Share trading 101

So you've bought your power suit, cigar and $400 haircut, and all that's left to do is make an e-trade killing.

Well, we're sorry to say the Mozo guide to online investing doesn't have the failsafe secrets to overnight millions. But it can help you negotiate the tricks and stings of share trading, with a few top tips for getting the best brokerage deals.

Because the $100-plus you could save on the way to your hotshot fortune will come in handy for lighting that cigar.

The basics of trading

Although money never sleeps, the ASX does rest, and is open 10am to 4pm weekdays.

A marketable parcel
You can buy or sell upwards of $500 worth of shares (known as a marketable parcel) from over 2000 companies (worth over $1 trillion).

Options, warrants, CFDs, and more
While shares are the simplest way to invest in a company, a host of fancy financial creatures promise untold profits.

Top trading tip: If you're going it alone (rather than relying on professional advice), it's a good idea to go for investments you understand.

Unless you're terribly well connected for someone reading the 'basics of share trading' page, you'll need a broker to carry out your brilliant stock market decisions. These usually come in two varieties.

  • Full service brokerages. The strong suit of the traditional variety of broker is service, including clever advice, wide-ranging research, and perhaps a little flattery.
  • Online brokers. Online share trading platforms are all about low transaction fees, but they also offer increasingly sophisticated research and sharemarket tools.

So which broker do you go for? It depends on what kind of trader you are...

The different types of trader

The first thing to do (after you've practised yelling "sell, sell" into your mobile in crowded areas) is figure out whether you're a casual or active trader.

Casual traders
If you're looking at making 1 or 2 trades a month, you'll find yourself in the 'casual trader' category. Since you won't clock up too much in brokerage fees, you'll want to keep any ongoing monthly fees to a minimum.

Head, casually, over to the low-monthly fees share trading platforms for casual traders

Active traders
If you're making 1 or 2 trades a week - or a day - you're an active trader. You'll want low - or superlow - brokerage fees, and you might also get monthly fees waived on the basis of your feverish trading. Active trader accounts also often contain access to market data, independent research reports and live data feeds and market watchlists.

Scan the market for low brokerage fees in highly active minutes and compare active trader accounts

If you're looking to play the market, you'll want to read up a little. Many online share trading platforms offer a range of tools, charting, live market data and in-depth research, at a much more reasonable cost than losing your money on a blind bet.

Long-term traders looking for blue-chip investments with companies they recognise won't need the research and data of a gambler. Most brokerages offer enough information for you to track these top performers, come in at a decent price, then sit back and watch your pile grow.

Fat cats
The other consideration is, of course, the amount you're typically trading. You might be more willing to have a bit of a punt with $500, where you'd prefer some serious, full-service advice before plunking down ten grand.

A $10,000 trade might cost $30 or so with an e-trader, and $150-plus through a full-service broker.

Top trading tip: A 2% drop in share-price will almost always outweigh full-service brokerage fees on a $10,000 trade, so you do need to factor in the value of good advice.

Another top trading tip: Full-service brokerages still take their fees even when their advice is bad. So you'll definitely want to do some research about your broker's record.

Or, if you've already banked your fat cat profits but are shaking in your crocodile-skin boots about the taxman, read on...

Tax time

There are a range of benefits enjoyed by professional share traders. These include:

  • claiming trading losses as tax deductions
  • claiming deductions for buying and selling costs
  • claiming prize booths in swanky bars

Top trading tip: All the online share trading and pinstripes in the world don't necessarily make you 'a trader' (so far as the taxman is concerned). Technically, it's "someone who carries out business activities for the purpose of earning income from buying and selling shares".

Another top trading tip: If you're serious about share trading as a career, rather than as an excuse to wear shoulder pads, you'll need to show a fairly serious volume and frequency of trades, as well as professional record-keeping.

The rest of us
Sadly, ordinary souls can't claim trading losses or brokerage costs against other income. However, they do have to include dividends and capital gains as part of their income. (We know. Take it up with your local member.)

Top trading tip: You can offset capital losses against capital gains, including gains in future years.

Compare today's top share trading