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Hiring a Broker? Don’t Be Afraid to Conduct Online Interviews and Meetings

December 7, 2014 in Advice, Investing

Investing in stocks requires a broker to legally make the trade on your behalf. Low-cost firms provide only that service, but for more serious stock investing, a broker becomes a familiar, trusted figure in the investor’s life – like a doctor or a barber. Just as with both of those occupations, when you find a good broker, you don’t want to let them go.

Brokers do more than make trades. They offer advice, help develop your strategy and adapt that strategy as time moves on. The broker/investor relationship is about trust, and that trust should start with a meeting. In the modern age, the initial meeting can take place online. Follow this guide to conducting an online interview with your broker.

You can have a professional meeting with your broker without leaving the comfort of your own home.

Formality and Appearances

As discussed in “Why Online Meetings Are the New Normal,” online meetings carry the same weight and should be treated with the same seriousness as an in-person meeting. Be on time and practice formality in speech, dress and environment. Just because you’re lounging around your house doesn’t mean you should dress like it. If you would shower and put on a shirt and tie for an in-person meeting, do the same here.

Don’t chew gum, pay attention to grooming and be mindful of your background. The area behind you should be blank (a wall) or neat and professional (an orderly bookcase).

Be Prepared

Part of the online call is getting to know your potential broker and letting him or her get to know you. This is the person who will be investing in stocks on your behalf – you must have a list of questions regarding his or her background and philosophy, and finally, about what you want, expect or believe. Prepare more questions than you plan to ask, and mention any philosophical or ethical issues you have regarding stock investing.


Although you shouldn’t fly by the seat of your pants, don’t be too rigid, either. Prepare an outline, but let the conversation develop naturally around it. It is here that you’ll find out what commission your broker makes, what percentage they’ll charge you, how much their consulting services cost, what their minimums are and how account withdrawal works.

No matter how friendly you and your broker become, stock investing is business. He or she is in it to make money, as are you. You can bet that the broker has his or her bases covered regarding fees and income – you should, too.

A good broker is a trusted, long-term figure in an investor’s life.

Choosing a broker is a monumental – perhaps lifelong – endeavor. It requires a meeting, but that meeting doesn’t have to take place face to face. It does, however, have to be treated with the same level of seriousness and formality that a traditional meeting would carry. We’ve advanced so far that the technological part is now the easy part. There are a million free online meeting services with reliable VoIP video and audio – the hard part is, as it’s always been, nailing the interview.

Andrew Lisa is a freelance business writer. He covers stocks, investing and small business.

Mobile Hot Spots and Other Tech Gadgets Every Investor Should Own

October 26, 2014 in Advice, Investing

When it comes to stock investing, a sharp mind is the most reliable gadget a person can own. But even the sharpest, most detail-oriented among us can stand to gain a little from the miracle of modern technology. Do you go to sleep at night and wake up in the morning thinking about investing in stocks? Get a leg up with help from some of these amazing gadgets.

A mobile hotspot turns wherever you are into an Internet cafe.

Mobile Hotspots

Timing is everything when it comes to stock investing. If you’re playing the market in the digital age, you’ve got to be mobile. A mobile hotspot enables you to work from wherever you are, without having to rely on WiFi being provided by the restaurant, hotel or coffee shop you’re in when an opportunity presents itself. Simply switch it on and watch your laptop or tablet come to life.

Convertible Computers

Convertible computers are the next revolution in mobile stock investing. Part tablet, part laptop, hybrids were novelty toys for people who could afford more than one computer just a few years ago. But now, new high-end models like the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 have enough power to function as the only computer for the modern investor. The detachable tablet offers touch-screen – and even stylus pen – capability, but with the full familiarity of keyboard typing.

Paper Scanners

Virtually all stock investing is done online – but that doesn’t mean that investors don’t stack up a ton of paper clutter. From a lengthy prospectus that you received in the mail to investment-related receipts you’re saving for tax time, investing in stocks is still a business that is done on paper. Paper scanners, like the Neat Connect line of cloud-based paper scanners, free your life from paper clutter. Scan any item and it becomes a searchable document. Since it goes right to the cloud, it doesn’t even take up space on your hard drive.

