Thursday, November 22, 2012

Quick Update

Hello my dear followers and readers!

First of all: Happy Thanksgiving!! If you are healthy, breathing, have family and/or friends, have a job or you are just simply still on this earth (even if struggling) remember you have a purpose and being alive and well is something to be thankful for regardless of the cash in your bank account!!

Moving on, I want to apologize for the hiatus on the blog. I am currently reading an investment book that is preparing me for the upcoming posts on the blog where I will explain technical and fundamental analysis which are KEY instruments that need to be used when choosing a stock for investment purposes. It is very important to me that I provide accurate and significant information to help ALL my readers and followers understand how the stock-picking process works. Hence, I want to make sure I do this the RIGHT way. Please pardon the lack of post I would say for the next few weeks. Please check back mid December (around 12/15) for more updates. Either way, I will post regarding the status of my research.

Also-- I am not sure if I mentioned this but my business idea "Teach Me To Invest" was chosen as one of the ideas to develop in the entrepreneurship course I am taking this semester. I may or may not involve the blog in the project. You will know if I start posting anything related to school or the development of the project. Or, I may just add a post when all is done and let you know what it entitled and how it all worked out. I am excited for this. :)

I leave you with this food for thought:

Source: Pinterest


Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

READY? SET? FUND!

Hello future investors! Welcome back!

So once you decide which online brokerage firm you want to use and once you are READY to get this show on the road it will be time to fund your online brokerage account. By this, I mean transferring money from your bank account to the brokerage firm in order to start trading.

REMINDER: Having money in an online brokerage account is similar to having money just sitting in your bank. If you choose a credible and legit company; your money will be secured and no one is going to disappear with it (remember to read all the security features of at least a few online brokerage companies and choose the one that makes you feel more comfortable!!). The only difference may be that you probably will be gaining very little any interest on that money (if any at all) as the main "idea" behind the online brokerage account is to use the money to invest it and make a profit not to have it sitting there. But basically, don’t be afraid to just transfer the money and leave it alone until you have done your research and decide which stock(s) you want to buy. ALSO, you dont need to use it all the money at once. FOR EXAMPLE: Lets say you transfer $100 but decide to buy a stock for $25 just to "practice"; the remainder $75 will remain there until you are ready to invest it. Same goes for any amount of money you transfer. No need to rush in to anything. REMEMBER: Trading should never be a gamble or forced via emotions. It should be a strategic approach, which is what I will be teaching you.

Lets get this show on the road…

So, generally, with every online brokerage firm there are three main ways in which you can transfer money in to the account for trading. Here they are in order of “quickness”  (or, which method allows your money to be available for trading faster);
-Wire Transfer
-ACH profile
-Mailing a Check

Wire Transfer “The quick process”
Usually, the wire transfer is initiated on the side of your bank. The online brokerage firm you choose to use will provide you with instructions regarding what kind of information you have to give to your bank in order to authorize them to “send” the amount of money that you choose to the online brokerage firm. This method is considered faster because you can easily just contact your bank, show up at your branch or go online to request the wire. As long as it all goes in proper order, your money can be available within hours or in just one business day. Something to note: Many online brokerage firms wont allow any wire transfers from foreign countries.


ACH:
ACH stands for “Automated Clearing House”. This is the method that I personally used when I first transferred money in to an online brokerage. I personally just felt more comfortable with this method. The way it works is that you enter information such as your routing number and account number in to the online brokerage account. For example: Have you ever set up a payment account online with your cable company or your credit card company just to make it easier to make payments from month to month on the internet? Well, the ACH procedure is very similar to this. Once the Online Brokerage Firm confirms your bank account information and that the account is yours (they will ask you to send in an ID and a voided check) your money can be available for trading within 3 business days on average (that’s how long it takes for the the money to “clear”). If you decide to go with ACH just remember you wont be able to trade immediately and you may have to wait a few days. There really should be no rush so I don’t see a problem with that!
Mailing A Check:
This may take a little longer but is another great option if you just feel more comfortable mailing a check. With most online brokerages, the money should be available for trading as soon as the funds and information are verified with your bank. You can choose between a cashier check or a personal bank check. Make sure to check out the “funding” instructions for the online brokerage firm you use in order to see whom the check should be made payable to, etc. With this method it may also take an average of 3 business days after the check is received for the money to “clear” and before the money is available for you to begin trading.

