Investing in the Stockmarket: Simple Guide to Beginners

E*Trade has been one of the top online brokers for stocks & shares since well before the dot com boom of the 1990’s. Now ANZ Share Trading has partnered with E*Trade to bring online dealing to the Antipodean marketplace. Attractive pricing, top quality research and tools make it easy, perhaps too easy, to enter the stock market.


I was intrigued by some of the tools that E*Trade offers its Australian customers, including a popular education center. Though the basics are well covered in terms of actual trading, it’s likely that unless the new investor is tempted towards ETFs, Sharepacks or Managed Funds, she will need to learn and study some of the basics.

Why? Because prices do go down as well as up. And shorting stocks can be the fastest way to send your account to $0. Especially if you’re using borrowed funds! So I’d like to offer readers my how-to guide on getting started in the stockmarket.

Tip #1: Do your reading

Read about the market in general, get a feel for the general situation right now; find out what sectors are doing well and badly. Look for top tier companies that seem, even in adverse situations, to be doing the ‘right’ thing. Don’t buy anything.

Tip #2: Listen to the Pundits

It’s important to have some idea what people in-the-know are talking about these days, what they’re concerns are, what the buzz words are. But don’t let them influence your choices.

Tip #3: Choose a few companies

Choose a few companies, and start to follow their progress in the newspapers, on TV, and online. Check out their accounts, find out if you can read their public documents. If you can’t, start to study them. Find out what they’re doing, and check for the important numbers: EPS, Book Value, etc. You need to know these.

Tip #4: Start Paper Trading

That’s right. Simply trade on paper (or on Excel). Buy imaginary lots in your head, write it down, and see how it feels. Follow the news, chart the progress, and check the dividends. See how you feel, if you can cope with the ‘ownership’ and risk.

Tip #5: Build your watchlist of companies

That’s that simple. Build a watchlist of companies that you are interested in. But don’t buy or sell. And don’t be afraid of missing out. This fear alone contributes to enough mistakes I’ve made.

Tip #6: Get a grip of your finances

That simple. If you are eager to invest, can you answer these three questions positively? Do you have a 6 month emergency fund? Do you think you can afford to not have access to the month for more than 3 years? Do you think you can bear it if you lose all the money?

Tip #7: Choose your broker carefully

Now it’s time to choose your broker carefully. Read the reviews, check the tools and see if you can try the demo accounts. Perhaps you’ll be lucky and find that you can set up fantasy portfolio!

Remember once you start trading, keep your calm, don’t trade more than you can afford, and try not to churn your trades. If you’ve been a trading investor for a few months, you’ll likely find that you can win and lose money. But remember, never invest all of your cash in one stock… just in case.

Please note: these are personal comments, and as such do not represent investment advice. Do your study carefully, make your own choices. And remember, you can lose far more than you intend to in the stockmarket. It may not be a suitable place to invest for your personal life. Consult a specialist if you’re unsure or don’t understand anything about the stockmarket.

Now if you’ve been investing for a while, what do you wish you had known before you go started? Share with us!

Blogging Tools: Wos Server – a useful tool in your armoury

Ages ago, I wrote about how you could put your applications on a stick. For the inveterate blogger, tinkerer, and under-the-hood kind of guy/girl, you can also put a blog on a stick with WordPress, and (almost) everything you need. The only caveat: the blog is not (nor should be) live for security reasons.

investorblogger - in a box

Look closely at the browser bar. This is InvestorBlogger on my stick! I’ve managed to import all the posts, plugins and themes. Now I can carry my blog, and work anywhere my computer and cruzer can take me!

Wos server is an installable application that you can put on your stick or anywhere. It includes a full version of apache for serving pages, PHP for parsing code, and MYSQL for your database. You can download and configure your own version of the server yourself at the website. There are a wide variety of apps that you can install, of course, bloggers can choose WordPress! But here’s a selection of other packages you could try!

  1. DBHcms
  2. Drupal
  3. Joomla
  4. MediaWiki
  5. Moodle
  6. OpenDB
  7. Textpattern
  8. WordPress

You can visit their site, or download my own customized version with themes, and plugins to get you started. The WordPress user is admin and the password is password.

