Welcome To “Invest Online Info”!
FREE Stock Option Training!
The primary purpose of this website is to provide valuable, comprehensive online stock option training focused mainly on how to invest online. However, I have also included educational material on mutual funds, personal finance, and stock investing, as well as comprehensive online training for stock option trading.
I designed this website so it is easy to follow and progress in your stock option training. All you have to do is follow the page listing in the right margin. However, the How To Invest Online training index explains how the various lessons or articles are categorized and provides insight into the recommended order or learning.
Free online stock option training
To show you how to invest online and to assist with your online stock option training, I have also provided an online investment resources center with all the online tools I use for selecting and analyzing investments, a sampling of my current positions in stocks and stock options, a recommended reading list (including a few freebies), and my “Market Monitor” revealing the current status of the market (i.e., “buy” or “sell”). All of these are available by clicking one of the five links above.
Bookmark InvestOnlineInfo.com and come back often for more free stock option training!
How To Invest Online
This article presents a thorough introduction on how to invest online successfully. It covers important considerations such as risk tolerance, investing to meet your objectives, finding investments, when to sell, and the mechanics of online investing among others. If you are new to investing, or just investing online, “How To Invest Online” is a great place to start. Throughout this article, hyperlinks to more detailed discussions are included for clarity and completeness.
How To Invest Without Losing Sleep
The first rule of investing is “Don’t invest money you can’t afford to lose.” That’s a pretty wide open guideline. If I ask you how much money are you willing to lose, your answer will most likely be “None of it.” So, obviously, investing nothing does nothing for you. A better way to think of this is … only invest money you don’t have slated for a specific need in the next 5 or 10 years.
If you are paying your child’s college expenses starting in the next two years, that money should be parked in a “safe” account until you need it; a safe account might be a certificate of deposit (CD), money market account, savings account, or a “Prepaid Tuition Trust” plan. However, if you are saving for college for your 5-year old, you might do better with a growth-oriented investment in a 529 college savings plan.
So, how much can you afford to lose? … This is so dependent on so many things, it’s nearly impossible to give you an answer. For example, the right mount to invest, and how to invest it, depends on your job, your age, your income, the stability of your income, the security of your job or income source, whether or not your employer provides a pension … and if they do, the likelihood your employer will still exist (and still offer the pension) when you reach retirement age … just to name a few factors affecting how much and how to invest online or otherwise. And as if that were not enough issues to consider, the “right amount to invest” (and how to invest your money properly) changes dramatically as you get older.
However, with all these dependencies, there are a couple of general rules of thumb you should follow for your online investing. First, you should follow the 10% Rule which says, “10% of all you earn is yours to keep”, and “100 minus your age is the percentage of your investments you should have in stocks.”
Let’s explore the 10% Rule first. The 10% Rule is saying you should save “at least” 10% of all the money you “earn.” For every dollar you earn, you should put away at least 10 cents. Now, this doesn’t necessarily say you have to “invest” all of that 10%, but the longer the timeframe before you will need that money (which generally when you retire), the more you should “invest” for higher returns. The other thing to consider is people are living longer these days and saving/investing more than 10% is a very good idea.
Now, let’s look at the second rule … “100 minus your age in stocks.” This rule says regardless of how much you have to invest, the percentage that should be in stocks is 100 minus your age. For example, if you are 40 years old right now, then 100 – 40 is 60%. By this rule, you should have 60% of your total investments in stocks, stock mutual funds, stock exchange traded funds (ETF), and stock options.
The remaining 40% is generally presumed to be invested in bonds, but it could be in a number of other investment types as well (e.g., real estate, real estate investment trusts [REIT], CD’s, savings, trusts, precious metals such as gold and silver, etc.).
This rule gives you an idea of how to invest your money as well as an idea of how you should change your investment allocations as you grow older.
