what are stocks

Learn about what stocks are and how they work

risks and benefits

Consider the benefits and risks of trading and investing in stocks

Open an account

Open a brokerage account


Research stocks you might want to trade or invest in and create a plan

place your first trade

Place your first stock trade

monitor your portfolio

Monitor and manage your portfolio


Stocks are units of ownership in a publicly traded company held by shareholders. When you own shares of stock, you may be eligible for certain benefits like voting rights and receiving dividends if the stock offers such things to shareholders.

What are stocks


The difference between trading and investing typically comes down to the time in the trade. Trading focuses on making returns by using short-term transactions in the market. Alternatively, investing uses a long-term approach, with assets being held for an extended time, generally a year or more.

Regardless of the strategy, the buyer has direct ownership of the stock until it is sold. That comes with potential voting rights, dividend payments, and the chance to profit from an increase in the stock price.

In stock trading, going long—or buying—means that your directional assumption is bullish, and you think the stock price will rise. On the contrary, going short or selling—means that you’re bearish and you believe the stock price will drop.

When trading short stock, you don’t own the stock—you borrow the shares and sell it on the open market with the intention of buying it back at a lower price to close the trade. If the price of the stock rises above the price you sold it at, you would incur a loss on the position. Stock prices can theoretically rise forever and the risk of loss for short selling can be unlimited for this reason.

Investing in stocks is often referred to as a “buy and hold” strategy, which typically excludes short time horizons — something more often employed in trading. You take a long-term view and expect to weather the volatility of short-term price swings. You can profit from a stock investment by selling the shares at a higher price than you bought them for. However, if you sell your shares at a lower price, you incur a loss.

Learn more about stocks and how they work


Stock traders and investors should weigh the pros and cons of utilizing stock in a portfolio. Here are a few of the benefits and risks to evaluate.


Trading offers the potential to earn quick profits

Investing helps build wealth over a long period of time, which is ideal for retirement saving and other long-term financial goals

Volatility can affect your ability to enter or exit a position at your preferred price point

Potential opportunities to capitalize on binary events like earnings announcements and company news

Long-term gains can have tax advantages when compared to short-term gains1

Utilizing stocks can be capital intensive

Quickly enter and exit positions to help manage your risk

Investors typically place fewer orders, which may reduce commission fees

Both trading and investing come with the risk of losing your money

Utilize short trades and other strategies like swing trading, which is typically not used in investing

Potential regular income from dividend-paying stocks; build on a position by dollar cost averaging

Stock prices are vulnerable to volatility caused by systematic risk and/or binary event risk2


Open, manage, and close stock positions with a tastytrade brokerage account. Check out some platform features below:

  • Trade over 8,000 US-listed stocks at no commission

    Get exposure to many stocks at zero commission3

  • Boost your market awareness

    Get inspiration for your trading strategies from the Follow Feed and video feed

  • Enjoy the perks of an award-winning platform4

    Discover features built for a superior trading experience on desktop, browser, or mobile


If you feel ready to start trading or investing, you’ll want to identify potential stocks to purchase or sell short. To do that, you’ll want to do some research. Below are some helpful steps to get started:

  1. Starting with companies you already know is a common strategy that provides a segue into your research journey.
  2. Fundamental and technical analysis are used often in stock picking, with many relying on a combination of the two. These methods are discussed more below.
  3. Financial metrics like revenue, net income, earnings per share (EPS), P/E ratio, and return on equity (ROE) represent fundamental information.
  4. The stock’s price history charted on a graph, with trendlines and price action are common technical analysis strategies.
  5. A general understanding of current macroeconomic conditions such as monetary and fiscal policy, labor market conditions, and international trade may help to better inform your analysis.

Creating a trading plan is a way of detailing, consolidating and working towards your goals. Here are some factors to consider when drawing up your trading plan.

  • Capital: Figure out how much money you can set aside, how often you can make deposits, etc.
  • Risk tolerance: Decide what sort of stocks you’re interested in trading — growth stocks may be more volatile than blue-chip stocks that may offer dividends, but all stocks can be volatile in turbulent market conditions.
  • Pick a product: Scan by indices, sectors, and industries, then narrow down and decide what stock is right for you. Utilize fundamental and technical analysis. This could help you narrow your pool of stocks.
  • Time horizon: Determine how many days, weeks, months, or years you’d like to keep your position open.
  • Have a plan: Decide when to enter and exit trades or investments based on profit targets or loss thresholds.
  • Track your progress: Use the tastytrade platform’s features and account statements to keep tabs on Profit/Loss and your most successful strategies and positions.
  • Rinse & repeat: Continue educating yourself and exploring other products that interest you.


