Playing stocks is a risky business, and more people fail than win. You might be a winner, asking questions before you invest is an indicator that you might be. First thing first, read three books on investing. Three different opinions, three different sources, cover to cover.
Then, when you have a good idea, pick out a couple of mutual funds you like, and pay attention to the stocks within that fund. See how they move, see how they change, see how the market reacts. While you do this, read three more books.
Keep learning, NEVER stop reading, never assume you know all there is to know. Eventually the information will start to seem redundant, but thats good. It will help keep you grounded. You don’t want to learn the hard way in stocks.
How to be good at stocks also depends on what you define as success. For your first two years, breaking even is success. After that, focus on beating the market average. Its a dangerous risky game, but it can be a lot of fun. Just take it easy, and don’t jump right in. Don’t listen to individual advice someone gives you on a stock. If they were so brilliant, why aren’t they living in a 500 million dollar penthouse in manhattan? If they are on television, its their job to hype you up over certain stocks, its entertainment not advice. I don’t care who they are. If you get advice on a stock, you look at the stock and reanalyze it yourself. Then buy in or not.
But read, research, learn. The only safe bet in stocks is that you will not become a millionare overnight. The stories about people making a fortune overnight happen, but so does winning powerball.
Did I mention research and study? You don’t need a degree, but you should read a dozen or so books on investing from Barnes and Noble before you even begin to think you might be educated to begin trading on your own.
If you simply want to put your savings somewhere safe, and you don’t want to work hard to read financial reports and listen to quarterly statements, the the stock market is good also. Pick a few solid mutual funds, and watch your money beat inflation. CD’s earn less than the rate of inflation, so I don’t like them for long term investment, although they are better than your mattress.