How To Get Started In Stocks: A Guide for Beginner Investors

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Investing in stocks is a key strategy for building long-term wealth. Through stock investing, individuals can potentially earn strong returns.

How to get started in stocks

Understanding Stocks and the Stock Market

Stocks represent ownership in a company. When you buy a stock, you’re buying a piece of that company, making you a shareholder. The stock market is where these shares are bought and sold. It functions through a network of exchanges, like the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) or NASDAQ.

Companies list their stock on an exchange through an initial public offering, or IPO. Investors can then buy and sell these stocks among themselves. Stock prices fcompany’sbased on supply and demand, influenced by the company’s performance, economic conditions, market trends, and other factors.

Types of Stocks

Common Stocks:

  • Voting Rights: Holders of common stocks usually have voting rights in corporate decisions, typically one vote per share owned.
  • Dividends: These stocks may pay dividenaren’tt the amounts can vary and aren’t guacompany’sDividends depend on the company’s profitability.
  • Market Fluctuations: The value of common stocks can rise and fall significantly, offering higher potential returns but also higher risk.

Preferred Stocks:

  • Priority on Assets: In the event of bankruptcy, preferred shareholders get paid before common shareholders.
  • Dividends: Preferred stocks generally offer fixed dividends, which makes them similar to bonds. These dividends are typically higher and more regular than what common stocks offer.
  • Limited or No Voting Rights: Preferred shareholders usually do not have voting rights in the company.

Each type of stock suits different types of investors depending on their risk tolerance, investment goals, and interest in having a say in company management.

To learn more about investing, consider checking out: The Most Popular Investing Newsletters.

Setting Investment Goals

Defining clear investment goals is essential for crafting a strategy that aligns with your financial needs and risk toit’snce. Without specific goals, it’s challenging to measure the success of your investments or determine the right assets to include in your portfolio.

How Investment Goals Influence Investment Strategies

  1. Short-term vs. Long-term Goals:
    • Short-term Goals: These are typically set for less than five years. Common short-term goals include saving for a vacation, a down payment on a car, or an emergency fund. Short-term investment strategies focus on capital preservation and liquidity. Investors might lean towards safer, more liquid investments like money market funds, short-term bonds, or high-yield savings accounts.
    • Long-term Goals: These goals extend beyond five years and often aim for substantial returns over time. Examples include retirement savings, college funds, or long-term wealth accumulation. Long-term strategies can afford higher risk levels, usually incorporating a more significant proportion of stocks or real estate, which historically yield higher returns over extended periods.
  2. Risk Tolerance and Goals:
    • Your investment goals you’rely influence how much risk you’re willing to take on. For instance, if ythat’sal is to fund a retirement that’s 30 years away, you might tolerate more risk compared to someone whose goal is to buy a house in three years.
  3. Asset Allocation:
    • Goals determine your asset allocation—how you divide your investment among various asset classes. Long-term goals might have a heavier allocation towards stocks and real estate, while short-term goals might skew towards bonds and cash equivalents.

Basics of Stock Investing

Understanding key investment concepts such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and ETFs is crucial for anyone looking to navigate the financial markets.


Stocks, also known as shares or equities, represent ownership units in a company. When you purchase a stock, you become a shareholder, effectively owning a small part of that company. Tbond’snership comes with certain rights, such as voting on important corporate decisions and potentially receiving dividends, which are portions of the company’s profits distributed to shareholders.

Here’s why stocks are a crucial component of many investment portfolios:

  • Potential for Growth: Stocks offer significant potential for capital appreciation. If the company grows and becomes more valuable, so does your investment.
  • Liquidity: Stocks are generally highly liquid, meaning they can be quickly and easily bought and sold on stock exchanges during market hours.
  • Diversification: By investing in a variety of stocks across different sectors and geographies, investors can diversify their portfolios, spreading outworld’snd increasing the potential for returns.

Investing in stocks requires an understanding of the market dynamics and a readiness to withstand potentially high volatility. The value of stocks can fluctuate widely based on external factors like economic conditions, market trends, and company performance. Despite these risks, stocks remain a popular investment choice due to their potential for high returns over the long term.

Read more: How to Effectively Research Stocks.


Bonds are essentially loans that investors provide to issuers, which can be governments, municipalities, or corporations. Here’s a closer look at how this investment type functions:

Issuance of Bonds:

  • When an entity needs to raise money, it can issue bonds. Governments might issue bonds to fund infrastructure projects or day-to-day operations, municipalities for public projects like building schools or highways, and corporations typically raise funds for expanding their business operations or refinancing existing debt.
  • Bondholders receive periodic interest payments and the bond’s face value return at maturity.

