To many of us, the stock market can be daunting (to say the very least). We know that investing is something we probably should—and want to—be doing, but the obstacles to starting it can turn it into something we put off over and over again.

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I’ve always been in that exact boat. Even though I’m surrounded by people who know the ins and outs of investing, I’ve always felt like I didn’t even know what I didn’t know about how to start investing, like the barrier to entry was held by someone who never gave me the knowledge to know where to begin. But with the right tools, you don’t need to feel that way.

Enter: Public. Public is the social network for investing, and their mission is to make investing approachable for all people. They make the stock market both inclusive and educational, and through social features, they make it easy to build your confidence as an investor. There’s no barrier to entry or prior knowledge necessary; it’s meant for investors at all levels, including beginners. They know that a significant reason why many don’t invest is because of a lack of financial literacy, so they aim to unlock the stock market to a wider range of people through the empowerment of a community where you can learn and grow.

We turned to the experienced investors at Public to ask them all of the questions that we had as first-time investors, from the complicated definitions to figuring out if it’s even a good time for you to be investing anyway. Thinking of investing for the first time? We’ve got you covered, no jargon included.


*The following is for educational purposes only and is not investment advice.


1. Let’s start at the beginning: What is the stock market, a stock, and an investment, and how do the three work together?

An investment is an allocation of money directed with the goal of generating a positive return over time. To invest in a stock is to own a share of a particular company and therefore a portion of the company’s assets and profits. Stocks are most commonly traded on public stock markets, where companies list shares on exchanges like the New York Stock Exchange or the Nasdaq. Historically, the U.S. stock market has trended upwards over time, about 9 percent annually on average*, which is why many investors buy and sell shares of publicly traded companies as part of a long-term investment strategy. It’s important to note that not every individual stock has an upward trajectory over time, which is why diversification—that is, spreading risk across companies at different stages of growth and in different industries—is a popular strategy among investors.



2. What are bull and bear markets?

A bull market is defined as a point in time when the market is doing well and growing at a steady pace. During this time, investor sentiment is optimistic and stock prices rise significantly following a previous decline. The opposite of a bull market is a bear market, which is when the market is seeing challenges and investor sentiment is on the decline.


3. What exactly is a broker?

A broker is a person or firm who executes transactions between a buyer and a seller on the public markets. Someone looking to invest in securities like stocks or bonds typically opens a brokerage account with a brokerage firm and deposits money into their account to fund their investments. There are many different types of brokerage firms available to investors, and setting up an account is the first step toward building an investment portfolio.


4. What are compounding returns?

A compound return takes into account compound interest, which is the amount of money someone accrues on their principal investment over time. It’s usually expressed in annual terms and can also be referred to as a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR). Since returns on the original investment compound over time, many advisers recommend investing early and consistently. If you ever heard the phrase “Time in the market beats timing the market,” that’s referring to the power of compounding over time.


5. When I invest in the stock market, how does my investment grow?

While individual stocks rise and fall daily, the stock market as a whole has historically risen in value over time. Since its inception, the U.S. stock market has historically returned profits to its investors, with an average annual return rate of about 9 to 10 percent* (pre-inflation). Importantly, this is not to say that every individual stock goes up over time at this rate. Some stocks grow in value at a sharper degree, while other stocks sink in value. Diversification is important as it allows you to spread risk across many investments. New investors will often start with index funds or ETFs (exchange-traded funds), which are innately diversified and tend to ride the general trends of the market overall.


6. Can you explain the concept of “buy low, sell high?”

When one buys stocks or securities at a low price and sells them at a higher price, they make a profit on the difference. This strategy relies on trying to time the market and is often difficult to do.


7. What is volatility, and why does it matter?

Market volatility is a measure of the changes in value that a market experiences over a certain period of time, and it is normally characterized by rapid change and unpredictability. It can be caused by many things, including economic factors, news, interest rate changes, fiscal policy, and more. Volatility is significant because it serves as a reflection of investor sentiment and is largely an indicator of the overall health of the market. Keeping a pulse on it is essential when deciding how to manage one’s investment portfolio.


8. When is the right time to sell a stock? How frequently should I be selling my stocks?

Knowing when to sell is one of the hardest parts of investing, as it’s difficult to predict when a stock will start decreasing in value. Because of this unpredictability, staying informed and on top of market news and events is important when creating a successful investment portfolio. Many investors will set a price target or projected future stock price as a benchmark for selling an investment and will periodically calculate gains and losses to monitor the performance of short-term investments. While some investors might quit while they’re ahead and sell the stock, others might hold onto it in hopes that it will continue to grow in value.



9. Let’s debunk some investing myths: Is there really a “right time” to start investing?

The popular answer among investors is that “it’s always the right time to invest,” and many advisers say that time in the market is more important than timing the market. Many advisers recommend investing as early as possible, given the power of compound interest and its growth over time.


10. How much money do I need to have to begin investing? is a great option for investors who are looking to build their confidence within a community of other investors. This investing app is special because it includes social features that allow you to share why you made an investment and ask questions about other people’s investments. The app is also expanding provide to financial education, with features like Town Hall that allow retail investors to pose questions to CEOs and founders from companies like Lemonade, Bumble, and DraftKings. Public Live is a new feature that allows investors to listen in as credible journalists break down what’s happening in the markets in an accessible way. Learning in the context of real-world situations makes financial concepts easier to grasp. On Public, investors can own fractional shares of more than 4,000 publicly-traded companies and ETFs with no commission fees on standard trades.


11. If what I choose to invest in isn’t doing well, should I pull my money out?

You only lose money on stock market investments when you sell. This is an important concept for new investors. Say you own one share of Company X at $50/share. The company has a down quarter in sales, which moves the stock price down to $35. You would still own one share of the company in this case, so if the company can recover and go back up, you would not lose the value of that share.

Knowing when to sell will depend on the individual. At a high-level, many investors choose to sell when they stop believing in the future growth of the company. There are several signs that could indicate this, including significant changes in the business or consistent losses, as revealed by quarterly earnings reports. However, panic-selling an otherwise strong stock because of a short-term drop is not typically regarded as a strategy for long-term success in the markets. Money is inherently emotional, but it’s important to keep a cool head when investing and stick to your own research and judgment instead of making reactive moves based on fear.


Source: Social Squares


Terms to Know


The Basics

















Accounts and Funds







Stocks and Shares









Company Terms































The Stock Market Exchange









*Offer valid for U.S. residents 18+ and subject to account approval. There may be other fees associated with trading. See more at


*Source: Rule of Thumb For Average Stock Market Return


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This post is sponsored by, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board.


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