Cheat Sheet

Investing Online For Dummies

Investing used to be limited to stodgy types who did who-knows-what with investment funds in hopes of earning big returns. The Internet has changed the investing landscape — for the better. You can now use the Internet to find out about and trade stocks, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs, commodities — the whole spectrum of investment opportunities — all at prices far below those demanded by the stodgy types in the Bad Old Days.

How to Get Started Investing Online

Do you just want to get started investing online right away? Can't wait to find an online broker, find out about mutual funds, peruse online databases, buy government bonds, and analyze potential stock buys? Here's a quick step-by-step list to get you invesing online quickly:

  1. Save your money.

    You don't need much to get started investing, preferably $50 or more. Just find an online broker with no minimum deposit. (They do exist!)

  2. Learn the terms.

    Investing is full of jargon. You'll need to know basic words just to get started. Get up to speed with websites like Investopedia and InvestorWords to make sure you have a good grasp of the language of online investing.

  3. Practice with fake money first.

    Before you start playing around with your real money, take a dry run by entering stock trades using the Investing Online Resource Center's Investing Simulator Center. Next, test your investment strategy with fake money using online trading simulators like Icarra or TradeMonster's paperTrade.

  4. Choose an online brokerage firm.

    Your online broker should be your wingman when investing online, so pick one you like and can trust. No one broker is best for all investors.

  5. Keep saving money.

    You'll want to keep adding savings to your brokerage account so you can put more of your money to work.

  6. Study.

    The steps above will get you online and investing online. But there's so much more to it if you want to be successful

Protecting Your Money and Your Identity Online

When you're buying and selling investments online, it pays to be extra careful to make sure your personal and financial information doesn't get stolen by cyberthieves. At the very minimum, you should protect yourself by

  • Locking down your computer. You'll want to install antivirus software — software that protects your files from malicious code — on your computer at the very least. Better yet, install firewall software or enable the firewall software built into your operating system. A firewall puts a fence around your computer, letting you control what data comes in and what goes out.

  • Be extra careful of wireless connections. If you're online using a public wireless Internet connection, you need to be especially cautious.

  • Checking up on your brokerage. Before you give money to anyone, be sure to run the broker or brokerage firm through the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority's online BrokerCheck tool. This simple search will only take a few moments and will tell you if the broker or brokerage firm is permitted to sell you securities.

  • Knowing what's reasonable. You should have a grasp of what kind of returns you can expect from investments. Knowing what legitimate investments return will help you smell a sham a mile away. If someone promises "guaranteed" or "risk free" returns that exceed the return of stocks, you know you're most likely being lied to.

  • Getting familiar with regulators' resources. The Securities and Exchange Commission offers free and tremendously helpful tools and tips to investors. Take the time to explore the site and you'll be a much better investor. A great place to start is by checking out brokers and financial advisers. It's easy. Just click on the Check Out a Broker or Adviser link under the Education tab.

    Another great resource is the North American Securities Administrators Association, which puts you in touch with your state regulator in two clicks. Just click the Contact Your Regulator link on the left side and then click your state on the map.

Quick and Helpful Online Investing Tips You May Not Know About

Online investing makes it easy for the regular Joe (or Jill) to take control of their finances and investments — as long as the wealth of financial information out there (both good and bad) doesn't prove too overwhelming. Here's a list of quick online investing tips that are definitely golden needles hidden in the World Wide Web haystack:

  • Quickest way to get stock information. If you're in a hurry and want basic information about a stock, fast, hit the search engines. Enter a stock's ticker symbol into the search blank in all the popular search engines, including Google, Bing.com and Yahoo. You'll immediately get the basic information about the stock, including a chart of the stock price, price quote, and market value. If the company's ticker symbol is a word, such as Caterpillar and its symbol CAT, you may need to enter "quote:" and then the symbol. Using Caterpillar as an example, you would enter "quote: CAT" into the search engine's search box.

  • Going off the beaten path for stock information. WolframAlpha probably isn't the most famous search engine, but it's pretty useful for investors looking for quick answers. Just enter a stock symbol in the search box and WolframAlpha gives you a page chock full of summary data about the company. You'll also find a handy chart that compares the stock's risk and expected reward against other leading companies in the industry.

  • Instant access to Yahoo Finance and Google Finance. You can access these popular investing sites by visiting their front pages and clicking the appropriate links. But here's a better and more direct way: Just type "finance.yahoo.com" for Yahoo Finance and "finance.google.com" for Google Finance.

blog comments powered by Disqus
Advertisement

Inside Dummies.com