Wireless Printers

You’re going to need a fast, reliable printer, but you can’t be shackled to a specific workspace. You’re going to want to visualize and write on physical copies of charts, graphs, prospectuses and other documents. With a wireless, WiFi printer, you’ll be able to print instantly and remotely from your laptop, your tablet – even from your phone. Wireless, all-in-one printers are cheaper than they’ve ever been, and when you’re not using them for stock investing, there are a million ways to use them for personal printing.

Hybrid computers blend laptop power with tablet mobility.

A meticulous mind, relentless attention to detail and persistence in the face of frustration are the best tools an investor can possess. With those in place, however, exciting new technology can boost your productivity and – hopefully – profitability. Your competition is stocking up on any gadget that will give them an edge. You should, too.

Andrew Lisa is a freelance technology writer. He covers business technology and reviews new tablets and computers.

How to Protect Yourself from Investment Fraud

October 20, 2014 in Advice, Investing

If you’re investing in stocks as part of your retirement plan, you have a great, big target on your back – especially if you’re an older investor. There is an entire industry – and a big one at that – designed to con investors by playing on their hopes, fears and, yes, their greed. You’re trying to take money out of the stock market – but con artists are trying to take money out of your account. Take steps to protect yourself.

Don’t be a target – protect yourself from swindlers.

If it Sounds Too Good…Don’t Let Your Hopes Cloud Your Judgment

The article “Retirement Investing: 7 Ways to Protect Your Retirement from Investment Frauds” reiterates a truth that most of us learned at a very young age: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Even the safest investments come with risk. No investment – especially one that involves the stock market – is “foolproof,” “guaranteed” or “100 percent.” If someone pitches an investment that doesn’t come with risk, run.

If They Say “Buy Now!”, You Say Goodbye

Investing in stocks is a lot like any other transaction where money changes hands – watch out for the hard sell. Swindlers don’t want you to contemplate their offer, ask around or do research. They want to get whatever they can from you as soon as they can get it. The stock market has a lot to do with timing, and they will play on this. You should never have to decide right now, today, by 5pm. When someone pitching a stock investment is trying to create the illusion that you’re running out of time with every second you think about it, it’s probably because they don’t want you to think about it.

The Enemy Within

Sad but true: More than one-third of elder financial abuse comes from family members, friends or neighbors – often those who were most trusted by the victim. Be wary of anyone asking to have their name added to your accounts, or of anyone who requests personal information – and that means anyone. No one ever needs your Social Security number, your passwords or any of the information that are common security check answers (your mother’s maiden name, your first dog’s name, etc.).

Keep an eye on your piggy bank – you’re not the only one who wants what’s inside.

Investing in stocks is a great way to save for your future. But it also advertises to the world that you have money to spend – or, in the case of the many unscrupulous people among us, money to be taken. Be smart, use common sense and control your emotions – specifically hope and greed. Watch out for people close to you, and never trust a deal that the seller doesn’t want you to sleep on.

Andrew Lisa is a freelance personal finance writer. He covers personal investments and retirement planning.

Ergonomic Furniture to Help You Withstand Those Long Investing Sessions

October 12, 2014 in Advice, Investing

With stock investing, timing is everything – and most days, getting it right can take a very long time. Hours spent stationary, poring over charts, stats and movements is great for your strategy but horrible for your body. If your body is going to keep up with your mind, office ergonomics are a must.

A comfortable work environment can make stock investing much more exciting.

Sitting on a Good Investment

With the exception of huge dividends, a good chair is the best friend of someone who makes money from stock investing. The place where you park for countless hours is not the time to play it cheap – but you don’t have to spend a fortune, either. There are a range of ergonomic chairs for under $100 at most big retailers’ websites. Try to spend just enough to get free shipping, which is usually around $50.

Height-Adjustable Furniture

A sedentary lifestyle can contribute to all kinds of health risks, including obesity and heart disease. Successful stock investing entails a lot of sitting in front of a computer. But with the simple addition of adjustable furniture, you change change positions without interrupting your work. Just moving from sitting to standing alone can dramatically reduce the problems associated with static positioning.

