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Investing Online – A Primer For The New Investor

Investing online is one of the most popular and fastest growing activities of the Internet age.

Although many imprudent investors lost their shirts investing during the dot-com boom and bust of the mid-to-late nineties, today people engaged in investing online are typically more responsible, and often more knowledgeable than their offline counterparts.

Investing is particularly good for active traders or anyone who likes to monitor and manage their own investments. Although some basic knowledge of financial markets is good to have before you begin investing online, there are few better ways to learn than actually getting started.

After all, when it’s your money, you’re much more likely to take a serious interest than when paper trading or reading a textbook.

Picking a Broker For Investing Online

Some people think that internet investing means that you don’t have a broker. This isn’t so. Although you probably won’t meet face to face with him, and in fact, “he” might actually be an “it” (meaning a faceless company), everyone must technically have a “broker” to buy or sell most securities.

Investing online is a great way to save money on commissions, though, since you don’t have to pay for the face time with a traditional stockbroker.

Ameritrade and E-Trade are probably the most well-known venues for internet investing. They were early entrants into the online investing market and are still among the industry leaders today.

It is important to note that Ameritrade acquired TD Waterhouse in 2005, and is now known as TD Ameritrade.

Both Ameritrade and E-Trade have modest requirements for opening an account – $2,000 initial deposit for Ameritrade and $1,000 for E-Trade. Trades are $9.99 at both of these online brokers.

If $2,000 seems like a lot of money to you, then you may prefer Sharebuilder as a venue for investing online. With Sharebuilder, there are no minimums, and “investments” are just $4 each (and can be as cheap as $1).

The term “investments” is used instead of “trades” because with Sharebuilder, your money is pooled with other small investors and stocks are purchased every Tuesday.

If you invested $200 into a stock trading at $20.50 per share, your Sharebuilder account would be credited with 9.56 shares ($196 invested, counting $4 for the investment fee).

As you can see, Sharebuilder is a great way to get started with Internet investing if you don’t have at least $1,000 and want to make small, regular investments.

Other popular outlets for buying stocks online include Fidelity, ScottTrade, OptionsXpress, and FirstTrade, among others. Some publicly traded companies even have direct investment programs available through their web sites.

Investing Online: It’s More Than Just Stocks

When investing, you’re not limited to just stocks. Mutual funds, ETF’s, bonds, options, futures, currencies, and commodities can all be part of investing online.

The forex (foreign exchange market) is popular among hyper-traders due to its 24/7, global nature. By contrast, conservative investors can bid on and purchase U.S. government bonds online through the treasury department’s web site.

Investing through mutual funds is particularly popular and easy. You can just go to a mutual fund company’s web site and sign up.

Whereas if stocks are part of your online investing strategy, a lengthy account application must be filled out and your account must be approved, investing online with mutual funds comes without a lot of the red tape.

Best of all, there are typically no commissions and if you agree to make regular investments through your bank account, you may be able to begin investing for as little as $50 per month!


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