***
Finally, if you ever want your funds or part of your funds to be sent back to your bank account; the process is very similar. Remember that you can request funds to be transferred back to your bank accounts at any time as long as the money is not invested in stocks at that particular moment.  Lets say you made $500 on a stock and you would like to send that money back to your bank account. You can request the following:
-For the brokerage firm to send you a check
-Or, transfer the money back via wire or ACH (explained above)
This is just an overview of the general procedures. When you open a online brokerage account just go in to the “transferring money” tab (or may be called something similar) for more detailed instructions. If you are ever confused about anything you can always call the online brokerage directly (or use the chat feature if they have one). From my personal experience, the customer service team is always more than happy to answer questions and make things clear. Trust me! I was once lost and confused asking questions that seemed too obvious but no one ever made me feel like I was weird or stupid so, don’t ever feel that way.

Questions about funding? STAY TUNNED FOR THE NEXT POST! We’re about to get “fundamental”. .

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Filling out the Online Brokerage Application

Hello again! We are very close to going fully in to investment techniques but before we get in to that we have to get through the 'application' process of the online brokerage firms.



As you may understand; the questions may vary slightly from brokerage to brokerage. However, a lot of the questions are pretty standard. So, this post will provide clarification on some of the questions that may seem odd or confusing.

Individual or Joint Account?
If you plan to invest your money yourself and monitor the account yourself go with "individual". They also give you the option of having a "joint" account. Lets say for example you want to "join forces"  and invest together with your friend, your boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife, significant other, family member, a perfect stranger; you get the point. Well, you can do that. However, for anything you do in that account you will need permission from the other person and have to have him/her sign off on certain things (ie: to transfer money in and out, etc.)

Margin Account?
Say NO! to this option. A margin account means you agree to "borrow" money from the online brokerage firm to do trades. It would be like a loan with its corresponding ridiculous interest rate. So, for example, lets say you are super excited about a stock and you're sure is going to skyrocket so you "borrow" money through the online brokerage via the margin account and buy 100 shares. Well, lets say the next day all hell breaks loose and the stock goes down to rock bottom. Well guess what, whatever margin money you borrowed you will have to pay back no matter what (or the brokerage firm will just deduct it from whatever money you have available in the account). So, avoid margin at all cost! Choose CASH account which means that at all times you will be investing with you own money.

Other Details:
  • You must enter your social security number mainly for tax purposes and to make sure that you are a "real person". You may also use an E-Tin number (tax identification number) if you have that instead of a social.
  • Are you a resident? Yes. This question is just looking to confirm that you live in the United States, anywhere.
  • You will get the option to choose from multiple different "types" of accounts. Go with a GROWTH account. As your goal is to steadily grow the value of your portfolio/your wealth.
  • You'll also get asked about your "net worth" or how much you are "worth" how much money you have in general. This is a question that they are required to ask you by law and is only for informational/record purposes. No need to be super specific here!


Friday, November 2, 2012

Additional Online Brokerage Firms

Hey everyone! I apologize for the hiatus in the postings. Hope that everyone reading this is safe and sound after this Sandy fiasco that we had to go through here in the east coast. One thing about NYC though--- no matter what we go through we sure know how to get up, dust off and keep going. Slowly but surely we'll be back to normal.

---

On this post, I just want to share a  few additional online brokerage firms that are out there, how much the charge per trade and whether or not there is a minimum deposit to open the account. I personally havent used any of the firms I am about to list but I have heard about them through different financial podcasts I listen to as well as from friends that have used them. So here they go:


First Trade
Firsttrade.com
  • No minimal deposit to start (you can open the account and dont have to fund it right away).
  • $6.95 per stock trade. (As previously explained: means they charge a fee of $6.95 when you buy any number of shares and the same fee when you sell for a total of $13.90).
Scottrade
Scottrade.com
  • Require a minimum deposit of $500 to open an account
  • $7 per stock trades
E*Trade
etrade.com
  • Also require a $500 minimal deposit
  • Stock trade fees range from $7.99-$9.99 depending on your trading volume

Merrill Edge
merrilledge.com
  • No minimal deposit required
  • $6.95 per stock trade
  • They offer rewards of $50+ but the "catch" is depositing $10K+ to trade
Options House
optionshouse.com
  • $1,000 minimum deposit for cash accounts
  • $3.95 per stock trades
  • This site gives you the option of openning a "virtual account" first where you can practice before you get started with real investing (which I think is pretty cool)
Please keep in mind that the fees posted are only for when you are trading stocks. You may or may not know that there are a lot of other more "sophisticated" kind of investments out there besides stocks (Ie: options trading). For these kind of "different" type of investments the fees vary in each of the different online brokerage firms. I personally dont trade anything other than stocks and the blog is currently just focused on stock trading so lets focus on that!

