History has shown that investing in stocks is one of the easiest and most profitable ways to build wealth over the long-term. With a handful of notable exceptions, almost every member of the Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest people got there because they own a large block of shares in a public or private corporation. Although your beginning may be humble, this guide to investing in stocks will explain what stocks are, how you can make money from them, and much more.
Robert Shiller's plot of the S&P Composite Real Price Index, Earnings, Dividends, and Interest Rates, from Irrational Exuberance, 2d ed. In the preface to this edition, Shiller warns, "The stock market has not come down to historical levels: the price-earnings ratio as I define it in this book is still, at this writing , in the mid-20s, far higher than the historical average... People still place too much confidence in the markets and have too strong a belief that paying attention to the gyrations in their investments will someday make them rich, and so they do not make conservative preparations for possible bad outcomes."
Behaviorists argue that investors often behave irrationally when making investment decisions thereby incorrectly pricing securities, which causes market inefficiencies, which, in turn, are opportunities to make money. However, the whole notion of EMH is that these non-rational reactions to information cancel out, leaving the prices of stocks rationally determined.
An online brokerage account likely offers your quickest and least expensive path to buying stocks, funds and a variety of other investments. With a broker, you can open an individual retirement account, also known as an IRA — here are our top picks for IRA accounts — or you can open a taxable brokerage account if you’re already saving adequately for retirement elsewhere.
How much money should I invest in stocks? If you’re investing through funds — have we mentioned this is our preference? — you can allocate a fairly large portion of your portfolio toward stock funds, especially if you have a long time horizon. A 30-year-old investing for retirement might have 80% of his or her portfolio in stock funds; the rest would be in bond funds. Individual stocks are another story. We’d recommend keeping these to 10% or less of your investment portfolio.