Learning about the stock market is the type of pursuit that can take minutes to learn and a lifetime to master. The basic principles of what stocks are and how they work are pretty straightforward, and there are many reliable sources of information to help get you started learning about the stock market.
The most reliable source of firsthand information about the stock market comes from those professionals that have devoted their lives to it. Certified Financial Planners, for example, have to have at least three years of experience in the financial services industry, take a comprehensive educational course, pass a two-day financial examination and subscribe to a rigorous ethical standard to earn their designation. As such, they can be considered trustworthy sources of information. Many other financial advisers, whether or not they have the CFP designation, have extensive industry experience and can offer a real-life overview of how investing in the stock market works. While you may have to open an account to get quality time with an adviser, many offer seminars, oftentimes for free, which can help you learn about the market.
One of the main benefits of the internet is that you can find information on almost anything you want, including how to invest in the stock market. Many of the best educational resources on the stock market are accessible online, such as the instruction offered by the Khan Academy or the online courses taught by Stanford University. These sites offer well-researched, fact-based instruction and are more helpful and unbiased than some "educational" sites that are merely trying to sell you something. For more comprehensive, in-person instruction, check out your local community college or university to see if there are any classes available.
Financial Press & Television
The stock market is a popular subject, and you'll find no shortage of magazine articles and television channels devoted to stock market news. While you can certainly glean lots of useful information from these sources, understand that television and print media often sensationalize financial "news" in order to attract readership. If you want to learn how to invest in the stock market, focus on news stories and print articles that teach basic stock market principles, rather than those that offer short-term investing advice.
Open a "Play Money" Account
Sometimes, there is no better teacher than first-hand experience. When it comes to stock market investing, however, you might not be able to afford taking real-world losses while you learn. That's where a "play money" account can work to your advantage. Some websites allow you to practice investing in real-world stocks with fake money to better understand how the stock market works.
Join a stock-picking game, such as MarketWatch, to construct fantasy stock portfolios and test out your skills against other players while learning the markets.
While you can't make any real money investing in this type of account, you won't lose money either, and you'll be acquiring real-world experience along the way.