful. In each broker review on our website, we list the fees and commissions that the broker charges for different products. Secondly, platform functionality is essential to a smooth-running trading day. You don’t want to be annoyed with glitchy technology that prevents you from trading. A glitch-free system, be it a website, downloadable client, or an app, is a must-have. Thirdly, trade execution should also be glitch-free and run smoothly. Trading is fast-paced, and you don’t want technical issues slowing you down.
Transparency: Transparency about pricing, regulation, and withdrawal and deposit time is a good indicator that the broker is honest. A broker who tries to hide vital information or staff identities from its customers is up to something shady, and you should avoid it at all costs.
Research & Data: A broker should offer market research and data to help you conduct trades. It is up to the broker to decide whether this research is self-generated or sourced from major publications. Research and data can make all the difference in your trading, as being an informed trader increases your chances of success in an already-volatile trading environment.
Customer Service: Customer service is also very important. You want responsive, fast customer support that won’t put you on hold for hours. You want issues resolved, at least within forty-eight hours, if no less, so that you can get back to trading.
What Are Questions I Should Ask When Selecting A Broker?
When deciding on a broker, you should ask two questions: does this broker give me my money’s worth? And, does this broker seem trustworthy? Reading reviews and conducting thorough research will help you determine if the broker answers those questions positively and meets the criteria listed in the sections above.