Also--- just a heads up that the online brokerage firms noted above and the other two I mentioned in my previous posts are just SOME of the firms available out there! There are many, many to choose from. If you do a google search for it; you will see. If you decide to do research on your own to choose the best for you--- just make sure you read about how these firms are insured and make sure they are part of the SIPC (security investor protection corporation). Also, very important that they are reinsurred. In addition, I would personally avoid online brokerage company's that note the following on their website: "...we provide no guarantees in the event of unauthorized access...".
I found this in the optionshouse website. Make sure you look in to how your money will be protected. Some firms, such as TDAmeritrade, offer protection if someone tries to illegally trade without your permission, etc. Little perks like that would help me sleep better at night.

Remember: Research, Research, Research!!

NEXT POST: The online brokerage application and clarification of "weird" or "confusing" questions.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My Experience Part II—TD AMERITRADE

If you missed my last post where I discussed my TradeKing experience; Click here.
So how did I end up opening a TD account and why do I have two brokerage accounts open? Well, honestly, I am not sure and I might consolidate them soon. However, thinking back to when I opened my TDAmeritrade account, I was in a position where I felt much more comfortable about trading (about 3 years since I opened my first account with TK). I was once again “inspired” by my dear stock guru whom used TD for his own personal trades. He always spoke highly of TD Ameritrade’s brokerage services and recommended it because of a few key factors (this is what I remember from our ongoing conversations):
- Generally more “state of the art” stock analysis tools
-The ability to reinvest dividends (or DRIPS, which I will discuss later on in the blog)
-A more “sophisticated” trading platform.
Being that he had a gazillion years of experience in investing I felt he was on to something and so, once I was more comfortable with my trades, I wanted to give TD a try. Something you should know, however, is that TD’s “advanced tools” come with a price. I don’t mean they charge you to use any of that (is free!!) BUT! They do charge a higher fee for trading: $9.99 per trade. So, basically, when you buy and then sell a stock the overall commission with TD Ameritrade is $19.98 in comparison to the other brokerage firm I previously discussed.

Also, please note: There is no minimum amount needed to open a TDAmeritrade Cash account. I forgot to mention on my previous post that TradeKing works the same way. This basically means that you can open the account and just have it available there until you feel ready to fund it and start investing. You can also transfer money, be it $10 or $100 (whatever it is) and leave it in the account until you are ready to trade. The money is protected and secured just like if it were just sitting at a bank. As per TDs website, they do pay simple interest monthly. Simple interest is not much but is something while you are doing your research and deciding what to invest in. One thing about trading: no need to rush or trade on a “panic” or out of any kind of frantic emotion. That’s usually a bad idea. Nothing wrong with leaving your money there until you feel comfortable, ready and you’ve done your needed research.
My Personal Feedback: So far I have to say I also love TD Ameritrade. I have yet to try out most of the amazing tools they provide and my use of them is limited because of #1 Lack of Time and #2 Lack of time. However, it is awesome to know that I have access to such amazing resources when I need them. So, for now, I can only speak from my experience on what I have used and like about their services. So here it goes:
1.      When I first joined; I got a call from one of their investment professionals offering a one on one consultation (I declined because I love the thrill of investing my own money and is one of the reasons why I opened the account in the first place but I felt that was really cool of them in terms of customer service).
2.      From time to time I get emails about LIVE investment courses they hold throughout the nation. One of them was local but I couldn’t make it because it was during the week. The 2 day investment courses offered are FREE of charge! However, one recommendation I would give them is to consider holding these Saturday and Sunday or maybe even Friday and Saturday rather than the middle of the week when most people are working.
3.      Free stock analysis reports from recognized and highly reputable entities such as standard and poors and Credit Swiss (so, you pretty much input the stock you’re thinking about and you’re provided with official PDF reports you can download for the stock(s) in your radar--- is awesome to have that as part of your research when looking in to different investments).
4.      An easy to use website and a nice interface that allows you to find information quickly

Couple things I personally don’t like much: They don’t have a “chat” feature where I can chat with a live person like I am able to do with Tradeking. They should considering adding that.
I’ve had to call in for different things more so than with tradeking (can’t remember the exact reasons). However, on the flip side, I guess is better for security purposes.