Compared to stocks, bonds generally offer lower risk and returns. This lower risk comes from the predictable stream of income from interest payments and the return of principal at maturity. However, bonds are not entirely risk-free; they are subject to credit risk (risk of the issuer defaulting), interest rate risk (risk of interest rate fluctuations affecting bond prices), and inflation risk (risk of inflation reducing the purchasing power of the bond’s interest payments).

Mutual Funds

Mutual funds are a pooled investment vehicle consisting of a portfolio of stocks, bonds, or other securities. Mutual funds are managed by professional fund managers who allocate the fund’s assets to provide above-average returns for its investors.

Each investor in the mutual fund owns shares representing a portion of the fund’s holdings. The performance of a mutual fund is directly related to the performance of the securities it purchases. 

Mutual funds offer small or individual investors access to diversified, professionally managed portfolios of equities, bonds, and other securities, which would be pretty difficult to create with a small amount of capital.

Mutual funds do not actively trade throughout the day like stocks and ETFs. They are bought and sold once a day, at their Net Asset Value (NAV), which is simply the fund’s total assets – total liabilities.

Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs)

ETFs are similar to mutual funds in that they hold a portfolio assets including stocks, bonds, and other assets. However, the main difference is that ETFs trade throughout the the day like stocks, allowing for price fluctuations throughout the trading day. This can be great for investors who may be active day traders. Another advantage of ETFs is that they have lower fees than mutual funds, allowing investors to save money.

Read More: Index Funds vs. Mutual Funds.

Overview of Major Stock Exchanges

  1. New York Stock Exchange (NYSE):
  • One of the largest stock exchanges in the world.
  • Hosts a significant number of the world’s most established companies.
  • Known for its strict listing requirements, enhancing the quality and stability of its listed companies.
  1. NASDAQ:
  • Known for its high-tech orientation, hosting many tech giants like Apple, Google, and Amazon.
  • Operates electronically without a physical trading floor, using a network of computers for trading.
  • Offers a more relaxed listing environment compared to NYSE, which attracts younger, growth-oriented companies.

These exchanges and investment types are foundational to understanding how the financial markets operate. They provide various ways for individuals and institutions to invest capital, manage risk, and potentially generate returns over time. Each type of investment offers different benefits and risks, suitable for different types of investors depending on their financial goals, risk tolerance, and investment horizon.

How to Start Investing in Stocks

Investing is a great way to grow your wealth over time. Here’s how you can get started:

  1. Set Clear Financial Goals:
    • Determine your investment goals, whether for retirement, buying a home, or building an emergency fund. This will guide your investment strategy and risk tolerance.
  2. Create a Budget:
    • Assess your financial situation, including income, expenses, and debts. Allocate a portion of your income to invest. Start small if necessary, but the key is consistency.
  3. Build an Emergency Fund:
    • Before investing, ensure you have an emergency fund that covers 3-6 months of expenses. This provides a financial safety net and prevents the need to liquidate investments unexpectedly.
  4. Educate Yourself:
    • Understand the basics of different investment types (stocks, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs). Knowing these will help you make informed decisions.
  5. Open an Investment Account:
    • Decide on the type of investment account that suits your goals, such as a brokerage account, IRA, or a 401(k) through your employer.
    • Research different brokerages and consider factors like fees, investment options, and user interface. Then, open an account.
  6. Choose Your Investment Strategy:
    • Decide on an asset allocation that aligns with your goals and risk tolerance.
    • You can start with simple strategies, like investing in a broad-market ETF or a diversified mutual fund.

Choosing Between DIY Investing vs. Financial Advisors vs. Robo-Advisors.

  1. DIY Investing:
    • Best for those who want full control over their investment choices.
    • Requires a good understanding of financial markets and ongoing management.
    • Lower costs since there are no advisory fees.
  2. Financial Advisors:
    • Suitable for investors who prefer a personalized touch and professional guidance.
    • Can provide comprehensive financial planning beyond investments, like tax strategies and retirement planning.
    • Higher costs due to management and advisory fees.
  3. Robo-Advisors:
    • Automated investing services that manage your portfolio based on algorithms.
    • Lower cost than human advisors and suitable for those with straightforward investment needs.
    • Offers limited personalization compared to a human advisor.

Your choice between DIY investing, using a financial advisor, or opting for a robo-advisor depends on your financial knowledge, the complexity of your financial situation, and your comfort with handling investments. Each option has its merits and can be suitable depending on your investment goals, time commitment, and desired level of involvement in the investment process.

