Should You Trade Stocks Online?

by The Smarter Wallet on May 25, 2009

I know a lot of people who are wondering how they could make money in ways beyond just their standard method earning an income. And many of them decide that they’re either going to make more bucks by

(a) starting a business
(b) investing in an existing business or
(c) investing in the stock market.

I think these are all great ways to make additional money, but here’s a word of caution. If you are going to get into the stock market, make sure you do it with both eyes wide open.

Should You Trade Stocks Online?

When I first started investing in the stock market, I thought I knew what I was doing. After all, I had been reading up on stocks and general investing topics through magazines and books for a few months before I decided to buy my first stock. But it turns out that the true lessons begin when you actually have money invested in the market. When you seen how the market treats your money for real, the lessons you learn stick to you longer and are revealed to you much faster. At least, that’s what I gathered from my own experience.

As I tried to develop financial strategies and my own investment plan for making money via the stock market, I realized that I wasn’t doing a few things right. I started out investing with my emotions, and by making wild guesses about where the market was going to head. I thought that by ordering a prospectus, checking up on a stock’s history or hearing a stock touted in a magazine or radio show gives a particular stock that extra edge that allowed me to trust it more than I would other forms of investment. It turns out that going down this path would eventually cost me a lot of money.

Over time, I learned that I would be most successful by diversifying my stock holdings (via indexing, asset allocation strategies and dollar cost averaging) and by being more “mechanical” about how to approach investments. Having a plan and divorcing yourself from emotion when investing will help your “game” better.

Now while I’m not a stock trader, I’ve decided to continue my investment education by doing a few things — things I should have done before committing my money to volatile individual stocks I’ve lost my money to in the past. If you’re going to trade stocks online, know that it’s hard to be good at it and that you’re likely to lose money on it than make any at all (over the long run). Small wonder people consider this a form of gambling. But if you’re gung ho about figuring out how to become effective and successful as a stock trader, then here are a few basic tips to follow:

What To Do Before Trading Stocks Online

  1. Study how both fundamental analysis and technical analysis work.
  2. Be more open to different forms of investing and expand your horizons when it comes to investing. While I used to be dedicated to the buy and hold strategy in the past, these days I believe that some market timing skills may be good to have.
  3. Look into using market tools, stock analysis tools like INO’s Trend Analysis, and doing more investment research (check out free videos like INO TV Free) to expand my knowledge of the investment world on an ongoing basis. Even if you don’t use this knowledge to become a stock trader, it’s still incredibly useful to understand how actual stock traders make money in the markets, and to see how the market works and how stock movements are analyzed. Here’s an example of a video that aims to educate you in the area of trading (using the MarketClub stock charting tool) — by focusing on a couple of tech stocks (AAPL and RIMM) and seeing how they compare:

    AAPL vs RIMM

    We regularly show videos like this on our site. More of them can be seen through links we’ve provided below.

  4. Create practice investment or trading portfolios to get your feet wet first before committing your money to more risk-filled activities.

Here’s how I believe one should approach investing: always be prudent about where you put your money. Apply proper risk management by sticking with diversified investments and income sources. Continue to learn and to keep your mind open about investing. Consider using market tools that can improve how you invest and how you understand the markets.

For more on how to learn how to trade stocks online, check out these trading and investing videos (more are available through the investment research site,

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 AJ August 4, 2009 at 3:14 pm

That INO stuff is hindsight, in my opinion (your mileage may vary).

The answer to the question is “you shouldn’t ‘trade’ stocks at all because 99.9% of amateur retail traders go busto.” Instead, first by Greenblatt’s “Little Book that Beats the Market.” Read it. Then go buy Joe Ponzio’s book F Wall Street, read it, then go buy Lawrence Cunningham’s “Essay’s of Warren Buffett”, read that, then read all three books through one more time. Also look into net-nets: is a good link about those, just as an idea. Here’s a link to find them: Those are how Buffett got started.

Do those things and you’ll have a leg up on almost all amateur investors and you’ll be smarter than many professionals (especially any ‘financial advisor’ that you see around town or working for the bank, those guys are total chumps that want to rip you off.)

If that’s too much, you’re too lazy I’d recommend this:
Go here: if the ratio is between 75 and 90, put all your money in SPY or something like that. If it’s higher than 90 maybe put 30% into stocks 40% into a corporate bond index fund and maybe 10% treasuries index fund depends on yields and rates I dunno I don’t do index funds. Check that page every month then when it’s reasonable again up your exposure to equities.

2 Latonia Treadwell August 6, 2009 at 1:04 pm

Hi, My name is Latonia, for the past 3 months i been investing into stocks. I will admit that i dont have full knowledge about stocks. At this current time i’ve been doing my research on it. I’ll tell u, this stuff is like a foreign language to me. I’m just curious about the stock market and trying to learn it so i can use it to my advantage. I have 2 questions What do I need to learn about the market? and I’m curious about why you don’t do index funds?

3 SVB August 6, 2009 at 9:36 pm

I’ve mentioned that I invest in index funds, all other mutual funds, perform dollar cost averaging as well as study technical analysis to get a well-rounded view of the investment world. The more knowledge I get, the better.

As a small investor, you should learn about the basics of investing — lots of sites, magazines and books can give you the details, but you can read financial blogs as well to get started. You may want to check this page to start with.

4 RJL August 6, 2009 at 11:28 pm

SVB, awesome post! I appreciate investing articles which have a lot of helpful information and make a lot of sense. I find the information on brokers and INO pretty helpful since a lot of people don’t really know how to start investing. The tools here can be a great start for those learning how to invest.

Great stuff and I look forward to more from you.

5 SVB August 7, 2009 at 3:58 pm

I recommend at most 4% of one’s portfolio for trades and for “fun investments”. That way you can control the risks. I love index funds by the way: these should be what constitutes your core portfolio. But doesn’t mean I shouldn’t learn about other aspects of the stock market. My goal is to increase my knowledge of investing and as far as I know, technical analysis works on probabilities, which is an interesting concept.

6 Trading Rite October 16, 2009 at 10:14 am

The internet is great. No longer do we have to pay outrageous commissions for stockbrokers to place trades for us. In order to take advantage of this, one must learn how to trade stocks (unless you prefer to pay somebody else to do it for you).

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