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How to Make Money In the Stock Market For Beginners

The journey of a new investor takes many twists and turns. From my own personal experience, I hope to shed some light on how even a beginner can invest profitably in the stock market. In this post, I’ll take you through step by step about what you should do.

This week’s article is a guest post from Tony at A Young Investor. Tony writes about how to invest in the financial markets and he shares his investment experiences.

Read As Much As You Can – Don’t Jump Right into the Market

Many new investors make the mistake of knowing nothing and buying the first stock that looks good. On the contrary, a good investor should learn as much and read as much as he can before investing. While I can’t tell you what books to read, I can tell you what to avoid. This is because my introduction to Investing 101 was a little different (and something that no one can replicate) – my parents were investors, so I was taught more than self-taught. By the time I started reading books about investing, I was already pretty advanced, so my books definitely did not constitute beginner-level information. Here’s a couple of things to avoid:

Stock Tips

My foremost rule is to never buy a stock just because some “expert” is recommending it. Most of the time, the “experts” aren’t correct – if their tips were correct, they’d be making money from investing in those tips as opposed to making money by telling others how to make money! That being said, Jim Cramer’s Mad Money and other financial market shows are generally just full of BS.

Investment Newsletters

A lot of people sign up for investment newsletters that cost hundreds of dollars a year. 99% of the time, the market predictions in these newsletters are wrong – if they were right, the newsletter writer wouldn’t be writing and instead would act on his own advice!

How to Choose a Broker

In the past, brokerage fees would take out a decent chunk of your portfolio’s value. But not anymore. With online brokerages nowadays, brokerage fees are virtually non-existent. That is why I use an online broker (IB) as opposed to a retail broker, which charges fat fees that will cut into your profits.

How to Select a Stock

When it comes to stock selection, I have my own criteria. While most people pay attention to tangible numbers such as earnings-per-share (EPS), I pay attention to the non-tangible factors. These include:

  1. The industry that the company’s in. Is it an industry that really has a solid, fundamental need, or is it a “fashion” industry? I use the classic Microsoft vs. Apple example for this case. On paper, Apple seems far better than Microsoft: bigger profits, wider consumer appeal, etc. However, the problem with Apple’s business is that it’s technically in the “fashion” industry. Apple’s products are products that we can live without, so once Apple loses it’s “bling”, there’s nothing that will prevent consumers from switching to an Apple competitor (this is happening already). On the other hand, Microsoft, the old, musty company that most investors shun, is far better (in my opinion) than Apple. Microsoft’s business has a fundamental need in the market – peoples’ lives would be much less convenient with PC’s. In addition, Microsoft’s consumer lock-in (platform incompatibility) prevents consumers from easily switching to a competitor’s software. As such, Apple is a fly-by-night company while Microsoft has consistent, steady earnings. In other words, you never know when the manna will stop flowing at Apple, while Microsoft is a huge cash-flow generating cow.
  2. Is it a company that can be run by a ham sandwich? Many companies depend too much on their leaders – when the brilliant visionary leaves the company or dies, the company’s competitive advantage is immediately gone. Let me give you 2 examples. When Walt Disney, the founder of Disney died, his company failed to create any significant for almost 30 years. After Frank Wells died in 1994 in a helicopter crash, Disney churned out failure after failure after failure (that’s why if you search for Disney songs on Youtube, you’ll see that all the comments are like “Disney just doesn’t create movies like this anymore”). Now that Steve Jobs is dead, where is Apple’s fountain of creativity going to come from? Tim Cook, an operations and supply chain guy? No. On the other hand, companies like Coca-Cola can literally be run by a ham sandwich – Coca-Cola’s structure is written in stone so that all you have to do is do 1, 2, 3 and Coca-Cola’s making money!

A Few Tips For New Investors

  1. Don’t short stocks. Shorting is the betting that stock prices will go down. Theoretically, the maximum amount of money you can make from shorting is 100%, while the losses are infinite. That is why shorting should not be attempted by new investors – the risk/reward ration is too high.
  2. Stay away from financial products you don’t understand. A lot of new investors who plunge into options, futures, etc get killed because they don’t understand what’s going on. Like my mother used to say “if you don’t understand it, stay away from it. The money may flow in fast, but it will flow out faster”.

