Thursday, January 31, 2008

It's the Stock Market ... RUN (but do not hide)

Partly due to the exorbitant volume of information that needs to be digested and partly due to fear of losses, most of us tend to shy away from the stock market. I am, of course, referring to those of us who do not work in the financial field.

As soon as I got my job, and after the initial fascination with the elevated income wore off and the realization that student loans were pending kicked in, I started thinking of saving and investing.

Retirement plans apart, I wanted to actively start investing in the stock market. However, most of us are well aware of the horrors of the stock market. With sudden crashes and fortunes lost, quite often accompanied by loss of lives, it somehow seemed more of a gamble than a strategy for growing my money.

The alternatives - mutual funds. Depending on the type of mutual fund, you are indirectly investing in the stock market. Only, you are now relying on, and paying, a group of individuals to take investment decisions for you. This is a perfectly acceptable plan, as quite often, the group of individuals actually knows what it is doing. Sure, you pay a small premium but, if they play it smartly, you can make a lot of money in the process.

Personally, I am interested in finance and the functioning and the dynamics of the stock market has always aroused my curiosity. Watching financial news and following stocks started attracting my interest on a more regular basis. However, then, and even now, I am not financially stable enough to begin playing the stock market. And more importantly, I am not armed with enough information.

I started visiting the Google Finance and Yahoo Finance pages regularly. This is one of the few places where Google actually performs worse than Yahoo. The Yahoo page is so much more informative. It gives you all the information you could need about a stock, and more. Google on the other hands seems to be in its infancy with its financial page. Its interface and usability, however, keep you on it for a while. Given some time to develop their content, I am sure their page will become much more popular than Yahoo.

Another interesting website I found was Stocksquest. It is an interesting and engaging concept where you are given a certain amount of capital to begin with. You can then invest it in stocks you pick and basically build up a mock portfolio which you can monitor over time. It also has a very basic tutorial, the kind someone like me with no background in finance needs. And what's more, its free. I just started on it a while back. Lets see how far I go with it.

I am sure there are tons of other such sites out there. If any of you have ever gotten interested in the stock market. and tried similar ways of playing it safe and learning the game before actually investing your money in it, I am all ears, or in this case, eyes.

I hope to continue this practice and will keep you informed of how it goes. Hopefully, as and when I do find myself in a comfortable financial position to invest directly in the stock market, I would have gained some ideas on how to predict trends in the market. If not, mutual funds and bonds will always be around.

Image credits to [ azrainman ]

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