Lighting Is Everything

The right light can mean the difference between a comfortable work day and one fraught with headaches, fatigue, irritability and trouble focusing. Don’t rely on overhead fixtures. Add bright, focused, personal lighting to your workspace to remain alert and focused without straining your eyes.

Monitor Height

Ideally, the top of your computer monitor should be at or near eye level. Any more or less and you not only strain your eyes, but you risk slumping posture, which negates the whole point of having a good chair and desk. Monitor arms allow you to adult the height of your screen so it’s always at the perfect height, leading to greater comfort and greater efficiency.

Stock investing requires a lot of sitting behind a computer screen – get comfy!

Even if you’re seeking short-term gains, investing is a long process and a day-to-day grind. Uncomfortable office furniture and accessories can lead to back pain, leg pain, strained eyes and serious problems in the wrists and hands. You’re investing in the stock market to invest in your future. Take the time to invest in your body. Comfort is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.

Andrew Lisa is a freelance writer who covers home business and office management.

How Much Money Could You Make as a Financial Advisor?

October 6, 2014 in Advice, Investing

Stock investing is awesome! You have a knack for it, you like it, you’re good at it and you know stock market basics – and then some. But could you ever make money as a financial advisor, and if so, how much? Like any profession, there is spectrum of income potential depending on how much you work, with whom you work and the kind of work you do.

Financial advisors can work with anyone from the very rich to average people.

About Financial Advisors

According to Investopedia, a financial advisor is defined as someone who “provides financial advice or guidance to customers for compensation. Financial advisors can provide many different services, such as investment management, income tax preparation and estate planning.” In order to become a financial advisor, you must pass the Uniform Investment Adviser Law Examination and carry a Series 65 license.

Can Advising People About Money Earn Me Money?

According to “High-earning Jobs to Help Pay Off Student Loans Faster,” the best financial advisors can rake in big bucks. The top 10 percent command salaries of more than $187,000 a year. The median income is more than $67,000, and you’re not likely to bottom out at less than $32,000.

What Are They Looking for in You?

So how do you get into that lucrative top 10 percent of big earners? One of the best ways to find out how to be a top financial advisor is to look at the advice the pros give to regular people seeking their services. Investment giant Kiplinger tells people seeking a financial advisor to pick someone with a definitive investment philosophy. If someone asked tomorrow about your philosophy, what would your answer be?

Most importantly, they give the very good advice of telling people to be thorough and do a deep background check. Before submitting to a background check, you should first give one to yourself. Know every detail of what’s in your professional and personal background. Even if you’re not attempting to hide an old skeleton, it will likely come raging back out of the closet upon inspection. Be ready to give an explanation.

The best financial advisors are well compensated for the valuable service they provide.

Great financial advisors are in short supply. They can work with everyone from the very rich to the average person working toward a comfortable retirement through stock investing. Success has to do with more than knowing the stock market basics. It is a business based on trust, honesty and rapport. People will trust you with their most intimate financial knowledge, and you must hold that trust sacred. Yes, you can make money, but that money must be made on the foundation of the financial success of the clients you help.

Andrew Lisa is a freelance financial writer. He covers stock investing and personal finance.

Should You Trust a Broker Who Earned an Online Degree?

October 2, 2014 in Advice, Investing

If you’re investing in stocks, you rely on the skill and integrity of your stockbroker as much as you rely on the same traits from your auto mechanic when your car breaks down. The world of stock investing is competitive and fast paced – and a lot is on the line. You need to know that your broker is the best trained, best educated and most experienced that you can afford.

But what if he or she got their degree through a distance-learning program? Can you trust a broker who earned their degree online?

The short answer is: yes.

Your broker can make you a lot of money, whether or not they earned their diploma online.

A Little Bit About Online Students

As discussed in “5 Things You Didn’t Know About Online Students,” distance learners aren’t exactly your typical college kid. In fact, they tend to be older, married, working adults with children. The vast majority (as many as 70 percent, although that number may be slipping a bit) are women. Sixty-six percent are over the age of 30, and fewer than five percent are of “normal” college age.