8 comments to How to Make Money In the Stock Market For Beginners

  • Tony, thanks a million for your post.

    The very reason I started this blog, was to encourage others (young and old) to get started with saving and investing. It’s not that difficult and I believe it’s something EVERYONE should do to ensure a future of wealth and security.

    I have been investing for 27 years and like Tony, both of my parents were investors. I agree with everything Tony says in this article, but I have a couple of important things to add, from my own experience.

    1. Mutual Funds – I strongly believe pure no load mututal funds with low expenses are a much better vehicle for new investors than individual stocks. There are a number of funds with solid professional managers and great track records, that charge less than 1% per year. I have written an entire series on picking mutual funds, for anyone who is gettting started investing. Diversified ETFs are another smart option for beginners.

    2. Newsletters – I agree with Tony completely about newsletters. I have purchased many newsletters in the past and most have lost me money. One of the newsletters I subscribed to was the Hulbert Digest, which tracked and rated all of the other newsletters. The long-term performance of most newsletters is embarrasingly bad. Put that money into your investments, instead of wasting it on newsletters.

    3. Earnings & Value – Almost every successful investor over the past century made money buying companies with sound earnings at a good value. As Tony said, flashy companies are a great way to lose money. So are technical indicators and TV investment shows. Avoid watching Cramer and investing in the next Facebook. Find sound companies with good products, a low P/E, growing earnings and a strong competitive advantage.
    Bret recently posted..How Large Corporations Skirt TaxesMy Profile

  • I especially like the tip “Do not short stock.” It sounds ideal but you could lose more than you bargained for.
    Ornella @ Moneylicious recently posted..How to Negotiate a Lower Interest Rate on Your Credit CardsMy Profile

    • Hi Ornella,

      I have thought about shorting stocks in the past, but I’m more of an investor than a gambler.

      It’s one thing to own the stock and short it. It’s quite another to short it without owning it. That’s called a naked short and as Tony pointed out, the potential loses are unlimited. To be quite honest, I’m not sure why it’s even legal.
      Bret recently posted..The Plight of Small Business in AmericaMy Profile

  • Brennan Newfield

    Predicting the stock market can be pretty tricky, but they actually have software and services now that can tell you (with pretty good accuracy) which stocks you should select. I’ve tried a lot of them but the best one I’ve used is called Daily Market Advantage. It’s a daily newsletter that sends you advice on which stocks will rise or fall in price, which ones have great dividends, which ones you should buy, sell, or hold, etc. It is run by a team of market experts using software to analyze the market. In my experience, it’s been correct most of the time.

  • KYD

    Though it may be a ‘hobby’, the stock exchange isn’t fun. The world of investment is dominated by investment banks and their bankers. They do all the big deals, float companies, issue bonds, trade stocks, bonds, currencies and commodities and make lots of money. They do all this because it is a business, with real money and real profits. Nobody is playing around. If we want to be successful, we too need to view it as a business. If we really want to learn how to make money in the stock market, then we need to approach it as if it is our own business. A part-time business perhaps, but still a business. That is, after all, how everyone else treats it…
    KYD

    • My thinking on stock market investing is the same as Warren Buffett, Benjamin Graham and John Templeton. You shouldn’t invest in a stock as a security, you should invest as an owner of the company. If the company isn’t sound, with good earnings and it can’t be purchased at a good value, it should be avoided at all costs.

      No matter what the analysts and hypesters say; no matter what the MACD, stochastics and moving average are; an unsound or over-valued company is a bad investment. The Facebook IPO at near 100:1 P/E ratio is a prime example of the professionals profiting from the hobbyists. Avoid the hype and search for value. Don’t be one of the sheep.
      Bret recently posted..The Government and your WalletMy Profile

  • @ Brennan. I find the problem with most prediction software is that they’re great at fitting in historical data, but since historical data isn’t always repetitive in the future, that software isn’t so great for investing.
    A Young Investor recently posted..Should I Or Shouldn’t I Use a Stop LossMy Profile