You can learn about the stock market in many ways. But most people cannot afford to learn the wrong way-by making expensive mistakes.
The stock market is a way for anyone to own the valuable assets of a company and, as investments, stocks historically have offered a good chance for long-term gains. If you own a well-diversified portfolio of individual stocks or stock funds, your wealth tends to grow when the economy grows. But too many investors succumb to the high-risk pursuit of beating the market by trying to pick winners, predict price trends, or otherwise find opportunities that other investors have missed.
Today, millions of people in all walks of life are invested in the stock market through brokerage accounts and retirement plans such as IRAs and 401(k)s. What to buy and when to sell stocks are up to each investor, who often feels besieged by conflicting advice. The wisest approach is to understand exactly what the stock market is and how it works, appreciating such basic facts as these:
- Factors of success: Many people focus on increasing their rate of return on stocks, which is hard to do without taking substantial risks. It’s much safer to focus on two other factors that affect how much money you earn.
- No free lunch: You can’t make much money in the stock market if you miss the handful of best trading days of each year, which are unpredictable. But if you stay invested so that you enjoy the good days, you’ll experience some horrible days too-because there’s no free lunch.
- Above all, diversify: Diversification is the closest thing to a free lunch in investing. Just holding three different stocks instead of one decreases portfolio variation by about 40% on average. That’s a significant reduction in risk that doesn’t cost anything in terms of expected returns.=
For anyone who owns stocks or is thinking of entering the market, How the Stock Market Works provides indispensable advice from Dr. Ramon P. DeGennaro, an award-winning professor in banking and finance at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. A congenial and straight-talking expert, Professor DeGennaro leads you through 18 detailed lectures that explain the stock market from the inside, introducing you to the factors that make company stocks rise and fall and the information you need to grasp the market’s role in the world economy, evaluate the relative soundness of stocks, and understand the stock investment options available to you.
Even if you have owned stocks for years, you’ll find How the Stock Market Works to be a helpful focus on the fundamentals of investing in stocks. And if you entrust the management of your assets to a financial advisor, this course will give you the insights you need to converse knowledgeably with him or her and be an informed participant in your own financial well-being.
Tailor Your Investments to Fit You
Your decision about whether and how to invest in the stock market should start with an understanding of the fundamental difference between stocks and bonds. Both represent claims on the assets of a company, but with different returns, different levels of risk, and a different relationship between you and the company.
As with other concepts presented in the course, Professor DeGennaro explains these key points with simple examples that are memorable and insightful. He also uses helpful charts, graphs, and other visual aids, some of which are reproduced in the course guidebook for audio customers.
The many topics you cover in How the Stock Market Works include these:
- How to open a brokerage account and choose a financial advisor
- The essentials of mutual funds, including index funds, and exchange traded funds (ETFs)
- How to trade individual stocks, including how to use options
- The relative advantages of traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, and 401(k) plans
- How to minimize transaction costs and use tax laws for your benefit
- The dangers of frequent trading and other counterproductive habits
- Financial concepts and terms that allow you to understand business news and communicate more effectively with your broker
- The basics of corporate balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow statements
- Aim to Become Well Off-Slowly
How the Stock Market Works opens with a fascinating lesson for the average investor. Imagine you’re sitting at home, watching your computer screen track the price of a stock that interests you. Suddenly, you see a huge spike; it goes up and down so fast-in just a quarter of a second-that it barely registers on your screen. You wonder, “What was that?”
That, says Professor DeGennaro, was a high-tech computer algorithm automatically placing and canceling dozens and even hundreds of buy and sell orders. Some algorithms exploit tiny differences in prices, multiplying a profit of a fraction of a cent many times over. No one without access to such technology can hope to take advantage of these tiny and fleeting opportunities.
But you shouldn’t be discouraged by the sophisticated techniques available to professionals, says Professor DeGennaro. You should be relieved, because their ceaseless competition means that stock prices are as close to fair as possible. You can invest in the market confident that the price you are paying for most stocks reflects their true worth at that particular moment. This is the efficient market hypothesis in action, an idea that Professor DeGennaro discusses at length throughout the course.
When you view investing not as a contest against quick-acting competitors, but as a long-term strategy for increasing your wealth, you are much less likely to act on impulse. “Instead of trying to get rich quickly,” counsels Professor DeGennaro, “you should aim to become comfortably well off rather slowly and without having to stay up all night worrying about losing everything.”
Whatever investment strategy you decide to pursue, Professor DeGennaro advises you to get started today. He compares saving and investing to planting a tree, dieting, or exercising. Although the best day to start was 15 years ago, the second best day is today! You can do yourself a world of good by acting now.