How To Invest Without Losing Sleep – Part 2
Assess Your Risk Tolerance
Another key factor you really must consider up front is how much risk are you willing to tolerate … I mean how much you can “Really” tolerate. Many novice investors don’t know much about investing up front, and as a result, they tend to be overly cautious and get less returns on their money over the long haul than they should have. On the opposite end of the spectrum, many investors think they are tough mavericks and can stomach all kinds of risk, but when the market tumbles, their whole world tumbles too with gut-wrenching despair.
So, how much risk can you tolerate?
This is a tough question to answer honestly when you are relatively new to online investing … I when I say “new to investing”, I mean you haven’t experienced a serious market tumble firsthand. In a moment, I will ask you to answer a few questions to yourself to help you decide how much risk you can tolerate, but first I will present a few guidelines and concepts.
First of all, you should never invest in anything you don’t understand. This means your online investing education is crucial. Some investments such as buying a CD or opening a savings account or even buying a stock can be extremely easy to do, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you are doing it wisely.
For example, if federal interest rates are currently around 1%, should you put all your money in a CD paying 1.2%?
There is no simple “yes/no” answer … it depends on a couple of important considerations such as the stability of the bank holding your CD and are interest rates likely to rise or fall in the next 6, 12, 18, 24, 36, or 60 months? If rates are likely to go up, you might want to buy a 6-month CD now, and then buy a longer-term CD in 6 months when interest rates will be higher, and you can therefore make more money. If the economy is in a tailspin (e.g., circa 2008 through 2011), you might want to grab that 1.2% CD … in a bank that’s Not going to fail … before the federal funds rate drops to zero percent. On the other hand, if you have no idea where inflation and interest rates are going to go, you might want to “ladder” your CD’s and split your money equally between 6, 12, 24, 36, and 60-month CD’s. Then when your 6-month CD’s mature, reinvest that money in the predominant rates at that time. … And CD’s are “easy” investments.
So, your online investing education is critical, and that’s what this article on “How to invest online” and this entire website is all about.
The next consideration for assessing your risk tolerance is “don’t bet your money that your risk tolerance assessment is correct.” … What does that mean?
It means you should invest your money across a spectrum of investment assets or types. You should have enough money to cover 6 months worth of living expenses in extremely safe liquid investments as your foundation. This protects you against losing your job. If you spend $2,000 per month on necessary expenses, you should have at least $12,000 in “cash” investments such as checking accounts, savings accounts, and money market accounts. Then if you lose your primary income, you can cut back on frivolous spending and carry yourself 6 months while you find another job. If your job is less stable or secure, you should have more than 6 months worth of expenses “in the bank.” If you have an extremely safe job, you might get away with less than 6 months worth. The rest of your money should be allocated among investments carrying different levels or risk.
For examples, CD’s are very safe (assuming you pick the safest banks), but they are not as liquid as “cash” securities. Treasury bonds are considered very safe; corporate bonds are rated by safety, but are less safe than Treasury bonds. Mutual funds and exchange traded funds have varying degrees of risk based on which securities (e.g., stocks, bonds, metals, sectors, etc.) they hold, but they are inherently diversified, so they are often considered safer than owning individual stocks.
However, some stocks have a long, long history of better stability than mutual funds. Derivatives such as stock options, commodity futures, and options on futures are considered “Speculative” meaning they are the most risky. However, as shown in this article on Stock Options Risk versus Stock Risk, this is not always the case. It’s all a matter of education and knowing what you are doing; so study and do your homework; really learn how to invest online. Here is an article that reveals 8 ways stock options are safer than stocks.
Incidentally, why should we bother with riskier investments?
Why don’t we just take the safest CD we can find, and put all your money in it? … There is an over-used cliché’ that says, “Higher rewards require higher risk.” Now, I don’t wholeheartedly accept that “wisdom”, because many so-called higher-risk securities (such as stock options) can be used with much less risk than the safest investments; it’s all a matter of knowing how to invest properly with these sophisticated securities.
But there’s more to it than just that cliché’. If you put all your money in a savings account or CD or even U.S. Savings Bonds for your entire career, you might have invested $200,000 and your balance might be worth $300,000. However, inflation often (maybe even most or all of the time) exceeds the returns on these investments which means your account balance is growing, but your money buys less than when you started.
