One of the readers recently asked:
I see that you do quite a bit of trading via E*trade and I think it would be pretty cool to have a post about how you went about making your first stock purchase.
Naturally, I agreed to this because I would gladly share my experience with everyone. Let me know if you have any questions by posting a comment below.
As I think back, I’ve always been involved with the stock market unknowingly. As a kid, my parents bought me some mutual funds along with some CDs in an effort to help me understand money. At the time, I didn’t really know what money really was and meant but having the statements come every quarter was pretty exciting because the figure slowly became bigger.
Once I moved to the US a couple of years ago, I was living by myself which meant that I was on my own for many of the things that I took for granted while I was living with my parents. This included everything about money. I had the mutual funds and CDs, and I also have some cash saved up in an ING Direct online savings account .
By then, I’ve heard about online brokerages and stock trading but I was nervous about doing it by myself. However, I realized that most of the mutual funds are really about paying someone else to do what you can do yourself. It also didn’t help reading about the fact that most mutual funds perform worst than the S&P 500. I was thinking to myself “if they could do it, I could”.
With that in mind, I started frequenting financial websites like The Motley Fool and Yahoo Finance and within days, I signed up at ETrade through one of the advertising links there. I didn’t do any research on different brokerages because I told myself that I can always switch if I didn’t like it. Although I believe I was lucky and found that ETrade is one of the best brokerages, I do not recommend signing up for a brokerage account without doing any research. One thing I did though was that I transferred a small portion of my money into the account to limit the chances of me losing lots of money.
I am pretty familiar with how websites work, so signing up was a breeze and I familiarized myself with the account like a little kid with a new toy. I explored so many pages within the website and I was fascinated by
all the performance metrics about the account. I didn’t know what most of the terms meant but that was fun because I was determined to learn .
Of course, I was impatient as always so without any research and based only on my personal experience with buying the company’s products, I bought my first stock. 70 shares of Intel (INTC) at $19.81 on March 27, 2006.
Fast forward to today. My brokerage account has become much bigger (as a matter of fact, my brokerage account has more money in it now than my net worth in 2006), my investment knowledge has grown tremendously and I’ve also found something to do that I really enjoy.
If you are thinking about trading stocks for the first time, I urge you to open an account in any of the well known brokerages. Start exploring the brokerage website and also the sites I listed earlier. Learn about how companies make and lose money. Get a feel about why prices go up and down based on supply and demand of that particular stock. DO NOT follow what I did and just blindly buy a stock thinking you would make money because you won’t. I was lucky because I started when the market was generally good but times are different right now.
Have the enthusiasm to start right away, but do enough research and make sure you understand why you are buying a particular stock before you put your money on the line. At the beginning, you will probably lose some money but understand why you lost money and try to adjust. Do that enough times and it could be a very profitable road for you in the future.
Editor's Note: I've begun tracking my assets through Personal Capital. I'm only using the free service so far and I no longer have to log into all the different accounts just to pull the numbers. And with a single screen showing all my assets, it's much easier to figure out when I need to rebalance or where I stand on the path to financial independence. They developed this pretty nifty 401K Fee Analyzer that will show you whether you are paying too much in fees, as well as an Investment Checkup tool to help determine whether your asset allocation fits your risk profile. The platform literally takes a few minutes to sign up and it's free to use by following this link here. For those trying to build wealth, Personal Capital is worth a look.
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