Welcome to our crash course in buying shares for beginners. This guide will help to shed light on the basics of how to sell and buy stocks and answer many of the questions asked by our readers looking to build an investment portfolio.
First, here’s a brief rundown on how the stock market game works…
Find a Broker
The first thing you’ll need to do is find a stock broker or share broker. They’re the same thing and the terms are used interchangeably.
There are many brokers to choose from. If you go to www.asx.com.au you’ll find a list of discount and full-service brokers.
My advice is to use a discount broker. Most – but not all – full-service brokers won’t give you the time of day unless you’ve got at least $200,000 to chuck into the market. And if they do take you on, chances are they’ll give you no service but still charge you $80 per trade!
They’ll charge you about $10-$15 per trade regardless of how many times you buy or sell shares each month.
Once you’ve made up your mind – check out their websites by clicking on the links above – fill out the forms and send them back to the broker. Just be aware that it’ll take a few days to set up an account because they’ll most likely ask you for certified copies of identification papers (passport, drivers licence, that sort of thing).
And part of the paperwork will usually involve setting up a direct debit between your stockbroking account and your bank account. That way the broker can take the money from your bank account when you buy shares, and pay money into your bank account when you sell shares.
Personally, I find this the easiest way of paying for trades.
After you’ve gone through those hoops, you’re ready to trade.
So, let’s go through a hypothetical example. Let’s say you subscribe to Australian Small-Cap Investigator, Resource Speculator, Tactical Wealth or Total Income and one of the recommendations is to buy shares in XYZ Ltd… what do you do?
Simple. Here’s an example of a typical buy ticket you’ll get with an online broker:
Or, it could look something like this:
First you’ll need to confirm the ASX Code, in our example the code is XYZ. For BHP Billiton it’s BHP, for Commonwealth Bank it’s CBA and for Foster’s it’s FGL.
All share trading sites have a search function to help you find the stock code.
Next you need to figure out what price you want to pay. If you’re happy paying the current price on the market then you select “At Market” or just “Market”. This means the trade will go through at the lowest price on the offer side of the market.
What does offer mean? Let me explain. I’ll show you what’s called the market depth:
This shows you the number of buyers and sellers with limit orders in the market (I’ll explain limit orders in a moment).
The offer side of the market just means you’ve got a bunch of people offering to sell their shares at a particular price. So in this case, if you wanted to buy 1,000 shares at the market price you would accept their offer and pay $2.18 per share.
This would cost you $2,180.
An alternative to a market order is a limit order. That simply means you want to limit the price you’re prepared to pay. If you like the company but you’re not prepared to pay more than $2.10 per share, you would enter a limit order to buy shares at $2.10.
This means you’ll wait in a queue on the “buyers” or “bid” side of the market – that’s the left hand side in the market depth above.
As a limit buyer your order will remain in the queue until the share price drops to your level of $2.10 or until your cancel the order.
How Many Shares Do I Buy?
Now, let’s say you only wanted to invest a total of $1,000. How do you work out how many shares to buy? You can easily work it out using the following formula:
Dollar Amount to Invest = Total Shares to Buy
Or to use our example:
$1,000 = 458.72 shares
Because you can’t buy fractions of shares you’d need to round the number up to 459, or down to 458.
This is the number you enter into the order ticket where it says quantity.
One nice feature of the Comsec trading website is that you can click on “Estimate”. This calculates the total cost of the trade including broking fees. This is a good way to make sure you haven’t muddled up your sums or got your decimal point in the wrong place.
If you only want to buy $1,000 worth and you end up buying $10,000 worth it could turn out to be a costly mistake!
By the way, the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) has a minimum order size. You can’t buy any less than $500 worth of shares in a company.
Once you’ve done all that and clicked the “trade” or “proceed” button, your order is in the market. You’ll receive an email confirmation from your broker when the order has been completed.
On completion of the order you’ll be the proud owner of the shares… a partial owner in a publicly listed company.
Paying for Your Shares
Now all you’ve got to do is pay for the shares. That bit should be easy. Providing you’ve set up a direct debit, your broker will take the money from your bank account in three days without lifting a finger.
You may see reference to a term called “T+3”. This simply means you’re required to pay for the shares three days after you buy them. All regular share trades are settled T+3. Sometimes you may come across something called deferred settlement. But that usually only occurs with initial public offerings (IPOs) or other special situations – we won’t worry about that here as it’s not common.
And that’s it. Now all you need to do is follow the news and advice from your advisory service and hopefully lock away some big gains in a matter of days, weeks or months.
If you’re new to this game, I hope that has helped.
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