Consider this example, assume this is 1960 and one dollar buys you a lunch. If you invest that dollar for 40 years in a savings account, you might have three dollars … but with inflation we have had over the last 40 years, you know most fast food restaurants charge you at least six dollars for the “Extra Value” meal. Your invested dollar … now worth three dollars … only buys you half a lunch! That’s inflation, and that’s why you can’t afford to put all your money in super-safe investments; you will miss out on the higher returns you could have, and should have, gotten. That’s called “opportunity risk”.
Now that you understand that your education on how to invest online and proper allocations of your money across varying degrees of risk are key factors in protecting yourself against incorrectly assessing your own risk tolerance, let’s see if we can get a feel for your risk tolerance.
To help you determine your risk tolerance so you can determine how to invest your money in a way that you can live with the potential ups and downs of the markets, I will ask you a few questions. Your specific answers to the questions and the cumulative total, doesn’t really matter so much as “how you feel” when you read the question. Try to visualize the situation and imagine yourself in that mental state.
We could go on and on with these kinds of questions, but hopefully you get the idea. You need to structure your finances so you have security and stability and learn how to invest online successfully first. Then try to determine how much risk you can live with. After that, step into the world of new investments slowly. Don’t buy 5 or 10 call options on your first order. Buy one at a time for three or six months or longer, until you know what you’re doing. See how you react when the market jumps up and down. As you build your wealth, slowly add more contracts and more investing online strategies.
How To Invest To Meet Your Objectives
What is your objective or goal for your investing?
If you have a long time horizon before you will need your money, you may fair better investing for growth … that is in stocks, mutual funds, or exchange traded funds (ETF) that invest in stocks paying little or no dividends but are expected to grow in value (i.e., the stock price is likely to go up). If you tend to hold your securities for a long-time, you get the added advantage of lower taxes. You get lower taxes for two reasons: (1) you only have a taxable event (i.e., you have to pay taxes on your gains) when you close your trade, and (2) tax rates on long-term capital gains are lower than ordinary income tax rates.
Assume you bought a stock in January. If you held that stock … which is growing in value … for 3 years, you will not report any gains and pay taxes until the year you sold it. Furthermore, when you hold a security for more than 12 months, you get the lower tax rate when you do sell it.
However, if you sold that same stock in June of the same year, you will have held it less than 12 months which means you must report the gain, and you will pay the short-term capital gains tax rate. This rate may be less than ordinary income tax rates, but it will be higher than the long-term capital gains tax rate.
On the other hand, if you are interested in building an income, you will pay taxes each year on any income (i.e., dividends or interest) you receive in each year. The tax rate may be less than ordinary income tax rates, but it may also be the same rate; either way, the tax rate on investment income tends to be higher than the capital gains tax rates.
For this reason, if you don’t need the income right now, you may want to consider putting your income-generating investments in an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) or similar tax-deferred account. When you do this, you will not be taking the income out of the retirement account until your retirement age (or later), and you can reinvest the dividends making your income grow faster.
So, you need to decide why you are investing … for wealth-building growth, income, or a combination of both. If you choose growth, you will invest in stocks (or mutual funds or ETFs) paying little or no dividends expected to grow in price or value. If you choose income, you will invest in bonds, dividend stocks, Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT), trusts, etc. These are fundamental questions you must answer before you decide how to invest.
How To Invest Your Way
So far, we have discussed how much risk you can tolerate and why you are investing … for growth, income, or both. Now, we need to determine How you prefer to invest. There are lots of ways to let someone else handle your investing for you … in mutual funds, exchange traded funds, or hedge funds for instance … or you can learn all about how to invest online and take the reins yourself.
“Hands off” investing online or otherwise certainly sounds attractive. You just dump your money into an account and perhaps add to it automatically every month so it grows faster … what could be better? In fact, this is exactly what mutual funds, exchange traded funds, and hedge funds are designed to do. But is there a downside? … Why would so many people learn how to invest online themselves when they can go hands off instead?
