Online Tutorials and Simulations for Online Investors

By Matt Krantz

Online investing is like Vegas in that you get no do-overs. If you invest all your money in a speculative company that goes belly up, you lose your money. Period. Don’t expect the government to bail you out, like it bailed out several large banks during the financial crisis of 2008, and don’t think that you can sue the company to get your money back. It’s most likely gone.

That’s why if you’re new to investing, you might want to try the tutorials and simulations in the following paragraphs before using real money.

Online tutorials

Before you jump into any risky activity, it’s worthwhile to take a deep breath, relax, and make absolutely sure that you understand how the process works. Several excellent online tutorials can step you through the process ahead of time to make sure that you know what to expect. If you’re just starting out, it’s not a bad idea to run through one of the following:

  • Investing Online Resource Center: Here’s a site that all online investors should check out. Beginning investors should read through the materials and then read the Eight Things Every Investor Should Know section in the Online Investing tab. Don’t miss the site’s IORC Simulator Center, which lets you see what it’s like to invest online.

  • Investing 101 at Investopedia: A great primer of what you can expect, it’s worth running through to make sure that you have all the basics down. The figure shows you what an Investopedia page looks like.

    Investopedia's Investing 101 steps investors through most of the things they need to know.
    Investopedia’s Investing 101 steps investors through most of the things they need to know.
  • The Investor’s Clearinghouse: Here you find links to online resources on all sorts of investing topics, ranging from ways to research investments to finding investing help. An affiliated site, Help For Investors.org, provides even more tips.

  • American Association of Individual Investors: This site provides some free resources to investors, including a virtual Investor Classroom that teaches the basics.

Be careful about which online tutorials you read and pay attention to. Many so-called tutorials are thinly guised pitches for investment professionals trying to get you to hire them. Some also promote specialized trading techniques with the purpose of getting you to buy books, videotapes, and other materials.

Simulations

Online games, or simulations, let you buy and sell real stocks using only funny money. Online simulations are a good idea for investors because they let you get a taste for investing before you commit to a strategy.

A few simulators you can try out include

  • Icarra is a powerful portfolio tracking software program that’s so addictive, you might keep playing even after you set up an online trading account and invest for real. After downloading the software, you enter buys and sells. Icarra carefully tracks the performance of your stocks and tells you how you’re doing. Even more interesting, though, is that you can view other members’ portfolios and share your own.

  • TradeStation Simulator: TradeStation, an online brokerage, lets you practice trading online with a pretend account. You’ll need to sign up for an account, which is free, but you don’t need to put in any real money to use the simulator. This figure shows the simulator home page of the TradeStation site.

    TradeStation's simulator lets you try your hand at investing online with play money before putting
    TradeStation’s simulator lets you try your hand at investing online with play money before putting your own money on the line.
  • SmartStocks gets you started with a pretty generous portfolio stuffed with $1 million in virtual cash. You can use this cash to build a portfolio of investments to see how you perform and even compete against your friends.