A Beginner’s Guide To Investing

Beginner Investing

Investing is a proven method of making your money work for you and increasing your wealth over time. The legendary investor Warren Buffett once said “investing is forgoing consumption now in order to have the ability to consume more at a later date“. It is crucial to start investing as early as possible and with whatever amount of money you have saved. The stock market is a great starting point for beginners. In this Beginner’s Guide To Investing, we will take you through the essential steps and considerations to help you embark on your investing journey.

Understand Your Risk Tolerance and Investment Goals

Defining Your Risk Tolerance

Understanding your risk tolerance is a fundamental step in investing. Different investments come with varying levels of risk, and it’s important to align your risk tolerance with the types of investments that match your comfort level. Some investment options, such as large-cap stocks, may be relatively stable but offer moderate returns, while others like small-cap stocks or aggressive growth stocks can be more volatile but potentially deliver higher returns. By assessing your risk tolerance, you can choose investments that align with your financial goals and comfort level.

Determining Your Investment Goals

Before diving into investing, it’s essential to define your investment goals. Ask yourself what you hope to achieve through investing. Are you looking to increase your savings, generate income, or save for specific purposes like buying a house or funding retirement? By setting clear and measurable goals, you’ll be able to stay focused and motivated throughout your investing journey. Your goals will also guide your investment decisions, allowing you to choose investments that have the potential to help you achieve those specific objectives.

Choose Your Investing Style and Platform

Minimum Deposit Requirements:
When selecting a brokerage account, consider the minimum deposit requirements of different financial institutions. Some platforms have lower minimum deposit requirements, making them more accessible for beginners. However, higher balance thresholds may offer reduced costs and additional benefits. Evaluate your budget and investment goals to find a brokerage account that aligns with your financial situation.

User Experience and Tools:
The user experience and available tools offered by brokerage platforms can greatly impact your investing journey. Evaluate the user interface, research tools, and customer service to ensure they meet your needs. Look for platforms that offer educational resources and support, particularly if you are a beginner. User-friendly interfaces and comprehensive research tools can enhance your understanding of the market and make investment decisions easier.

Online Brokers

If you prefer to have direct control over your investments and enjoy actively managing your portfolio, a hands-on approach may be suitable for you. Traditional online brokers provide access to research tools, real-time market data, and the ability to buy and sell stocks directly. This approach requires you to stay informed about market trends, analyze company financials, and make informed decisions based on your research.

While there are hundreds of online brokers to choose from, a handful have cornered the market, and each has its pros and cons:


  • User Friendly Platform
    E*TRADE offers an intuitive and user-friendly online platform, making it easy for beginners to navigate and execute trades.
  • Extensive Research Tools
    The broker provides a wide range of research tools, including market analysis, real-time quotes, and educational resources to help investors make informed decisions.
  • Diverse Investment Options
    E*TRADE offers a broad range of investment options, including stocks, bonds, ETFs, mutual funds, options, and futures, giving investors the flexibility to build a diversified portfolio.
  • Higher Commissions
    While E*TRADE has made strides in reducing fees, it still charges higher commissions compared to some other online brokers. This can impact frequent traders or those with smaller account sizes.
  • Inactivity Fees
    E*TRADE imposes an inactivity fee on accounts that do not meet certain trading or balance requirements. This fee can be a drawback for infrequent traders.
  • Customer Service
    Some users have reported occasional issues with customer service, including longer response times or difficulty resolving certain inquiries.

TD Ameritrade

  • Advanced Trading Tools
    TD Ameritrade provides an extensive suite of advanced trading tools and platforms suitable for both beginners and experienced traders. Their thinkorswim platform is highly regarded for its customizable features.
  • Educational Resources
    The broker offers a wide range of educational resources, including webinars, video tutorials, and articles, helping investors improve their knowledge and skills.
  • No-Transaction-Fee Funds
    TD Ameritrade offers a vast selection of no-transaction-fee mutual funds, providing investors with cost-effective options to build a diversified portfolio.
  • Commission for Options Trading
    Options traders may find TD Ameritrade’s commissions relatively higher compared to some other online brokers. This can be a factor to consider for investors primarily focused on options trading.
  • Complexity for Beginners
    The advanced features and tools offered by TD Ameritrade may overwhelm beginners who are new to investing. It can take time to fully grasp and utilize all the available tools effectively.
  • Margin Interest Rates
    TD Ameritrade’s margin interest rates are on the higher side, which can be a disadvantage for investors who frequently borrow on margin.