Distance Learning: The New Normal

According to statistics, nearly 20 percent of secondary-education students receive at least 80 percent of their education online. Once a marginalized niche that was frowned upon by academics, distance learning is now mainstream. The completion rates for online students are as high or higher than their traditional campus counterparts, and more and more tenured teachers cross over to teach online courses.

Investor Exams

For stockbrokers, the Series 7 is more important than any final exam was in college. Notoriously difficult and thorough, the Series 7 – like the Bar for lawyers – is the gatekeeper for those interested in making a living out of stock investing. The reason you can’t trade stock yourself is because, by law, you must be licensed to do so. Anyone who is licensed to be a stockbroker passed the Series 7. If they got over that hurdle, does it really matter how they earned their diploma?

Know Your Broker

No matter how they earned their diploma, your broker had to do homework – and so should you when it comes to you broker’s background. According to Forbes, only 15 percent of Americans checked out their broker before investing in stocks. Look up their licenses to make sure they’re registered, and check out their backgrounds and histories with state and federal regulators. Worrying about their college background should come second, if at all.

Online learning is now a regular, mainstream part of higher education.

The reality is, education is important. But in the high-speed, cutthroat world of stock investing, a broker’s real-world experience, connections, ambition, intelligence and tenacity can be more important than a degree. But if you put a high premium on college education, don’t discount distance learning. Keep in mind that Yale, Harvard, Cornell, Penn, Dartmouth and Columbia all offer online education. The degree is just as valid, the education just as sound and the money that you make from investing in stocks will be just as real.

Andrew Lisa is a freelance business writer. He covers stock investing and personal finance.

How to Keep Your Sensitive Info Safe While Investing

September 7, 2014 in Advice, Investing

In the digital age, investing in stocks almost always involves sending sensitive data over the Internet and, therefore, exposing it to the danger of accidental leaks or intentional breaches. When buying and selling on the stock market, you are – by the nature of investing itself – revealing the kind of data that is the most desirable to hackers, digital scammers and identity thieves, specifically financial and personal information. Keeping your data safe is always important. When it comes to the kind of data necessary for investing in stocks, however, an extra level of attention is required.

Protect yourself with security software and password protection.

Data Security: Nothing New in America

An article titled “Privacy has Been a Concern in the United States Since the Very Beginning” points out that concern over data security is nothing new. The Founding Fathers were so focused on security regarding personal data, in fact, that they guaranteed its protection by including the right to privacy into the Bill of Rights in the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution – although they referred to “data” as “papers and effects.”

Protect Yourself

First and foremost, use security software that not only protects against malware and spyware, but also installs a firewall on your computer. You don’t need to know much about computers to provide this layer of protection. Always secure your WiFi with a password that locks out unauthorized users. Don’t click random links, never provide information from requests via email and don’t respond to suspicious emails, even if they appear to come from your financial firm, bank or third-party money gateway such as PayPal.

You Can Only Do So Much

The reality of data security is that once you make sure things are secure on your end, you can only do so much regarding the security of your investment firm (which is far more likely to be targeted by hackers). A recent article points out that even major, stable, established retailers, sellers and financial firms – such as Fidelity National Services, eBay and Target – can be attacked and breached, putting the data of millions of customers at risk.

While this is unsettling, the reality is that large firms like this almost always take immediate steps to fix the problem and compensate victims. When investing in the stock market, use a brokerage firm (by law, all stocks must be bought and sold through a licensed stock broker) that is large, reputable and that has the resources to defend against breaches and deal with any issues that do arise.

The biggest investment firms work hard to keep your data safe.

Although media portrayals make it seem as if data theft from large firms is a constant threat, these institutions invest millions to hire the most qualified experts and invest in the best hardware and software available in the defense of your data. Use common sense and basic protections on your end, and invest with firms that are large enough to absorb the impact of a significant breach.

Andrew Lisa is a freelance business writer. He covers personal finance and stock investing.