I just recently reached out to my friend and asked for a quick reminder of why exactly he uses TD to trade and what he loves about it. This is what he said (some points may be repeated from the 4 noted above):

And I quote…
“Customer service is impeccable”
“They also assign you an account advisor who will help advise on decisions”
“Multiple local offices and direct connection with TD bank makes transferring money easy”
“Multiple trading device”.
So, I am sure you’ve seen TD banks all over the place. Well, apparently, these local banks offer a direct connection with the online brokerage firm and thus, this offer a little bit of more flexibility in terms of transferring money for trading or back in to your bank account, if you need it. I’ve personally have not used that particular one on one bank service but sounds like a convenient option to have if necessary.
So, that’s TD in a nutshell. They also have a great page on Frequently Asked Questions. Check it out for a further info: FAQ.
One last thing: Both TD & TK have Iphone Apps (and Im pretty sure the apps work in other smart phones). Check out my “Finance” Folder:


Any questions?

Upcoming posts:
  • Will list other great online brokerage firms available to the public including their commission fees, etc.
  • Will walk you through actually opening an account and funding it. Will also help you answer some of the questions that are asked when you are in the process of opening an account and which may seem confusing.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

My Experience with Online Brokerage Accounts: Part I-- TradeKing

If you skipped my last post and are wondering what a brokerage account is please click here.
So I’ve had experience with two online brokerage firms: Tradeking and TDAmeritrade. Let’s begin with the former.

Tradeking was recommended by the friend that taught me how to get started in the stock market. So this is the irony of life-- Right before I signed up with Tradeking I had already completed an application to another brokerage firm. Funny how life works; I never funded the other account but I had every intention to do so. I had no one guiding me but I wanted to get started so I figured I get the ball rolling (this was before I met my friend!—I have the email to prove it!). Shortly thereafter was when I met my “stock guru” (as I like to call him) and he recommended Tradeking and that’s when I got started (another “law of attraction” experience).
A little detour: The ‘Law of Attraction’ Time line:
05/12/2008 I fill out an application for a different online brokerage account and get the confirmation email (Haven’t met my friend yet)
06/15/2008 Meet my friend a couple days earlier and he recommends Tradeking-- I fill out a Tradeking application and get the confirmation email.
06/17/2008 I fund my TradeKing account and get started in the exciting world of investing.

So why did I go with Tradeking? Mainly because it was recommended by my friend. I also had no clue about how to get started so I decided to listen to someone with experience and who was guiding me. Another huge plus about TradeKing—Only $4.95 per trade!! I opened my account in the summer of 2008 and as I write this it is the fall of 2012 and the price has not changed, which is great. What does 4.95 per trade mean? As noted in my initial tutorial—Whenever I purchase shares of stock they charge me a 4.95 fee. When I sell; they also charge the 4.95 fee for an overall trading fee of only $9.90. Trust me—this is quite the bargain!!! You’ll get to compare prices as I provide information for a few other firms in upcoming posts.

So just to give you an example lets keep it simple; lets say you sell your shares and make $100 profit on a trade; after fees you will be left with $90.10 (this is separate from whatever you initially paid for the stock) which is pretty amazing if you ask me. Maybe if you used a personal broker you’d end up with $50 or maybe even less.  Side Note: We must also remember you’ll be taxed by our beloved IRS (around 15%, more on that on a future post) but we are focusing on the initial fees for now.

My experience with tradeking thus far? I have to say I have no complaints. One of the things I love the most is their customer service. I love their “chat” feature. So pretty much, whenever I am signed on; if I have a question I can just click on chat and a live person will answer me usually immediately. I’ve had the most random questions through the years—from the most basic (sometimes I felt the need to explain I was “new” to investing just to avoid sounding ridiculous) to the most advanced questions, as I learned more. Never did they make me feel dumb or clueless; my questions have always been answered clearly and to the point. I absolutely love it. I also like that I don’t have to spend time calling in or being kept on hold so the chat feature is pretty cool. You also have the option to call in, of course. I just personally prefer the chat.

According to their site (tradeking.com); they know a thing or two about customer service:

“TradeKing was ranked #1 in Customer Service in the SmartMoney June 2008 and June 2010 Broker Survey; awarded the highest five star rating in Customer Service and Trading Tools in the June 2009 and June 2010 Broker Survey; ranked #1 in Customer Service in the June 2011 Broker Survey and June 2012 Broker Survey; named overall #1 Discount Broker in the August 2007 Broker Survey; and overall #1 Discount Broker in the August 2006 Broker Survey. ”


When you initially transfer money in to tradeking it will take about 3 days for the transfer to complete and before you’re able to trade. They might initially give you the option to trade on Margin (DON’T DO THIS!) on a upcoming post I will explain the application process of opening a brokerage account and how to go through the application. Margin trading is something you need to avoid (will explain why later).

