If you’ve ever tried to learn to play an instrument and were’t completely self-taught, you probably had a teacher who wanted you to start by learning basic, boring shit like scales first. But you didn’t want to learn to play C major or “Hot Cross Buns” (why did they act like people knew wtf hot cross buns are?) you wanted to play the songs you knew and liked. The best way to get to learning and stay interested is to get a jump start with the things that don’t make you feel like downing a bottle of painkillers.
That being said, you don’t get excited to learn about investing and making money by looking at boring ass charts and math problems. Enter screeners and paper trading. A screener is a tool where you put in some criteria of what you’re looking for and boom, there’s a list. In this case, the first ones we like to start people with are ones where stock market wizards set all the detailed criteria and spit out their suggestions. It’s not important in the beginning to know what all the criteria means, just that somebody who knows (or knew) their stuff thinks the stock (company) is worth a look.
The second part of the equation is paper trading. If you don’t have a brokerage account or any money to invest with, it doesn’t mean you can’t start learning this stuff. In our opinion, it may actually be better to learn when you still don’t have much. That way when you’re in a better position financially, you’ll come in with some financial know-how and won’t be so intimidated. Paper trading is a market simulation where you can buy and sell stocks with virtual money. You get the experience of putting in orders, learning terminology, and watching your account go up and down without the risk of blowing your hard earned cash in “school”.
Part 1: Find Some Stocks to Trade
For the screener, we recommend a free new site called MeetInvest. It’s a new kid on the block, but has by far the best guru screening criteria out there. They have a ton of famous Wall Street stock pickers and adhere very closely to the things the guys really look for. It’s genuinely shocking that this isn’t a paid service site.* So sign up for a free account there first (they really just need your email)
To get you rolling as fast as possible, we can tell you that your best bets for Gurus/Strategies to start with are going to be Peter Lynch and Patrick O’Shaughnessy. Both of these guys have some fantastic screening criteria (we’ll learn more about how they choose what they choose later) and they’re the most likely to give you the most companies that you are already familiar with.
So sign up on the website first. Then here’s how to get the list…
Click on My Stocklists on the home page.
Click Create new stocklist on right hand side of the next page
Enter a name for your list. Click how often you want to be notified of new stock picks (Notification frequency). Click the boxes next to the 2 names mentioned before: Patrick O’Shaughnessy and Peter Lynch. Then click the box next to United States under North America in Countries of Interest.
Click Create stocklist at the bottom of the page and you’re in business. That results list of confusing crap is the Wall Street gurus picking the real sh*t for you!
F*ck a bunch of C majors and Hot Cross Buns
Now run down the list that it gives you and see if you recognize any of the names of the companies in the Short Name column. If you do, write down the 1-5 letters it gives you to the right of their name under the column labelled Ticker. Don’t bother writing down the letters US, as that is just telling you that it trades in the United States. For example, if you know what the CME group is, you would just write down the letters CME. Those letters (called the ticker or symbol) are how Wall Street identifies companies trading on the market.
So now that you have a few companies and their symbols written down, look over in the column labelled MI Trend. See all the red and green arrows? You want to see which of the companies you wrote down have a green arrow next to them. You may only find one or two and that’s completely OK. The green arrows are a technical indicator that mean the stock is in an uptrend (going up in price) at the moment based on some technical criteria. Technical analysis has to do with the stuff you see on those fancy Wall Street-y charts they show you in movies and on TV. For now, all you need to know is that the damn arrow thing is green.
Part 2: Buy the Stocks with Virtual Money
Now we’re going to “buy” those companies you picked out. Remember: they should be companies that you know, that also have a green arrow. In another tab or window open up the paper trading Investopedia Simulator.
Now when you start signing up for a free account here, uncheck all the boxes that it has pre-filled for you for offers and newsletter garbage. Next, Skip the partner offers. Eventually you will reach a screen that says Thank You for Subscribing!
Because they want you to go check your email like a bunch of a*sholes, it’s not immediately obvious that you can just click SIMULATOR in the middle of the top of the page.
On the new page, click any one of the boxes in the Join A Game section and click Join Selected Games.
If you did everything right you’ll reach a screen that looks like this.
There are plenty of tutorials on the site explaining how to use the simulator so this is where you get to figure the rest out. The next steps:
1. Put in Buy orders for the stocks you picked using the symbols (the stock/companies 1-5 letter code).
***Bonus points if you change the order to limit, put the price in at a few cents below where the current price is, and change the Duration to Day Order. These changes aren’t just for fun, they are how you will usually submit nearly all orders (real or fake) in the future. Only rookies use Market orders (which buys or sells at the next available price vs. you dictating what you will pay) and you want to learn to buy and sell like the pros. If the order doesn’t go through, it may be because the market is closed, so you’ll have to re-enter the trade tomorrow or change the Duration to Good Till Cancelled.***
2. Create a Watchlist of other companies you like or from the screener to buy in the future. It’s also a good idea to take companies listed in the screener and Google them to see what they do. They may make some products you already buy or do some really interesting stuff and you may want to buy them with actual money down the line.
So that about does it…
You learned how to find some promising companies you know that the pros would probably buy (screeners), what a ticker symbol is (the 1-5 letters used to identify stocks or funds), a simple way to see if its in an uptrend already (MeetInvest green arrows), and how to place an order. Believe it or not, these steps alone and the stocks that you picked already put you ahead of the pack when it comes to the average “investors” in the world.