Flashback to the 1990s, when early adopters of online stock trading made their first online stock investments.
Son to father: “I just made my first online stock trade.”
Father to son: “How did you do that?”
Son to father: “I just logged in; picked a stock; filled in the boxes for stock ticker, price, and quantity; and clicked the green button.”
(Father scratches his head).
It’s no surprise he was confused. Investing online, trading, or even being able to monitor a portfolio in real-time was a foreign idea to a generation that had to make an appointment to meet face-to-face with a broker to buy a stock. But today, thanks to technology, it’s easier and more convenient than ever to trade stocks online. And new bells and whistles are being added each year to enhance the online investing experience.
So if you’re new to online investing, or in need of a refresher, here are a few of the basic tools and how to access them.
Doing Your Research
Online trades generally start with one thing—an idea. One way to get ideas about potential trade candidates is to look at companies whose products and services you already use. Once you’ve identified a few candidates, log in to your account at tdameritrade.com, click the Research & Ideas tab, and select Stock Profile from the left-hand menu. There you’ll find a wide variety of tools to learn more about each company and help you decide which one(s) you might want to trade. See figure 1.
If you don’t have any ideas, here’s a way to find some. Once again, go to the Research & Ideas tab, select Ideas, and then Trade Ideas. In this section, you can read daily commentary about the overall state of the market, as well as detailed third-party research reports about individual stocks that are making headlines.
As you find stocks that interest you, add them to your personal watch list—which you can create by going to the My Account tab and selecting Watch Lists—and begin to follow them. From your watch lists, you can pull up charts, news, earnings estimates, fundamental research, and much more on any particular stocks that piques your interest.
Pulling the Trigger
Once you’ve narrowed down your list of candidates, you’ll want to decide what criteria you’ll use to initiate a trade. But don’t worry—this doesn’t have to be a complex process. In fact, sometimes the simplest strategies can be the most powerful.
One way is to start by pulling up charts on your stocks, which gives you a graphic representation of how they trade. By default, charts show a 10-day and 50-day moving average, which some traders use to identify potential stock trends. You could decide to trade a stock when it rallies above one of those moving averages. Or you could draw horizontal lines on the chart connecting areas of resistance or support and then trade stocks that break above the former or bounce off the latter.
If you want to know more about different strategies for trading stocks, go to the Education tab on your dashboard and select Essentials > Technical Analysis to see a wide variety of video lessons, as shown in figure 2. Whether you’re a buy-and-hold investor or an active trader, chances are you’ll be able to find a style and strategy that works for you.
When you’re ready to trade, all you have to do is hover over any symbol in your watch list, which will bring up a trade box, and then you can buy or sell with just a few clicks. And as you build up a portfolio of stocks, you can monitor them in real time and track your P/L by going to the My Account tab and selecting Positions.
Whether you follow the market from your desktop, laptop, or on the go via mobile app, you can’t beat the power and flexibility that an online stock trading account provides—no appointment needed.
Investing in stocks involves risks, including loss of principal.
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