Additional steps to setting up your blog on a stick or desktop.

  • Step 0: Copy your files/themes/plugins to your desktop and anything else you want to use in your install in the wp-content folder at your site…
  • Step 1: Download the file and unzip it on your desktop.
  • Step 2: Open the folder and find the file mowes.exe. Hit that and open it. Wait a few seconds.
  • Step 3: Your browser window will open. Look for the entry ‘wordpress’ and click on that link. (or type or http://localhost/wordpress/)
  • Step 4: You will see a mini-version of a blog… with themes and plugins.
  • Step 5: Customize your blog by copying the files/themes/plugins you use from your site to the same location in the wosserver (ie. wos server/www/wordpress directory).

Login details are on the folder in step 2. This is not a real blog, just a mini-blog. You can play with it all you want. Break it, too. Your real blog will be safe and carry on regardless. Some plugins may not work because they require additional features, or are not necessary at all (spam plugins, for example). If you want to import your database, you could do that, too. But you will need a plugin that allows you to import your db into the wosserver: wp-phpadmin plugin might work.

Have fun blogging, but don’t worry about borking your blog!

Update: I’ve had a weird issue with this software. If you download and expand the files to your desktop area, and run from there. It seems to work. Otherwise it won’t run properly if you put the files elsewhere. Apache seems to be  hurdle but I’m not sure about this. This is a pity: if you are like me, and you use your stick on a number of machines, the server may not run properly. Another possible workaround would be to set the drive for your USB stick to the same drive on all your machines. That might work. I’ll let you know.  The obvious solution: download the entire original file from the kind people at Wos.

Using Google Docs to track your expenses: Simple Step-by-Step Approach

Keeping a track of expenses is truly a nightmare especially when you’re on vacation. You have all those little bits of paper, phone numbers, receipts, credit card receipts, cash, foreign coins, etc., etc. Soon you end up with a wallet that looks similar to this. If you’re anything like me, being organized is a real challenge. I do have folders and organisation, but there are times when the whole system seizes up! You know what I’m talking about if you take a look at this wallet of mine.

Things flopping out everywhere, terrible. Well, a blog I was reading suggested using Google Docs new forms feature to create an expense list. It’s a brilliant idea if you have a mobile device, or prefer to tally your expenses at the end of the day or like to do it at work (when the boss isn’t looking). So here goes: a step-by-step guide to setting it up.

You will need:

  1. a bunch of receipts to set it up;
  2. a Google Email account so you an access Google Docs;
  3. and a little patience!

Step 1: Create a new form – look in the image to see how it’s done. Click on ‘new’, tab down to ‘form’ and release the click or click on it again.

new form image

Step 2: You will now see a screen with the form tabs and fields.

base form

A field is the area of the form that you need to type some data. So, in the Untitled form, you can enter the Form Name. In the Question area, you can write: “What is this expense for?” or similar. If you need help text, enter something useful so you know what data to enter. Then choose the question type: “Text” is most straightforward at this point. Then click ‘done’ and ‘required’ (if need be).

sample report question 1

Step 3: To add a new field, press ‘Add Question’ and repeat as necessary. Repeat this for the date, the form of payment, and the amount.

repeat operation

Step 4: I’ll show you my completed form which you can see for yourself.

sample report form

That’s pretty much the form set up. Don’t forget to hit ‘save’ so you don’t lose the changes. You can click to see the form which I have published and you can try it out!

So what happens to the data? Well, let’s take a look. The data is auto-saved in the base spreadsheet for later. You go to your Google Docs again and you’ll see the new spreadsheet sitting there. I’ve entered several of my favorite ‘sins’ and you can see the result.

basic form and results

Each item is stamped with the entry time and the fields you required. You can then perform any calculations you like using traditional spreadsheet functions. You can then email the form, embed the form in your blog or online documents, or go back and edit the form as you wish.

I’ve set my form to be published and republished as data is entered. You can take a look at it yourself, just click on the image above. Please enter some items for purchase, and you’ll see it updated dynamically. Pretty simple, I’d say. No doubt, far more complicated than it looks, under the hood!