There are generally three reasons you might want to know how to invest online yourself. First of all, “Hands off” investing typically pays less returns. For example, a really good mutual fund (if you can find one that qualifies) would return you 12% to 15% every year (which by the Rule of 72 says you would double your money in 4.8 to 6 years (ignoring any additional investments you make along the way).
However, if you use the stock option strategies and techniques taught for free on this website, InvestOnlineInfo.com, you can 50% to 100% per month. Maybe not every month, but many months. That means you could double your money in one or two months instead of 5 to 6 years. Even if you just successfully pick stocks, you can do better than 15% per year. The downside, of course, is you need to invest some time and learn how to invest yourself.
So, the first reasons to learn how to invest online and do it yourself is the potential of making more money. The second reason is fees. All “hands off” investments charge fees, and most of them charge based on the value of your account. In other words, the more money you have, the more you pay. In most other areas of business, the more you buy, the lower your price, but not in hands off investments. Of course, you will also pay commissions on self-directed investments, but you can get $5 commissions per trade and even a number of free commissions per year or month depending on the broker you choose. Check out my article on selecting an online broker for more information.
The third reason to learn how to invest online yourself is there have been recent cases of corruption and scandal in the mutual fund and hedge fund industry.
So, it’s time to decide … do you want hands off investing? If so, check out my articles on how to build a money machine with mutual funds. Or do you want to learn how to invest online yourself? If so, start reading about stocks and stock option investing. It’s all free at
How To Invest Online – The Mechanics: Part I
You can learn how to invest online by studying this website and some of the recommended references and even by studying my free stock option picks web page, but you can’t actually start investing online until you open a brokerage account. The process is actually pretty easy and is explained in detail in my article on Selecting An Online Broker.
However, in a nutshell, you simply pick a broker based on a number of factors outlined in the aforementioned article, complete an application and submit it online or via mail or fax. You will need to determine how much help you want, and select a full-service broker, discount broker, or deep discount broker, and as you might expect, the commissions go up with increased level of services.
You will also need to decide in which investment securities you plan to invest. If you are going to invest in mutual funds, hedge funds, or bonds only, you may not even need a brokerage account. You can invest in most if not all mutual funds and hedge funds by contacting the company directly. You can invest in treasury bonds directly at http://treasurydirect.gov/.
If you decide to invest in stocks, exchange traded funds, or stock options, you will need an online brokerage account. And of course, if you have a brokerage account, you can also trade mutual funds, exchange traded funds, and bonds in the brokerage account.
The best way to determine the fees, services, investments, etc. offered by each brokerage company is by reading a published review or survey of the companies, or you can check each company’s website directly.
As I mentioned above, once you pick a brokerage company, you need to submit an application. If you fax it or open your account online, you will still need to fund the account. You can either send them a check for your initial deposit or set up an ACH transfer between the brokerage account and a bank account. Of the two options, I would recommend you set up the ACH transfer, because it’s generally safer than sending a check through the mail, it’s often quicker, and it gives you the freedom to exchange money between the two accounts (in either direction) later.
How To Invest Online For Specific Securities
This section briefly points you in the right direction for selecting the right stocks, mutual funds, and exchange traded funds for you. These are broad topics that can fill entire books on how to invest … and does. So, rather than comprehensively discussing how to invest in these specific securities here, I will refer to appropriate web pages that will get you started. For more complete discussion of these topics, you may want to check out the recommended references in my online Info Mall. Many of the recommended resources are available for free.
You can select any of the links below to open a new window for each topic:
How to invest in Mutual Funds
How to invest in Exchange Traded Funds – Coming soon
How to invest in Stocks – Coming soon
How to invest in Stock Options
How To Invest Online – The Mechanics: Part II
Once you have selected a brokerage company and opened an online stock and options trading account, you need to learn how to read stock option prices and how to place online investment orders to buy stock options and sell stock options. Simply click the appropriate link above and learn more about each of these topics.