Charles Schwab

  • Low Commissions
    Charles Schwab offers competitive and low commissions for stock and ETF trades, making it an attractive option for cost-conscious investors.
  • Robust Research and Analysis
    The broker provides a wealth of research and analysis tools, including third-party research reports, market insights, and customizable charting capabilities, empowering investors to make well-informed decisions.
  • Extensive Network of Branches
    TD Ameritrade offers a vast selection of no-transaction-fee mutual funds, providing investors with cost-effective options to build a diversified portfolio.
  • Mutual Fund Transaction Fees
    While Charles Schwab offers a wide selection of mutual funds, some may have transaction fees associated with them. Investors should review the fee structure of specific funds before investing.
  • Inactivity Fee for Some Accounts
    Certain account types may be subject to an inactivity fee if there are no trades or balance changes for a specific period. This fee can be a concern for inactive or low-activity investors.
  • Limited International Markets
    Charles Schwab’s international market access is not as extensive as some other online brokers. If you plan to invest heavily in international markets, you may want to consider alternatives with broader international offerings.

It’s important to note that the pros and cons of each online broker can vary depending on individual investor needs, preferences, and trading styles. Before choosing an online broker, it’s advisable to thoroughly research and compare the features, fees, and services offered by different platforms to find the one that aligns best with your investment goals.


If you feel overwhelmed or lack the time and expertise to manage your investments independently, seeking expert guidance can be a viable option. Financial advisors or brokers can provide personalized assistance and help you navigate the complexities of investing. Alternatively, robo-advisors offer automated investment management services that use algorithms to build and rebalance your portfolio based on your risk tolerance and goals. Evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of each approach to find the one that aligns with your preferences and investment objectives.

Here are three popular robo-advisors, each with its own pros and cons:


  • Automated Portfolio Management
    Betterment offers fully automated portfolio management, using sophisticated algorithms to build and rebalance diversified portfolios based on an investor’s goals and risk tolerance.
  • Low Fees
    Betterment charges competitive fees compared to traditional financial advisors, making it an affordable option for investors. Their fees are generally based on a percentage of the assets under management.
  • Goal-Based Investing
    Betterment focuses on goal-based investing, helping investors define and achieve their financial goals through personalized investment strategies and automated savings features.
  • Limited Human Interaction
    As a robo-advisor, Betterment primarily relies on technology and lacks direct access to human financial advisors. This may be a drawback for investors who prefer a more personalized approach or have complex financial situations.
  • Limited Investment Options
    While Betterment offers a variety of asset classes, the investment options may be limited compared to self-directed brokerage accounts. Investors seeking specific securities or alternative investments may find the options restrictive.
  • Reliance on Algorithms
    While automated portfolio management can be efficient, it may not account for certain market conditions or individual circumstances. Investors should be mindful of potential limitations and monitor their portfolios accordingly.


  • Tax Optimization Features
    Wealthfront provides advanced tax optimization strategies, such as tax-loss harvesting and direct indexing, to minimize tax liabilities and enhance after-tax returns for investors.
  • Free-Free Accounts
    Wealthfront waives the account management fee for the first $5,000 invested, making it an attractive option for new and small investors.
  • College Savings Plan
    Wealthfront offers a 529 college savings plan, allowing investors to save for education expenses in a tax-efficient manner.
  • Limited Customization
    Wealthfront’s approach emphasizes automated investing and may not provide as much flexibility for investors who prefer greater control over their investment decisions.
  • Higher Fees for Accounts over $5,000
    While Wealthfront offers a fee waiver for accounts under $5,000, the management fee applies to larger accounts. This fee structure may be less competitive compared to other robo-advisors for higher account balances.
  • No Human Advisor Access
    Similar to other robo-advisors, Wealthfront’s service relies on automation and does not offer direct access to human financial advisors. Investors seeking personalized advice may need to explore alternative options.

