How To Invest

Pat McKeough has been making investing for beginners simple—and profitable—by helping investors make big gains for more than 25 years. His advice tobeginning investors is the same as it is for all investors: buy high-quality, mostly dividend paying stocks (or ETFs that hold these stocks) and evenly spread your investments over the five main economic sectors (Resources, Manufacturing, Finance, Utilities and Consumer). Pat also believes investors should avoid stocks in the broker/media limelight and focus on those with hidden or little-noticed assets.

In addition, Pat thinks then beginner investors should cultivate two important qualities: a healthy sense of skepticism and patience.

Investors should approach all investments with a healthy sense of skepticism. This can help keep you out of fraudulent stocks that masquerade as high-quality stocks. It will also keep you out of legally operated, but poorly managed, companies that promise more than they can possibly deliver.

If you are a new investor, you should also realize that losing patience can cause you to sell your best choices right before a big rise. All too often, investors buy a promising stock just as it enters a period of price stagnation. Even the best-performing stocks run into these unpredictable phases from time to time. They move mainly sideways in a wide range for months or years before their next big rise begins. (Stock brokers often refer to these stocks as “dead money.”)

If you lack patience, you run a big risk of selling your best choices in the midst of one of these phases, prior to the next big move upward. If you lose patience and sell, you are particularly likely to do so in the low end of the trading range, when stock prices have weakened and confidence in the stock has waned.

online trading risk

The biggest online trading risk is that it can lead investors to sell their best stocks too soon.

The biggest online trading risk comes from the fact that it all may seem deceptively easy. The lower costs and higher speeds of online trading can lead otherwise conservative investors to trade too frequently. That can lead you to sell your best picks when they are just getting started.

The apparent ease of online trading may even prompt conservative investors to take up short-term trading or day trading. That’s just another danger of trading stocks online—there’s a large random element in short-term stock-price fluctuations that you just can’t get away from.

Online trading risk: Three factors that can seriously hurt your long-term returns

1. Practice accounts can breed false confidence

Some investors are nervous about trading stocks online. So, instead of jumping right in, they start off by using the “practice accounts” or “demo accounts” that the online brokerage industry initiated several years ago.

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Practice accounts are supposed to be identical to real accounts in all but one respect: you buy stocks in them with imaginary or “play” money, rather than the real thing. The brokerage industry says this gives would-be traders a free opportunity to learn how to trade online without risking any money.

By using an online broker’s practice account, you can learn online trading essentials, such as how to enter an order to sell or buy stocks; how to double-check your order before submitting it, so you avoid obvious but common mistakes, like buying 10,000 shares when you only meant to buy 1,000; and so on.

However, the big risk with practice accounts is that you’ll try out a risky and ultimately unwinnable investment approach, like day trading or options trading, and hit a lucky streak. This could embolden you to put serious money at risk just when your results are about to regress to the mean. This will deliver losses instead of profits.

2. Automated stock-picking systems can backfire

Some investors who trade stocks online use automated stock-picking systems to help them make investment decisions. These systems are typically marketed with impressive-looking performance records designed to make investors think they are sure to make guaranteed profits.

However, those records are typically derived by “back-testing” the program against past data. In other words, the promoters go back through old trading records and see what would have worked in the past.

Automated stock-picking systems essentially do two things: First, they narrow down the data you use when you make investment decisions. Second, they apply a fixed rule, or rules, to draw a conclusion or an investment decision from that selection of data.

Unfortunately, the market’s key concerns continually change. Today’s good investments can turn into tomorrow’s dead ends.

3. Don’t indulge in frequent trading

Frequently trading online can be profitable for short periods. But you can’t reliably profit from it over the long term. In fact, most short-term traders wind up losing money. By the time their beginners’ luck fades, many are trading in dangerously large quantities.

Frequent trading can also lead you to buy stocks online that are of lower-quality or are thinly traded. The danger arises from the fact that the bid and ask spreads of many of these investments can be so wide that the share price will have to go up significantly before you’ll even begin to make money on a sale.

You can make trades quickly and easily with online trading, and that cuts your commission costs. However, for successful investors, this is a bonus, not the objective when you buy stocks online.

It is far more important to focus on high-quality, well-established companies and how they fit in a well-balanced portfolio. The longer you hold these stocks, the greater the chance that your profits will improve.

Start by following the advice at TSI Network

Investors who want to buy stocks online should start their stock research here on TSI Network. Whether you subscribe to one of our newsletters, or receive our free email newsletter, following our stock market guidance is a sound way to begin investing your money.

How have you managed your online trading risk? Has it worked for you in your investing career? Share your experience with us in the comments.

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