How To Invest Online Safely
Once you have placed your online investing order for stocks, stock options, or whatever, you need to understand how to protect yourself from major losses. This is most easily done using “Stop loss orders”. Stop Loss orders are simply an order you place to close your position if the trade moves against you by a certain amount.
For example, if you buy a stock for $100 per share, you can then place a “Stop Loss” order to sell the stock if the price falls to $90, or $90.90, or whatever price you want. Then if the stock falls to (or through) that price, the stop loss order turns into a “Market” order for immediate execution. You should understand, however, that a Stop Loss does not guarantee you will sell at the Stop Loss price.
As I said, your stop loss converts to a “Market” order which means “sell at the current market price” (actually at the current “Bid” price). If your $100 stock falls to $90.25, your $90 stop loss order stays as is, but if the stock drops immediately to $89 per share (i.e., it “gaps down” without actually trading at $90 per share), your stop loss order will convert to a market order and your stock will be sold at $89.
So, that’s the concept of a Stop Loss order, but the real question is … “At what price should you set your stop loss order?”
This is where you need a general rule of thumb … such as setting your stop loss price at 10% below your purchase price. If you have a volatile stock, you may want a 15% or lower stop price; if your stock has very low volatility, you may want to set it at 5%.
The next question is … what if your stock has risen 50% above your purchase price? Should you keep your stop loss at the original price you selected? … Here is where I would suggest you consider a “Trailing Stop Loss”.
A trailing stop loss is when you raise your stop loss as the stock price rises … and you never lower the stop loss price. For example, if you bought your stock at $100 and set a 10% stop loss order at $90 per share … and then the stock rose to $110 … then you should raise your stop loss to $99 (10% below the new $110 price). If the stock then rises to $150 per share, your 10% Trailing Stop Loss price would rise to $135 ($150 * 90% = $135). Now, if your stock drops to $137, your stop loss stays at $135. If the stock price drops below $135, your stop loss order will be executed and you will get a net profit of $35 per share.
Another way to invest safely is to diversify … that is, spread your money across multiple securities and/or multiple types of securities (e.g., stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc.). How much you need to diversify depends on how much time you have to invest in your online investing, how much money you have, and the types of investments in which you invest.
For example, mutual funds are diversified by definition and law. A mutual fund is not allowed to put more than 5% of its money into a single stock, and it is not allowed to own more than 10% of the voting stock of any particular company. These are the legal diversification laws for mutual funds.
However, this does not mean you have adequate diversification in a single mutual fund. If the mutual fund is a “sector” fund … investing exclusively in precious metals, technical stocks, or healthcare stocks, for example … the fund will be diversified among the sector, but investing in a single sector is not truly diversified since most stocks or bonds within a single sector tend to be correlated; if one of the stocks goes down, the entire sector may go down.
Although different laws may apply, the diversification considerations for exchange traded funds are basically the same as for mutual funds.
If you invest in stocks and have relatively small amounts of money, you may want to invest in 5 different stocks each in a different industry. If you have lots of money, you may want to invest in as many as 20 different stocks. Most advisors recommend no more than about 20 stocks for the typical investor simply because it’s very difficult to adequately track that many different companies.
Finally, you may want to spread your money between mutual funds and/or exchange traded funds, stocks, bonds, and even precious metals.
In conclusion, to invest online safely, you should take measures to limit your losses using trailing stop losses and diversify your holdings so a drop in a single sector doesn’t knock your entire portfolio down.
The Final Step For Investing Safely
When you decide to invest … online or otherwise … you need to consider your entire financial picture. You should include some speculative investments to give yourself the chance of receiving great rewards, but you also need to structure your “portfolio” for safety … a backup plan for success.
To do this, you need to consider your debt situation, your income and expenses, and how to divvy up your investment money. You need to create allocation between the following investment classes that you can embrace and follow:
Generally speaking, you should treat these allocations like a pyramid with heavier allocations at the bottom of the above list and lighter allocations at the top. Furthermore, as “riskier” investments (those near the top) pay off greater rewards, you should siphon off some of these rewards to fund the base or foundation of your pyramid.