Vanguard Personal Advisor Services

  • Broad Range of Investment Options
    Vanguard Personal Advisor Services provides access to a wide range of Vanguard mutual funds and ETFs, enabling investors to build diversified portfolios aligned with their investment goals.
  • Hybrid Approach
    While Vanguard Personal Advisor Services utilizes robo-advisory technology, it also offers access to human financial advisors for additional guidance and support.
  • Transparent Fee Structure
    Vanguard Personal Advisor Services charges a straightforward fee based on a percentage of the assets under management. This fee covers both automated portfolio management and access to human advisors.
  • Higher Account Minimum
    Vanguard Personal Advisor Services has a higher account minimum compared to some other robo-advisors, requiring a substantial initial investment to access their services.
  • Limited Customization for Portfolios
    While Vanguard Personal Advisor Services offers a range of investment options, the level of customization may be more limited compared to fully self-directed accounts. Investors seeking greater control over specific securities or investment strategies may find the options restricted.
  • Potential for Lower Automation
    While Vanguard Personal Advisor Services incorporates automated features, the level of automation may be lower compared to purely algorithm-based robo-advisors. This can impact the efficiency and speed of portfolio management.

It’s important to carefully consider your investment preferences, goals, and the specific features offered by each robo-advisor before making a decision.

Select the Right Investment Account

Employer-Sponsored Retirement Plans

If your employer offers retirement plans like a 401(k), take advantage of this opportunity. These plans often provide tax advantages and may include employer matching contributions. Invest in diversified options such as stock and bond mutual funds or target-date funds, which automatically adjust the asset allocation as you approach retirement. Automatic contributions from your paycheck make it convenient to save for retirement consistently.

Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA) and Taxable Brokerage Accounts

Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA) and taxable brokerage accounts offer flexibility and control over your investments. IRAs provide tax advantages, either through tax-deductible contributions (Traditional IRA) or tax-free growth and withdrawals (Roth IRA). Taxable brokerage accounts have no contribution limits or early withdrawal penalties but are subject to capital gains tax. Consider your investment goals and the tax implications to choose the account type that aligns with your needs.

The Importance of Diversification

Diversification is a strategy that helps mitigate risk by spreading your investments across different asset classes, sectors, and geographic regions. By diversifying, you reduce the impact of any single investment’s performance on your overall portfolio. A well-diversified portfolio typically includes a mix of stocks, bonds, and other asset classes. Even with a limited budget, you can achieve diversification by investing in mutual funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs), which pool money from multiple investors to invest in a diversified portfolio of assets.

Evaluating Costs and Fees

Commissions and Transaction Fees

When investing, it’s important to consider the impact of commissions and transaction fees on your overall investment returns. Some online brokers offer commission-free trading, which can save you money, especially if you plan to make frequent trades. Compare the fee structures of different brokerage platforms to choose one that aligns with your investment strategy and budget.

Management Expense Ratios (MER)

Mutual funds charge management fees known as Management Expense Ratios (MERs). These fees cover the cost of managing the fund and are typically expressed as a percentage of your investment. Higher MERs can significantly impact your long-term returns, so it’s crucial to evaluate the expenses associated with any mutual fund you consider investing in. Additionally, be aware of sales charges (loads) associated with certain funds, as they can further reduce your investment’s potential return.

Embarking on your investing journey requires careful consideration of your risk tolerance, investment goals, and the right platform and account for your needs. By understanding the concepts of diversification, evaluating costs and fees, and selecting the right brokerage account, you’ll be well-equipped to begin your investment journey with confidence. Remember, investing is a long-term endeavor, and staying informed and adaptable are key to achieving your financial goals. Start early, stay disciplined, and seek continuous learning to make the most of your investments.


  • Marcus Anderson

    Marcus Anderson is a seasoned investment specialist and a key contributor to MoneyMaver. With a passion for making investing accessible to everyone, Marcus has dedicated his career to simplifying the world of finance and helping people make informed investment decisions. Marcus holds a degree in Finance from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School and has over a decade of experience in the financial sector. He started his career as an investment analyst for a major Wall Street firm, where he honed his skills in financial analysis and investment strategy.

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