Another thing about my experience—they also have a ‘community’ involving other investors were you can ‘peep in’ and also ask questions. I recall asking a tax question once and multiple people answered me with pretty consistent responses and even links within Tradeking where I could find the “official information”. It was pretty cool. You can also see what other investors are doing in terms of what they may be selling or buying, which companies they may be commenting on, etc.

Another tab I love within the Tradeking site is “educational tools”; there, you are able to see tutorials for different kinds of trading instruments and they even have trading courses from basic to advanced. From time to time I also get emails about featured speakers whom give live presentations on the site regarding various investment topics. This is all for FREE. Keep in mind that opening an online brokerage account is free. You should never be charged for opening an account. The only “charges/fees” come in when you sell/buy stocks and in this case is $4.95 per trade as I previously indicated.

Another cool perk: Considering I am already a member, from time to time they have a “friends and family” deal—if I personally refer someone to join and they open and fund an account (taking in to account some specifications); whomever I refer gets $50 and so do I. Pretty sweet deal (if you are interested in this just send me an email (teachmetoinvest@gmail.com) and I’ll see if the deal is available, $50 is no pocket change  ;)

Security— Any money transferred in to TradeKing or any other official online brokerage firm who is member of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC),
is insured just like a bank account up to $500,000 including $250,000 in cash claims. What does this mean? No one can "steal" what you have there and the company cannot suddenly disappear with your money. Tradeking also has additional insurance to supplement the SIPC basic coverage.

In term of their security software-- as per their site; they have state of the art technology to protect your money and your identity.


NEXT UP: My experience with TDAmeritrade.

Any questions so far? You know what to do: comment below or email me at teachmetoinvest@gmail.com

For full details regarding TradeKing privacy and security measures click here.
Please Note: I was not compensated by Tradeking or any of its affiliates to write this post. The post is based on my own personal experience with Tradeking and its services and I am only expressing my opinions about the features of Tradeking which I have used since I opened an account and do not encompass everything TK has to offer or doesn’t offer. This post is not an advertisement or formal recommendation. As everything else on this blog; it is based on my own personal experience as an individual investor.

Monday, October 15, 2012

What is an Online Broker or Online Brokerage account?

So lets get started; what exactly is an online brokerage account?
In a nutshell; an online brokerage account allows you to be an independent investor where you can trade stocks, bonds, mutual funds, options, and a variety of investment instruments on your own without the need of a ‘financial advisor’, trader or broker. The benefits? Using an online brokerage account is unbelievably cheaper than using a full service broker or discount broker.
Full Service Broker ($$$$$): Very expensive and are usually hired by high net worth individuals (im talking about people investing millions or billions). They meet with you one on one and could charge up to $140 or more for each trade that they make on your behalf. Plus may also keep a percentage of your profits or whatever you have available to invest.
Discount Broker ($$$): May also meet you on a one on one basis and offer direct personal services. These are not as expensive as full service brokers but may still charge about $40 for each trade they make for you.
Online Brokerage Accounts ($): This is they type we will focus on in the post coming up on the blog. Each trade can cost you less than $5 (depending on which online firm you use) but also give you the option of calling in if you have any questions or if you want them to make the trade for you (ie: if you want to buy something after trading hours, etc). They may charge fees for phone services, however, it’ll never be as expensive as the other two types of brokers previously mentioned.
The caveat to it being cheaper?—well, basically, you are “on your own” and are investing for yourself without the “formal” assistance of a live licensed trader or broker whom  may have a ‘series 7’ designation and the ‘branding’ of a big corporation. However, guess what—even when trading with a “trained and certified” professionals; the majority (if not all) will still make you sign documents indicating that “the stock market is volatile and they are not responsible for any looses on your accounts” or something among those lines. Hence, think about it--- why not take the time to educate yourself and handle your own money? The risk is going to be there regardless (lets take 'experience' out of the equation for now) and at least you can be sure you are investing on things that you have done your homework and feel comfortable about rather than leaving it up to a stranger. This is my opinion and everyone is entitled to their own.
I do want to point out, however, that I understand there’s many people out there whom don’t have the time and much less the motivation to trade for themselves and rather give the job to someone else to handle. I respect that 100% and actually makes me happy as it will mean I’ll have plenty of business if I ever decide to become an investment advisor or broker for other people in the future. So, basically, whatever your decision is just know that there is a plus and a negative for anything in life and how you choose to invest your money is no exception!
Hope the following posts motivate you to open an account for yourself and at least try it out for a bit and see how you feel about being your own personal broker. On the next post I will discuss the brokerage firms I use and others available in the market. I will discuss how much money each may require for you to open an account and what I like about the ones I currently use and their differences among other tips and information. GET READY!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Before we get serious— Some stuff you may want to know

