Developing a strong stock portfolio is not thrilling, exciting or hard. If you want to make good money investing in stocks, you'll need 1 part time, 1 part research and 1 part Google Finance. I'm going to share with you my stock investment strategy that has yielded a 23.73% return since I opened my account 1 year and 6 months ago, not including paid dividends. If you are looking to buy and sell 50 times a day, I suggest you stop reading now. If you are looking for an above average market return year after year, buckle up.
Finding stocks to invest in
Google finance is a must have tool for any stock investment strategy. If you aren't using it, sign up for it now and create a portfolio. Once you've done that, it's time to find some stocks. First, choose a sector you want to invest in. I recommend banking, food or real estate to begin with. Each one of these 3 sectors will always be around (courtesy of government bailouts in some cases). Once you've selected your sector, use Google finance to search for a large corporation in that sector. For example, when I started, I chose banking and searched for the Bank of Montreal.
Once you have that first corporation, Google finance will provide a link to "Related Companies" -- this is a great way to crawl your way around a sector and find competitors for large corporations you didn't realize existed. Take a moment to go crawl through some of these companies and read their descriptions.
All in all, this step should take you between 20 - 30 minutes.
Researching stocks you've identified -- Google News
Now that you have identified some stocks, let's take a minute to research them. Again, we're going to rely on Google Finance. First, while still on a company's portfolio in Google Finance, you'll notice a "News" link. This will take you to a listing of different articles throughout the web that Google has indexed related to the company you are interested. Browse the headlines for anything that jumps out. We want to stay away from headlines like, "Reported earnings less than expected", "X Company announces more layoffs". We want to see things like, "X company buys Y company", "X company announces dividend increase", or "X company's reported earnings surpass analyst expectations".
If you're company has passed the article test, now lets get a little technical and look at their financials. I'm by no means a financial analyst or expert. However, I understand that a company's income should exceed its spending or there is trouble. Click on the "Financials" link to check out the company's Financial Statements.
Researching stocks you've identified -- Financial Statements
When checking out financials, make sure to check out Annual Data and the Income Statement - I recommend investing in established companies that have been around for a few years. First thing to look for is, is the company's net income increasing year over year (chances are some company's are going to dip between 2008 - 2009 because of the recession). If it isn't, are there huge differences? If yes, you'll probably want to stay away. If there is a minor dip that corresponds with the recession, that may be forgivable.
Next, still sticking with income, are there any huge differences between years? If yes, you should probably dig a little deeper and see what this means. Was there something weird going on? If so, you should probably shy away.
Next, open up the Balance Sheet and take a look at Total Liabilities. Are these increasing or decreasing. Decreasing is the best case scenario because it means more profit for the company (assuming the company has increasing income / assets). However, a company can still be going downhill if liabilities are decreasing. How do the assets look? These should also be increasing year over year and be greater than the liabilities. If they aren't greater than liabilities, it means there's a problem.
This should take another 20 - 30 minutes.
Monitoring your stocks
Now that you have identified a sector you'd like to buy into and have a couple stocks that are appealing, you can go ahead and add them to your Google Finance Portfolio. There are two options from here - you can add them to the portfolio and act as if you bought them at the current market price or add them to the portfolio without any money attached.
If this will be your first buy, I would say add them to your portfolio and act as if you bought them. This will add them, record the current price and track how you would perform from here on as if you actually did buy them. If you have an existing portfolio set up with Google Finance, I would add them without any money attached so you don't mess up your existing portfolio.
Now, I recommend sitting back to watch the stocks for a minimum of 1 week. This will allow you to get a flavor of how the stock moves and what it is doing. At a minimum, I usually watch a stock for a month because I'm interested in making smart, long-term decisions.
Buying your stock
If you've been watching your stock and are now ready to buy, I highly recommend setting up a Questrade account. Questrade is an online brokerage with very cheap transaction costs, often 50% preferred rates from traditional brokerages. With your account, Questrade will allow you to purchase stocks, bonds, make trades in different currencies and set up different types of accounts.
Once you've created your account, login to their trader and make your purchase. That's it. That's the system that has generated me a 23.79% return on my investments (it went up as I wrote this article...).