I’ve covered a lot of ground on conventional investing practices such as diversification, asset allocation, indexing and dollar cost averaging. But I also like covering other aspects of investing and trading that I’ve been curious about.
I study stock trading as a hobby because I’m fascinated by the possibility of using technology, technical strategy and other techniques in making predictions about the future and interpreting history to extrapolate what could happen next for the purpose of making money. The issue, of course, is how successful you can be about using such tools to further your investment assets. Without experience, most people won’t be successful, and even with experience, there are those who will struggle as traders.
At any rate, you’ll need to start somewhere: take a look at some free resources and guides for learning about how to trade and invest. These days, online brokers and mutual fund companies have come a long way in providing top trading tools, education, resources and customer service. For some of our favorite brokerage sites, check out our Smart Money Broker list.
In at least a couple of these sites, you’ll find thriving communities of traders who share their portfolios and information with each other, as well as virtual trading platforms where you can trade without risking your own money.
Different Ways To Trade Stocks
So how do you like to trade? I’ve noted the many ways that stock traders and investors (including myself) have approached the market. Here are some profiles I’ve come across:
1. Emotional Trading
I’m going to bet that most people get their first taste of the stock market by making emotional decisions with their money. The stock market is ruled by both fear and greed, which are pretty strong emotions that can pull at your gut and play with your mind. I, for one, was an emotional investor (and trader) when I first learned how to invest. The results were far from pretty. My money was whipsawed by the markets and dissipated over the span of a few miserable trades. I saw some big losses this way. While I am less prone to this kind of market action today, there are times I have to fight through my emotions to stay on course with my investments.
2. Trading With “Expert” Guidance
Those people who don’t have much experience or any interest in the market but want to invest in it will normally turn to “experts” to help them with their investment plan. They’ll sign up with a full service broker or financial adviser to get started on stocks, then will basically hand over their funds for others to manage. Not sure I’m personally comfortable with this strategy for myself, since I’ve seen firsthand how some “advisers” have churned the stock accounts of their clients. It happens more often than you think! Instead, why not turn yourself into the expert? You can check out free online resources such as those you’ll find in this list of investment tools, or visit online brokers as I’ve mentioned above (check out our ETrade review and TradeKing review), where you’ll find free investment information as well as a stock trading community you can compare notes with.
3. Trading By The Book
When I first got started with investing, the first thing I did was to study the market. I read books, magazines, periodicals, newsletters, blogs, articles and relevant stock sites, then I put what I learned into action. This is how I figured my way around the stock market over time. As someone who’s become a DIY (self taught) investor, I’ve found that the knowledge I gained from this process is empowering! One caveat though: if you follow a newsletter’s advice (or stock picks), know that this approach carries its own set of risks. I usually absorb what a newsletter writer (financial guru) has to say, but don’t necessarily follow their advice blindly.
4. Software Based Trading
More sophisticated and advanced investors employ the use of software and tools to hone their investing and trading skills. This is one area I’d like to explore further. As I’ve mentioned earlier, online resources and software tools abound — many of them are free and available. If you’re into options, you can check out a good options brokerage for the resources needed to become a successful options trader (there’s no guarantee you’ll do well, but you have access to a trading platform and tools to sharpen your skills). You can also find educational material in sites like Morningstar.com and INO.com whose whole business focuses on investor trading and education. INO aims to serve and equip investors with tools and resources mainly in the technical analysis arena; you can subscribe to their free tools to get a dose of what they have to offer.
5. Fantasy Trading
If you’re going to fancy yourself as a trader one day, I think it’s very prudent to start out with a practice portfolio so that you can learn the ropes without having to put your money at risk, especially while you lack experience. Set up some fantasy portfolios in virtual trading platforms to gain trading experience through trial and error. Or play around with trading games and contests like those you see in sites like Zacks.com.
Created: June 6, 2009; Updated: April 27, 2011
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