For example, if you use my highly profitable “insured puts” or “insured calls” stock options technique, you should take a percentage of your gains and pay down debt, add to cash, and/or add to income-oriented focused investments. This is how to invest safely while forcing yourself to maintain long-term benefits. An example allocation across your financial pyramid is shown below:
But these are just general examples; you should adjust these allocations to match your tolerance for risk.
How To Measure Your Performance
This can be a tricky topic, but the fundamentals of measuring your investment performance are actually pretty simple in most cases. In all cases, you should measure your investment performance based on Return On Investment or “ROI”. For your cash and individual bond holdings, the Return On Investment is simply the reported interest rate, and when you pay down debt, the ROI on the amount you pre-pay (i.e., the amount you pay above the amount you are required to pay is the same as your loan’s annual interest rate (i.e., the Annual Percentage Rate [APR]).
For example, if you are required to pay $1,000 per month on a mortgage with a fixed rate of 6% and you pay $1,100 instead, you are effectively investing the extra $100 for a 6% ROI … which is often much better than other cash investments returns on investment. Now you can complicate this by factoring tax rates into your ROI calculations, but we’ll skip that for now.
When you start calculating ROI for stocks, mutual funds, and stock options, the basic equation is ROI = (Change In Value / Initial Investment). However, rather than get into the details here, I have published a complete article on this topic of calculating ROI here.
Now, there is one other way to look at performance and how you measure success besides ROI, and it can be more valuable than “ROI” especially when you consider paying off debt as an “investment”. This second measure is “absolute income”.
Using the $1,000/month 6% mortgage example quoted above, if you pre-pay, you are earning 6% “tax free” on the pre-paid amount, but more importantly … when the mortgage is paid off completely, your income effectively rises by $1,100 per month (including your pre-payment amount) since you no longer have to pay that every month. If you have a $30,000 balance left on your mortgage and paying it off frees up $1,100 per month, that’s like getting a 44% annual return … because that’s the ROI you would have to earn on $30,000 invested elsewhere to get the same “new income”.
The logic is a little contorted, I know, but think about it this way … if you had $30,000, would you rather put it in a mutual fund and hope you get a steady 10% return on investment each year … which puts $3,000 per year in your pocket … or would you rather pay off the loan and put a guaranteed extra $12,000 (or $13,200 counting the pre-pay amount) in your pocket each year? $12,000 of income off a $30,000 investment is a 44% annual ROI.
How To Invest Online Using Leverage
Either way, the interest is tax deductible … at least to the extent you earn income from your investments. Also, either way, you will have to pay back the loan regardless of how your investments perform. With a margin account, however, you may get a “margin call” from your broker demanding you deposit more money within three business days to pay down the margin balance if your investments drop or if the margin requirements change.
All that said, there are other ways to leverage your investments, and most experts will tell you “most people will need to use leverage to get rich through investing.”
Stock options are by definition a form of leverage. Depending on the stock option strategy, you may be using margin as well, but the very concept of buying a stock option for a small amount of money and receiving “control” of 100 shares of stock is another type of leverage. My stock option articles cover this in more detail, but here is an example of what leverage, in the form of stock options, can do for you.
If you buy 100 shares of a $100 stock, you will have invested $10,000. If that stock rises to $110 per share, you will have gained $1,000 for a “Holding Period ROI” of 10%. However, if you bought a call option fro $500 on that same stock and the stock goes up $10 per share, your call may be worth $1,400 (allowing for some time value erosion) which would represent a 180% holding period ROI. Compare a 10% ROI versus a 180% return on investment, and you can see the power of leverage.
Of course, you need to understand that leverage is a double-edge sword; you can earn money faster, but you can also lose money faster using “leverage” money. This is why it’s imperative that you read and study your financial and investment concepts before (and after) you invest. So bookmark this site, check out my Info Mall, and come back often. I’m constantly adding new information regarding how to invest online, so keep coming back and keep learning with my free stock option training.
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