Fundamental analysis is a technique of examining an asset to estimate its intrinsic value. That can help to reveal if the market is overvaluing or undervaluing its price. Traders and investors use a broad range of techniques to accomplish that analysis, which helps to inform a trading decision. This can be specific to the company, industry or the economy; for the former, common metrics include but are not limited to:

  • Financial statements (income, balance sheets, market share, changes in equity)
  • Cash flow and discounted cash flow (DCF)
  • Industry trends and economic data
  • An analysis of the historic or projected price-earnings (P/E) ratio

The fundamental analyst can then use those metrics or others to compare the company to similar businesses within the same industry or sector to help identify the best trading opportunities. Macroeconomic factors such as monetary policy, inflation, and international trade can also be included in fundamental analysis. Note that fundamental analysis does not guarantee results—markets can still move in favor or against you, even with great fundamentals in the short and long term.


Technical analysis is a method of evaluating an asset’s price history by using charts to identify potential trading opportunities. With technical analysis, a trader identifies previous patterns or price levels and assumes that the stock’s price could react in a specific way based on the technical pattern that is forming. Historical price charts and market statistics are used in this form of analysis and can include other data, like volume and moving averages.

Fundamental and technical analysis are not mutually exclusive, and many traders use a combination of approaches to analyze a stock and generate an assumption on it. Technical analysis does not guarantee results—markets can move for or against you regardless of your analysis.


Once you’ve completed all of your research, you can proceed to take your first position on a stock. Here’s how you can get long or short stock on the tastytrade platform:

  1. Log in to the platform
  2. Enter the symbol of the stock, then press enter
  3. Click on the ASK price if you want to buy stock (long stock order) or click on the BID price if you want to sell stock (short stock order)
  4. Adjust the quantity and price as you see fit
  5. Click on ‘REVIEW & SEND’
  6. Confirm your cost, order type, and capital requirement
  7. ‘SEND’ your order if you are ready to route the order to be filled by the market

Learn more about buying or shorting stock


There are many variables which may have to be considered when trading stocks, such as margin requirements, volatility, and trade volume. It is important to remember that markets are dynamic, and you must constantly be open to learning and recognizing learning curves.

Check out some brief stock trading examples below, demonstrating how your directional assumption can result in your trade being a winner or a loser.


Long Stock Example

Company XYZ currently trades at $45 per share. You believe the price will rise in the short term and decide to purchase 100 shares. The stock moves in your favor to $50, and you close the trade at a profit.

The value of 100 XYZ shares at trade entry was $4,500 in notional value risk compared to $5,000 when closing it, resulting in a $500 profit.*

To calculate the profit or loss on the long shares, simply multiply the entry price of the stock by 100, the amount of shares you own, and compare that to the closing price calculation.

Had the price moved to $42 instead, you would have realized a loss of $300.*

*Excluding any trading fees.

Learn about buying power requirements for long stocks


short stock example

You're bearish on Company XYZ, which is currently trading at $45. You decide to short 100 shares at the current price. The stock moves against you and rises to $55. You close the trade at a loss.

The value of the 100 short shares at entry had a max profit of $4,500 if it was to go to $0. At the time of closing, the shares were valued at $5,500 after the $10 rally, resulting in a loss of $1,000 on your 100 short shares.*

To calculate the profit or loss on the short shares, simply multiply the entry price of the stock by 100, the amount of shares you are short, and compare that to the closing price calculation.

Had the stock price dropped from $45 to $37 instead, you would've realized a profit of $800. Shorting the shares at a notional value of $4,500 and buying them back to close the trade at $3,500 (100 x $37).

*Excluding any trading or short selling fees.

Learn how to buy or short a stock


Your portfolio needs regular monitoring and management, regardless of whether you’re speculating on short-term price movement, or if you have a longer time horizon with a stock investment.

As a trader/investor, you will have to consider various factors such as company news, binary events, economic data, etc. Following the trading and investing plans you set for your portfolio can be especially important.

While there's a crossover in some respects between what short-term traders and long-term investors can evaluate, there are also aspects that are exclusive to each. A short-term trader may only focus on one earnings announcement, whereas an investor may focus on the cumulative projection of earnings reports through an entire year.

