InvestFinancial Planning

Want In On The Stock Trading Surge? Here’s How To Do It

Donna Fuscaldo  |  August 20, 2020

Thanks to commission-free trades and mobile investing apps, it’s easy to begin investing in the stock market without losing it all. 

Despite a global pandemic, stocks are booming, with scores of new investors jumping in. The allure is understandable. Thanks to mobile trading apps and commission free-trades, investing in the stock market and has never been easier.

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Of course that doesn’t mean you should pour your life savings into the stock market or redirect money from your retirement account into risky bets. But if you’ve paid off high-interest debt, you’re putting enough money away for retirement, and have a decent emergency fund, trading stocks can be a way to increase your wealth.

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER 

Before you even think about which stocks to buy, you have to make sure you understand how investing works. Without the confidence that comes with knowledge, you may end up paralyzed with fear. “It’s important to not only understand the terminology, but how the markets work, how they move from day to day,” says Dheerja Kaur, head of core product at Robinhood, the popular mobile trading app. “It will make it all feel less daunting.” 

That’s particularly important for female investors who are underrepresented in the stock market. Women are projected to hold $72 trillion in wealth by 2020, but only accounted for 26% of the investor pool in 2019. The reasons for the lack of participation are varied, but a by-product of it is women aren’t as confident as their male counterparts when it comes to investing. “Women were not raised to invest their money. They didn’t have conversations about finances,” says Michelle Jones, vice president and investment advisor for wealth management at Bryn Mawr Trust. “There’s a fear of losing money,  fear of lack of knowledge or confidence.”

Getting your investing chops before you start buying and selling stocks is very important. The good news: financial literacy is a top focus of online stock trading firms and mobile apps. Customers get free access to educational content, news, and research tools from many of these platforms.

ASK YOURSELF WHY YOU WANT TO INVEST 

Once you have a baseline understanding of the stock market, you have to figure out how and what you want to invest in. To do that, you’ll need to consider your time horizon, the amount you have to invest, and the level of risk you’re willing to take. If losing money will keep you awake at night, you should be more conservative than if you aren’t worried about the investment. 

You also have to decide if you want to make a passive investment or have an active role. For hands-off investors, low cost electronic traded funds and index mutual funds are a great way to get your feet wet. They provide a low-cost passive way to get exposure to equities.  

More hands-on investors can purchase shares of individual stocks or mutual funds. That requires research on your part, but it also puts you in control. Fractional shares are another option for investors with limited cash. Many investment firms allow customers to purchase less than one share of a company. Investors get to buy stocks based on how much they have to spend, not the share price. Those starting out can create a portfolio of fractional shares to test the waters.  

 “Ask yourself why you want to invest,” says Jacqui Kearn, who heads up financial literacy at Affinity Federal Credit Union. “Do you want to invest in a particular passion, is a stock down in value, and you can buy shares at a low price?”

CHOOSE LOW-COST, EASY TO USE TRADING PLATFORMS 

Armed with knowledge and a plan, it’s time to choose your stock trading platform. There’s plenty to pick from, with most offering commission-free trading. Go with one that has low to zero fees, a lot of financial literacy content, and top-notch customer service. Some trading platforms are purely mobile, while others have a mobile and desktop offering.

“You want to have security around those investment bets so look for platforms that are user friendly and are low to no cost,” says Kearns. “You want to be smart with who you’re partnering with so go with more well-known names.”  Kearns says to pay close attention to the platform’s fee structure. Sure they may offer zero commission trades, but are they making up the money elsewhere? 

Veteran investors understand the importance of diversification, and you should, too. Whether you’re buying stocks or ETFs, you want to make sure your investment dollars are spread out. If one industry or company falls on tough times you don’t want to get caught with all your investment dollars there. 

It’s also essential to resist the urge to try to time the market. Tales abound about those who tried and failed. Most of the time you end up buying high and selling low. Being too conservative can also harm you. Women tend to take fewer investment risks than their male counterparts which can substantially blunt their growth prospects. “In my 20s I started contributing to my 401k and had all my money in fixed income,” says Jones. ”When it comes to investing make sure you have a plan to help you to meet your goals.”

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