Before we move in to real investing and opening your first real online brokerage account, transferring money and making your first real trade among many other exciting things I feel the need to make some final points.
(As a reminder; we are continuing with the very BASICS here so if you are already a seasoned investor or feel that you are familiar with the basics please feel free to skip this post! Future posts will be a little bit more advanced but this blog is a one step at the time educational tool).
How exactly do people make money from investing?
Simple math: Buy low and sell high. The difference is your profit (minus commission cost). Your profit is directly proportional to how much money you invest. The more money you put in, the larger your profit when the stock appreciates. But REMEMBER--- is better to start with a low amount of money and slowly increase your investment confidence. As you gain more knowledge you can increase your investments. Start slow! Slow and steady wins the race!
What exactly makes a stock go up or down in price? The market can be very volatile and there could be a million reasons why shares increase or decrease in price. Some main reasons are:
Suppy and demand, stock buy backs, popular company news, the overall market is up, good news about the economy, any positive news by the Federal Reserve or news that seems like it would help ‘boost’ the economy, market security, confidence among shareholders, hyped up IPOs, a positive company announcement (ie: increase in dividends), a company investing for future growth (this can go both ways depending on the kind of market we’re dealing with). These are just some examples and I will explain each further as we move along.  
Do making money in stocks affect my taxes? It can. The profits made are added to your gross income. This may or may not affect your tax bracket and hence the % at which your are taxed. Profits from stock investing and dividends gained are called “capital gains” and are taxed slightly different than your regular income. The tax subject is a littl more complex but not necessarily in a bad way. More on that to come!
Long term or short term investing? Good question. It is really up to you but one thing you should know is this: don’t get emotionally attached to your stocks! Like a lot of things in life-- if you don’t see them going anywhere and you’ve been patient maybe is time to reassess.
How ‘Safe’ is the stock market?  One thing you need to understand is that the market can be very volatile. It can go up or down at any time for any reason. The money you put aside to invest should be part of your disposable income. Extra money you may have and that you wont need for a while (I will repeat this several times throughout the course of this blog). You don’t put your rent money, morgage money, gas money or any money you need to survive in the stock market. Maybe I should repeat this: You don’t put your rent money, morgage money, gas money or any money you need to survive in the stock market.
I sometimes call it educated gambling but since I don’t know how to gamble I see investing as a way safer, more predictable than gambling and an amazing tool to build wealth. Again, education is key.
Again, these are just some basic points and I will continue to elaborate as we move along. Next posts will start getting a little bit more intense (for my beginner investors) as I will explain step by step how to: open an official brokerage account/how to choose one and all the exciting things that come with that! I will probably break the posts in to several parts in order to make it simpler to understand.
As always, any questions or anything else you’d like me to explain before we get “serious”—email or comment below!

PS: You can follow me on twitter: @teachmetoinvest.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Your Very First Trade! (PART II)

Welcome back! This is a continuation of my previous post.

Hope you have your list of companies handy and are ready to go!

So, once you are ready to "play" this is what the screen will look like when you first sign in:

Click on “Trade”. This is how the Trade Screen looks like:


Trade Type: For now lets stick with the basic you will either BUY or SELL.
Symbol: Bring out your list of stocks and type your first ticker symbol where it says "Symbol".
Ticker Symbol: Is basically an abbreviation company’s use for trading purposes. It is usually the company’s initials or some variation thereof. You can easily find any company’s ticker symbol  anywhere on the web. IE: You can Google “coca cola ticker symbol” (or any company name) and the answer will pop right up. I also like using Yahoo Finance. It’s pretty simple to use; just type out the company’s name on the search tab and yahoo will provide you with not only the ticker symbol but a whole page of company information.
Shares: How many shares do you want to buy? When you type in the ticker symbol you will notice the current stock price of the company will pop up. Lets say the price of the stock price for company X is $50 and you have $1,000,000 to invest. Lets say you want to put $25,000 of your 1 million in company X. Simple math tells us:

25,000/50= 500 shares (after you make this purchase you will have $975,000 left over).