The tastytrade platform empowers you to monitor and manage your portfolio efficiently by allowing you to customize the data displayed in the Positions and Watchlist tabs so that you have all your preferred metrics in one place.

Discover how to add or remove columns


How much money do I need to buy stocks?

You need to meet the buying power requirements to buy stocks. This requirement differs based on the individual stock and your account type. 

Trading in a cash account means you're limited to cash in the account, as you must pay for the entire position upfront, which is equivalent to the full risk of the position. 

Margin accounts are subject to initial and maintenance requirements, typically around 50% of the stock price* in buying power requirement for initial stock trades, and leverage is allowed based on cash and marginable securities in the account. This means you put up about half of the actual risk of the stock going to $0 in a margin account.

*Not all stocks are marginable

Learn more about buying power requirements

How do I find a stock opportunity?

There are several ways you can find a stock trading or investment opportunity. You can look at the default watchlists on the tastytrade trading platform to find potential trade ideas. Creating a custom watchlist is another option to help you build awareness and track specific stocks and sectors to trade in the future. You can also set alerts on the tastytrade platform so that you receive notice when a stock reaches a certain price point.

How can I short a stock?

When you short a stock, you sell a stock to open the trade, which requires you to borrow the shares from the market. Unlike going long or buying stock to open, which benefits from price appreciation, you short a stock when you think its price will fall. If correct, you'd profit from the trade.

To close a short trade, you need to buy back the shares from the market.Those shares are then returned to the market. If the stock price rises above your entry price, you'd incur a loss when closing the trade. The losses on a short stock trade may be unlimited because the price of a stock can theoretically rise without limitation.

Shorting stocks requires a margin account and there may be a minimum funding requirement.

Remember, the concept of shorting a stock to open and buying it back to close is the exact opposite of buying shares to open and selling them to close the trade.

Can you short any stock?

Most stocks listed on major exchanges can be sold short but sometimes shares are unavailable to borrow. There may also be daily hard-to-borrow (HTB) fees associated with short shares of stock due to heightened short demand–so researching the stock you intend to short is vital before doing so.

Short trade vs long trade
What are the different types of stock purchase orders?

There are various stock order types: market order, limit order, stop market order, and stop limit orders are among the most common. Each enables you to make specific requirements before your order is filled.

Market Order: This order instructs your broker to buy or sell the shares as soon as possible at the current market price. Although your entire order is filled as soon as possible, the final price is unknown until your order is complete. Market orders can fill higher than the Ask price when buying or lower than the Bid price when selling.

Limit Order: This order instructs your broker to buy or sell at a designated price, or better. If you enter a limit order to purchase stock at $100 per share, your order won’t execute unless the price falls to or below $100 per share. Therefore, order fill is not guaranteed with limit orders.

Stop Market Order: Like a limit order, a stop order instructs your broker to execute your trade once a specific price is reached. However, a stop order does not guarantee a fill at a certain price but instead converts the order to a market order once that price is reached. That said, a stop order may fill at a worse-than-expected price, especially during high periods of volatility or poor liquidity.

Stop Limit Order: A stop limit order is an order to buy or sell a stock at a specified price once the target price reaches a specified level. This order will only be filled at the specified price or better, and not at a higher price compared to a stop market order. After the stop price is reached, the limit order will then be placed and processed by the exchange — this order type does not guarantee order fills either, as the fill must be the exact price specified even if the order routing trigger is met.

1This material has been prepared for informational purposes only. It is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal, or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal, and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction.

2Systematic risk is the risk inherent in the overall market, which affects all investments, while binary event risk is the risk that comes from a particular event like corporate earnings or a change in interest rates.

3All stock trades incur a clearing fee of $0.0008 per share, and applicable exchange and regulatory fees. Other fees may apply.

4Named the Best Online Broker by Investor's Business Daily (IBD) in its ninth annual survey.

5Short-selling is only permissible in a margin account and has the risk of unlimited loss as there is no cap on how high a stock can go.

All investments involve the risk of loss. Please carefully consider the risks associated with your investments and if such trading is suitable for you before deciding to trade certain products or strategies. You are solely responsible for making your investment and trading decisions and for evaluating the risks associated with your investments.

Trading in a margin account is not suitable for all investors. It is important that investors understand the risks involved in trading securities on margin prior to investing in a margin account. Please read the Margin Disclosure Statement here.

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