Choosing the Right Stocks

  • Criteria for selecting stocks (sector, financial health, dividends, etc.).
  • Importance of diversification.

Investment Strategies

Investment strategies vary widely in approach, risk level, and time commitment. Here are some common ones:


  • A long-term investment strategy where investors buy stocks or other assets and hold them for many years.
  • Focuses on potential long-term growth and ignores short-term fluctuations.
  • Suitable for those who prefer a passive approach and believe in the long-term potential of their investments.

Day Trading

  • Involves buying and selling stocks within the same trading day.
  • Traders capitalize on small price movements in highly liquid stocks or indexes.
  • Requires a high level of expertise, sophisticated tools, and a significant time commitment. It is high-risk and high-stress.

Value Investing

  • Involves picking stocks that appear to be trading for less than their intrinsic or book value.
  • Investors look for undervalued stocks and hold them until their price reflects their real worth.
  • Popularized by Warren Buffett, this strategy requires thorough research and patience.

Growth Investing

  • Focuses on companies that exhibit signs of above-average growth, even if the share price appears expensive in terms of metrics like price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio.
  • Investors are willing to pay high prices today for stocks expected to grow significantly in the future.

Index Investing

  • Involves buying ETFs or mutual funds that replicate a market index like the S&P 500.
  • A form of passive strategy that aims to mimic the performance of a specific index.

Dividend Investing:

  • Focuses on companies that pay high dividends.
  • Investors gain from the dividends paid out and the potential appreciation of the stock over time.

Risk Management and Assessment

Effective risk management is crucial to successful investing. Here are key considerations:


  • Spread your investments across various financial instruments, industries, and geographic locations to mitigate risk.
  • Diversification can protect against the risk of a single investment’s poor performance significantly impacting your portfolio.

Risk Tolerance Assessment

  • Understand your personal risk tolerance based on your financial situation, investment timeline, and comfort with volatility.
  • This will guide your investment choices and strategy.

Regular Portfolio Review

  • Regularly review and adjust your portfolio to ensure it aligns with your risk tolerance and investment goals.
  • This includes rebalancing to maintain your desired asset allocation.

Educate Yourself Continuously

  • Stay informed about market trends and economic factors that can impact your investments.
  • Continuous learning can help you adjust strategies as markets evolve.

By understanding different investment strategies and implementing robust risk management practices, you can achieve your financial goals while minimizing potential losses.

Tools and Resources for Investors

Online Brokerages: Platforms like E*TRADE, TD Ameritrade, and Robinhood offer user-friendly interfaces, research tools, and low-cost trading options.

Direct Stock Purchase Plans (DSPPs): These allow investors to buy stock directly from companies without a broker.

Trading Apps: Apps such as Webull and Robinhood appeal to a mobile-first audience, offering real-time trading capabilities on the go.

Introduction to Investment Research Resources

Financial News Websites: Bloomberg, CNBC, and Reuters provide up-to-date news and analysis crucial for making informed decisions.

Stock Analysis Software: Tools like TradingView and Stock Rover offer in-depth data analysis, charting capabilities, and more.

Investment Research Services: Subscriptions like Morningstar or The Motley Fool offer detailed research reports and stock recommendations.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Emotional Trading: Making impulsive investment decisions based on short-term market movements can lead to losses.

Ignoring Fees: High trading fees can significantly eat into profits, especially for active traders.

Lack of Diversification: Over-investing in a single stock or sector increases risk significantly.

Adam Koprucki

Expertise: Fixed-income investing, Macroeconomics, Personal Finance, Derivatives, Options, Index Funds

Professional Experience: J.P. Morgan, Deloitte Consulting, Societe Generale, The Vanguard Group

Education: Loyola University: Bachelor of Business Administration, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill: Certificate in Capital Markets

Adam Koprucki is the founder of Real World Investor, an investing website dedicated to reviewing the newest and latest investing tools and providing unique market insights for beginner to intermediate investors.

Before starting Real World Investor, he spent over a decade working at some of the world's largest investment banks and investment managers, such as Citibank, J.P. Morgan, Societe Generale, Deloitte, and The Vanguard Group.

His experience includes working with complex financial products such as exotic interest rate derivatives, structured products, and structured credit.

A dedicated and enthusiastic investor, he is passionate about macroeconomics and options trading. His investing insights have been published on Investopedia, Yahoo Finance, Seeking Alpha, GoBankingRates, Nasdaq, and Bigger Pockets.

He is also a contributing author at