Thinking of Investing for a Career? Follow These Tips

September 3, 2014 in Advice, Investing

So you have a knack for stock investing? Think your hobby could become a lucrative career? Well, the financial world has a lot of options for you. But be warned, it’s going to be competitive, fast-paced and stressful. Investing in stocks as a career, however, can also be rewarding, challenging and lucrative. But it will require a great deal of preparation in the realms of education and testing.

A career in stock investing can be lucrative and exciting.


As discussed in “Majors That Employers Look for the Most,” several academic paths can serve as the springboard for your ascent into a career in investing. Business management studies can prepare you for a range of entry-level jobs that can lead to lucrative financial careers, including market research analyst. Finance degrees can lead graduates on career paths such as personal financial advisor and financial analyst.

Tests and Licenses

The financial sector is governed by strict laws and regulations. Certain jobs require specific licenses that can only come after tests have been passed. There are many exams for many different specialties. Like the Bar Exam for lawyers, you only need to pass these difficult exams once.

To become a general securities representative, you must pass the Series 7, which is required to buy and sell securities in the United States. The Series 3 is required in order to register with the National Futures Association, to trade commodities or to trade futures contracts. The Series 26 is required for those wishing to act as the principal for investment companies and annuities activities. The Series 6 enables you to conduct business in both investment company and variable contract products.


Internships are a great way to get real-world, hands-on practice in the fast-paced world of stock investing. Internships can be paid or unpaid, but either way, you’ll be paying your dues. These gigs can lead to dream jobs, and first jobs after internships almost always pay more than similar grads could make without having been an intern. Shoot for between 200 and 400 hours of combined service, and display your internship prominently when it comes time to search for a “real” job in the world of investing in stocks.

There are many paths for talented people who want a career in the world of finance.

Careers are made every day by ambitious, talented people who want to turn their love of stock investing into a career. Investing in stocks for yourself, however, is a whole different ball game than going pro for a big-time investment bank, brokerage house or financial firm. But if you study hard, get an internship and stay focused, you could be on you way to living your big-money dreams.

Andrew Lisa is a freelance financial writer. He covers the stock market and financial careers.

3 Tools Every Beginning Investor Needs

August 6, 2014 in Advice

There are a few things you’ll have to do if you’re a novice in the world of beginner stock trading. First, you have to learn to trade. Then you’ll have to sign up with a brokerage firm to legally execute those trades on your behalf. But you also need to make some real-world investments – investments in technology that you’ll need to keep up in the real world.

Laptops, desktops and tablets all come with pros and cons.


The reality is, you need a computer to invest. When deciding which class of machine to purchase, you have three basic options:

  • Desktops: Often written off as archaic machines relegated to the world of office cubicles and grandparents, desktops are not always the first choice for modern investors. But don’t write them off just yet. Desktops are generally faster than their mobile counterparts, they’re often more powerful, come with more storage and are almost always cheaper.
  • Laptops: Laptops are the workhorse of the business world. They obviously go where you go, but they’re limited by the capacity of their batteries.
  • Tablets: Tablets (not counting hybrids) don’t have traditional keyboards or the storage capacity of their bigger brothers, but they are fast, small, mobile, sleek and fun.
  • Hotspots

    A mobile hotspot is an absolute must for investors on the go. Once you learn to trade, you’ll realize that timing is everything. You have to be able to access your laptop or mobile device at any given time, no matter what – and you can’t rely on the connection wherever you may happen to be. A mobile hotspot turns your seat on the park bench into an Internet cafe. One of the best is the AT&T Unite Mobile 4G WiFi Hotspot.


    Your computer can’t do the work for you. But you’ll get a huge boost in power when you choose the right software. MetaStock Stock Market Analytical Software is a great place to start. You don’t have to spend a fortune on technology, but the pros are using software that follows trends, identifies opportunities and issues warnings for their investments. If you want to keep up with the big boys, you’re going to want to invest in software to give you an edge.

    A good computer means nothing without the right inviting software.

    Investing in the stock market requires an investment in technology. Beginner stock trading is not easy, but once you learn to trade, you’ll need the digital power to back up your new knowledge. A good computer, good software and a hotspot to make sure they never go to waste is a good place to start.

    Andrew Lisa is a freelance financial writer. He covers business technology and personal finance.

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