New to Investing? Four Tools to Get You Started.

How one software engineer learned to navigate the stock market.

by Steve Sweetney

For a long time, the stock market seemed like a daunting place. It felt like a high stakes, zero-sum game. But that’s not entirely true, although some trades (in the case of option contracts) can be .

After a nudge from an older brother and a few chapters of, “The Simple Path to Wealth,” I took my first step into the market by investing in index funds. I had done enough research to know they were “safe” investments and that I was getting a diverse portfolio!

As a new investor, the GameStop fiasco that started in January 2021 caught my eye. This curiosity led to me trading in individual stocks for the first time but I knew that before I got into riskier trades that I would need some tools to assist me.

Here are the tools I used to gain insight into the stock market:

Learning Financial Jargon

There will eventually come a time where you come across some terminology that you’re not familiar with. When you need to know something as simple as the difference between a “long” and “short” position or opening/closing a position - you can rely on Investopedia. I’m a huge fan of this resource - it has made finances more accessible to me. In addition to comprehensive descriptions for terms, pages often include a “key takeaways” section with key bullet points for easy consumption.

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Stock Screening

There are tons of individual stocks in the market that you can trade provided you have the capital to do so. A stock screener is an essential tool that allows you to filter based on variables like share price or market cap.

Once you’ve selected a stock or bond that meets your criteria you can see how it has performed in the past as well as in realtime (assuming the market is open). A personal favorite is Yahoo! Finance - the user experience is intuitive and I really like that I can see articles related to stocks all in one place.

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Options Trading

Trading option contracts is inherently riskier than trading stocks - unlike shares, option contracts have an expiration date. A web app tool like OptionStrat helps make these trades easier to understand and see. is an options profit/loss calculator, using powerful data visualization techniques to determine when and if your trade will be profitable. It even includes some insightful descriptions and examples of common option strategies like “covered calls.”

screenshot from OptionStrat

Understanding Market Sentiment

Market sentiment refers to the overall consensus about a stock or the stock market as a whole. There are many investors, institutional and retail, in the market and while it would be great if we could read all of their minds to see how they felt about a particular stock, it just isn’t practical. is a tool I use when I want to see which stocks are trending and discussions around them. It reviews threads on Reddit and aggregates mentions of stocks.

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These resources have been invaluable to me as a new investor entering the stock market, helping to educate, orient, and direct my involvement. I’ve chosen programs that are easy to use, have good user interfaces, and are easy to understand but I know there are many more out there that I can use as my needs evolve. What are some of your favorite financial mobile applications and how have they helped you?

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