The AskTraders Analyst Team features experts in technical and fundamental analysis, as well as traders specializing in stocks, forex, and cryptocurrency.
Investing in the financial markets has over the last couple of decades been completely revolutionised. Some of the old practices, such as personalised stock brokers, remain, but so do the problems associated with them. High fees and lack of control were the main drivers for innovative firms setting up to help the public find new routes into the equity markets. These more direct routes are outlined below.
Online trading platforms where you can trade yourself are also known as ‘brokers’. It is worth establishing that modern online brokers are about as far from traditional stockbrokers as you can get.
Brokers offer a direct route into the markets with features including:
The process of buying shares at an online broker is very straightforward.
Demo accounts take moments to open. The eToro version requires little more than an email to set one up. Live trading requires a bit more input, including verification of your address and sharing details of your trading experience. If you don’t get asked questions about your trading aims, then take a step back as the platform you are on might not be regulated.
You may have an idea of what company you want to invest in. If not, you can access the research and learning materials most brokers offer.
Knowing your entry and exit points is key to successful trading. As is having a clear idea on your stop-loss positions. If you’re new to trading and need help developing those skills, then once you’ve registered a wide range of materials becomes available to you.
Unless your target stock is running away on the back of time-sensitive information, then practising trading is a good next step. Demo accounts allow you to trade virtual funds and risk-free trading will allow you to get a better understanding of the markets and how the platform operates.
Buying shares in demo or live accounts simply involves inputting the size of your trade and whether you want to buy or sell. Good habits help your bottom line and get used to checking and double-checking what you think you bought is what you actually bought. This can be done by accessing the ‘Portfolio’ or ‘Open Trades’ section of the site.
As you have complete control over your account, it’s possible to close positions in any shares you have bought which will crystalise any profits or losses on the trade. You can then enter the markets again and buy or sell more shares.
Alternatively, you can wire the funds back from your trading account to the account you used to make the initial funding.
A step-by-step guide on how to buy shares in US car-maker Tesla Inc can be found here.
If you are ready to start investing in stocks and building your portfolio you'll need a broker that is regulated, has low fees and a user-friendly platform. Finding one can be a daunting task, which is why we've selected some of our favourites that tick all of these boxes to help you get started.
There are other ways to buy stocks directly. One is a Direct Stock Purchase Plan (DSPP), which involves buying the equities directly from the firm.
There is still a middle-man involved in this process. The firm you want to invest in outsources that role to a Transfer Agent — a firm that keeps a register of shareholders. It’s even possible to set up a direct debit so that your position in the firm grows over time.
There are possible downsides associated with DSPP:
The below chart shows how the intra-day price of oil giant Royal Dutch Shell in one day’s trading session printed prices ranging from 1306p to 1363p. Making a profit from investing is about optimising all opportunities and getting into a position, even a long-term one at the best price of the day can have a considerable impact on Return on Investment (ROI).
There is a third way to buy shares without using a broker. This could apply to you if you’re holding a position in a firm that pays dividends and operates a Dividend Reinvestment Plan (DRIP).
In this process, shareholders can elect to receive any dividends in the form of further equity rather than cash. It’s a way of reinvesting dividends back into the company.
One fun fact relating to this is that charts showing phenomenal returns for investors who buy shares often have a footnote stating that ‘dividends were reinvested’. By this, they mean that DRIP was applied where possible and it brings about an effect called ‘compounding’. A chart of the same timeline, but with dividends being paid out as cash, tends to look a lot less impressive.
DRIP schemes are more widely available. Firms like the idea of investors buying more of their stock and not seeing cash drain off their balance sheet. Individual investors can also benefit as there can be tax breaks for shareholders who take dividends in DRIP form rather than cash.
There are now a range of ways of getting exposure to stocks and shares and trying to benefit from returns on your investment. The revolution that swept through the broker sector has resulted in user-friendly and safe platforms being set up, so that money sitting in a bank earning zero interest can be put to use.
Direct investing isn’t for everyone, but the popularity of the approach has resulted in millions of people around the world finding convenient and cost-effective ways to get involved in the markets. The win-win for investors is they get more control and lower costs when they don’t use a traditional style broker.
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