OR since we are just practicing you can just type out any number that comes to mind for the number of shares “100”, “300”, whatever you want. Keep in mind some brokerage firms allow you to buy fractions of shares. For example, you can buy 3.4 shares of a stock while others won’t allow that. If you type out a random number and updown gives you an error message just make sure the number is divisible by the amount of money you have available for trading.

Order Type:

The site will give you 3 options: Market Order, Limit Order, and Stop Order. For simplicity purposes lets focus on Market and Limit for now (will explain the purpose/importance of stop order on a future post. REMEMBER: We are going step by step here!).
Market Order: Choose this option if you want the shares to be purchased and the current real time price of the stock. If the shares are trading at $50.15 per share it will buy it at that price (or cheaper, if possible).
Limit Order: If you want to set a specific price choose this option. For example, lets say the company is trading at $50 but you want to buy it cheaper, like when it hits $45, for example. All you need to do is type “45” in that box. When the company reaches that price that you specified the website will automatically buy it for you at that price.
When trading on a real brokerage platform you’ll have options within limit order called “day trade” and “good until cancelled”. I will explain these further when we go in to opening a real brokerage account during the course of the blog. For now, Updown keeps it simple and just provides the option of “today”. Leave that as it is and click on TRADE NOW. You can also click on PREVIEW FIRST before executing the trade and it will show you how much the trade will cost + commission costs.
Commission Costs: Keep in mind that real online brokerage firms where you invest for yourself (including this virtual one) charge commission fees for each trade that you make (this is partly how these online brokerage firms make money). Some can charge you $4.95 per trade and some may charge you $10 (or more) etc. depending on which brokerage firm you use. In the case of updown.com the commission they charge is $10 per trade which means that when you buy, they charge you $10 and when you sell they again charge $10 for an overall trading cost of $20 (this is in addition to the cost of the shares you are buying). Obviously, doesn’t matter much here because you’re using fake money. However, when we get in to real trading I will go in to different brokerages and their costs.
NOW--- Go practice!!!! $$$

On my next post:
Some trading examples, how exactly you make money from trading, should you hold something for the long term or short term, how uncle sam comes in to play among interesting points. Also, as always-- if there is anything you'll like me to write a specific post on please email me or comment below.

Happy investing!

Monday, October 8, 2012

So lets get started— Your very first trade!! (PART I)

I understand a lot of people are terrified of the stock market and getting started and probably have this horrible idea in their heads that they will put money today and it’ll be gone tomorrow. So, for those people who need a little push to get the ball rolling I bring you one of my favorite websites for virtual investing:


First of all, the website is absolutely free! All you need to do is sign up (go ahead and use a pseudo name or nickname if you wish) the point is that they give you $1,000,000 in virtual money which you can use to invest in any company you want. The cool thing about this is that the interface they use (the computer screen where you enter your trades, etc) looks very similar to the one I use when I trade with real money (check out my future post on what brokerage firm I use). Anyways, this website is perfect for those just starting out as it simulates real trades, on real time, on a real interface! The stock prices, market news, etc. is all in real time…REAL!...The only fake thing is the money which is what makes it so great for starting out.
Remember I said I wouldn’t share anything here I haven’t tried myself? Well, I recently set up my own account (you can find me under: teachmetoinvest) and went through the sign up process and now Im ready to play! There is even the option to “find your friends” on the website so if you get other people you know to sign up you can compete against each other, etc. All in the name of educational entertainment! (yes I just made that up).
One tip though for those that don’t like junk mail: after you set up your username, etc. there is another screen that comes up asking you to check off different market newsletters that they would email you from time to time. There are also other “deals” where you have to enter your cell number or address. My advice is don’t even bother with that stuff. Is all propaganda/marketing tactics and we all know about those! Just say no to all those “extras” (make sure none of the boxes are checked off) all you really want is to start practicing investing so focus on that.
So which stocks would I pick to get the ball rolling?
Sit down with a piece of paper and let the brainstorming begin:

  • Think about current top industries and whom are the leaders in those industries? do you see them as a leader for the long or short term?
  • What companies are leaders in today’s market?
  • Which companies are on the news all the time (positive news)?
  • Which companies have been around for what feels like 100 years and something inside of you tells you they wont be going anywhere at least in your lifetime?
  • What companies are not only popular here in the U.S but also internationally?
For example, if you are traveling outside the U.S somewhere where you hated the food yet you spotted a popular American fast food restaurant, wouldn’t you be excited? Think about your friends and the tech gadgets they use, does it feel like 99% of them have one particular brand? What products do you use on a consistent basis? Who makes your toothpaste? Your deodorant? Your shampoo? are the majority made by a couple of main brands? (ie: colgate, procter and gamble). Picture yourself in the supermarket buying soda would you choose a ghetto brand over Pepsi or Coke? Probably not.  Think about those revolutionary popular companies that provide foods that are helping people live healthier lives (does wholefoods ring a bell?). Are your friends constantly talking about how they cant live without chipotle? are you still trying to figure out why you have no problem spending $5 for a coffee @ Starbucks yet get mad when your friends ask you to lend them a dollar? When you are browsing through a book store or any store for that matter doesn’t the following thought cross your mind: “I can probably find this cheaper on Amazon or ebay”.
Sit down and brainstorm! Make a list of all those companies that pop in to your head and look in to them.

The above is just one way to look at stocks. When we get further in to investing there are other financial factors we should examine as well and we’ll go in to not so exciting things called technical and fundamental analysis but that is irrelevant right this second. The purpose of this post is to get you started and to get the ball rolling.
So this is your homework for the next couple of days, compile a list of companies you would want to invest in. Your "dream list" taking in to consideration the above noted questions.

If you are already thinking up excuses in that you have no time for brainstorming here are some ideas:
  • Brainstorm your list while on the train or while sitting in traffic
  • While you are waiting in line for something
  • Even while sitting on the toilet!
There is really no excuse if you really want to learn).


IN PART II-- I will walk you step by step through the trading screens in updown.com and explain each option/category. Get excited. You're on your way! :)
If you have any questions up to this point please comment below and I will be happy to answer. What would be your dream company to invest in if money was no object?

Photos courtesy of pinterest.com


Companies named in this post are just meant to get your mind thinking and your ideas rolling and an example of my personal thought process when I initially began investing.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

What the heck is a Stock?

Let’s say you have an amazing idea and you decide to start a company. Initially maybe you get some help from family members or friends to start things off. However, as your successful company grows, you begin to require additional funds. When this happens you can do one of two things:
  1. Borrow money by either taking out a loan from a bank or issuing bonds to the public. If you go this route; you will be required to pay interest payments along the way. This is what we call debt financing.
-OR-
  1. You can issue STOCKs to the public. One of the main benefits of issuing stock is that won’t have to pay interest along the way and you wont be responsible for paying anyone back (aside from the appreciation of the stock). All your shareholders* will get in return for buying your stock is the hope that your stock will eventually be worth more than what they initially paid and that they will make a profit. And this is why a lot of companies issue stock.(*Shareholders: people that purchase you stock).
Think about a major company for example—Starbucks (SBUX). The company issued stocks for the very first time in June of 1992 (this is called IPO—Initial Public Offering). When the stock first issued, the price was $17 per share. Now, those who did their research and really believed in this company bought shares with the hopes that it would in fact be successful. By the end of that very same day in which the stock was first issued; the price appreciated to $21.50 p/s. Today is January 9th, 2015 and the price is hovering around $80 per share! Hence, whomever invested when this stock was first issued or has picked up the stock along the way at any price lower than $79 has made a profit.
The other side of the coin: Now, this could have gone either way. Let’s say starbucks didn’t turn out to be as successful as many people believed and let’s say you invested $100 in the stock when it was first issued but the company went bankrupt a year later.  As the stockholder, you would loose the $100 you invested but nothing more. No one can go after your assets. The limit of your liability will be up to the amount you invested, nothing more, nothing less. Bottom line is this: If a company is successful the shareholder rejoices in that success and if its not, then your only risk is loosing up to the money you invested in a worst case scenario.
On a personal level, I believe stocks are great investments as long as you do your research and take your time to understand what you are doing and watch where you put your money. Stay tuned for my upcoming post regarding the countless benefits of investing in the stock market in comparison to other forms of investing or a regular savings account.
Stocks might sound scary or risky but they are far from it! During the course of this blog I will show you by example exactly what I mean. Just a quick example— the average rate of return on my current portfolio is 43.97% with my top stock at 92%; this varies slightly (up or down) depending on how this market is doing. So, basically, this is like putting money in a “bank” (in this case my stocks) and earning that much interest! Now, tell me where you can get that kind of return without doing anything aside from holding quality stocks?! EDUCATE YOURSELF. The sky is the limit.
Stay tuned for the next post of Investing 101!
TELL ME: What is one pressing question you have about the information explained above? let me know!