A few decades ago, most buyers and sellers were individual investors, such as wealthy businessmen, usually with long family histories to particular corporations. Over time, markets have become more "institutionalized"; buyers and sellers are largely institutions (e.g., pension funds, insurance companies, mutual funds, index funds, exchange-traded funds, hedge funds, investor groups, banks and various other financial institutions).
Now, imagine that you decide to buy the stocks of those five companies with your $1,000. To do this you will incur $50 in trading costs, which is equivalent to 5% of your $1,000. If you were to fully invest the $1,000, your account would be reduced to $950 after trading costs. This represents a 5% loss, before your investments even have a chance to earn a cent!
Passive investing is what long-term investors do — and the intent behind their actions is very different. Their approach to buying and selling stocks is considered passive in that they tend not to transact often. Instead of relying mostly on technical analysis (as active traders do) and trying to time the market, passive investors use fundamental analysis to carefully examine the strength of the businesses behind the ticker symbols and then buy shares with the hope that they’ll be rewarded over years — decades, even — through share price appreciation and dividends.
Jesse Livermore, respected as one of the greatest investors of all time, has been featured in many investment books. The most iconic was Reminiscences of a Stock Operator by Edwin Lefevre in 1923. During the course of his life he made and lost millions, going broke several times before committing suicide in 1940. These are his seven greatest trading lessons:
To facilitate this process, a company needs a marketplace where these shares can be sold. This marketplace is provided by the stock market. If everything goes as per the plans, the company will successfully sell the 5 million shares at a price of $10 per share and collect $50 million worth of funds. Investors will get the company shares which they can expect to hold for their preferred duration, in anticipation of rising in share price and any potential income in the form of dividend payments. The stock exchange acts as a facilitator for this capital raising process and receives a fee for its services from the company and its financial partners.
Rates of participation and the value of holdings differs significantly across strata of income. In the bottom quintile of income, 5.5% of households directly own stock and 10.7% hold stocks indirectly in the form of retirement accounts. The top decile of income has a direct participation rate of 47.5% and an indirect participation rate in the form of retirement accounts of 89.6%. The median value of directly owned stock in the bottom quintile of income is $4,000 and is $78,600 in the top decile of income as of 2007. The median value of indirectly held stock in the form of retirement accounts for the same two groups in the same year is $6,300 and $214,800 respectively. Since the Great Recession of 2008 households in the bottom half of the income distribution have lessened their participation rate both directly and indirectly from 53.2% in 2007 to 48.8% in 2013, while over the same time period households in the top decile of the income distribution slightly increased participation 91.7% to 92.1%. The mean value of direct and indirect holdings at the bottom half of the income distribution moved slightly downward from $53,800 in 2007 to $53,600 in 2013. In the top decile, mean value of all holdings fell from $982,000 to $969,300 in the same time. The mean value of all stock holdings across the entire income distribution is valued at $269,900 as of 2013.
The main difference between ETFs and mutual funds is in how they trade. ETFs trade like stocks, which means you can buy and sell them throughout the day and they fluctuate in price depending on supply and demand. Contrarily, mutual funds are priced each day after the market closes, so everyone pays the same price. Also, mutual funds typically require a higher minimum investment than ETFs.
If you’re trying your hand at stock trading for the first time, know that focusing on anything but long-term results will expose you to frequent bouts of agita. Most investors are best served by keeping things simple and investing in a diversified mix of low-cost index funds to achieve — and this is key — long-term outperformance. Because, oof… the short-term ups and downs in the market can be brutal.
Portfolio managers are professionals who invest portfolios, or collections of securities, for clients. These managers get recommendations from analysts and make the buy or sell decisions for the portfolio. Mutual fund companies, hedge funds, and pension plans use portfolio managers to make decisions and set the investment strategies for the money they hold.
Stock investing is filled with intricate strategies and approaches, yet some of the most successful investors have done little more than stick with the basics. That generally means using funds for the bulk of your portfolio — Warren Buffett has famously said a low-cost S&P 500 index fund is the best investment most Americans can make — and choosing individual stocks only if you believe in the company’s potential for long-term growth.