Diversification is one method in investing that is intended to minimize risk. When investing in the stock market it is generally considered best practice to invest in a diversified portfolio rather than just a few individual stocks. This is because if you invest in just a handful of stocks and one of the companies does very poorly then you can potentially lose a huge percentage of your total investment. If investing in a diversified portfolio if one or even a few companies perform very poorly your downside risk is limited since your exposure to those companies is minimal. One way to generate a diversified portfolio would be to individually pick many different stocks and invest in them one by one, tracking your investments over time and rebalancing as needed. This method can be rather labor intensive and can be overwhelming for new investors and investors that prefer to take more of a hands off approach.
An alternative method to generate a diversified portfolio is to invest in ETF's, which is shorthand for exchange traded funds. ETF's trade on the stock market like individual stocks except they differ in the fact that they actually represent a collection of many different stocks. Often an ETF will have a set of conditions that determines which companies they invest in. Some ETF's are actively managed and regularly change their holdings, while others are more constant and seldom change their holdings. Regardless of the type of ETF, when purchasing an ETF you are essentially investing in a collection of stocks. ETF's can make it very easy to diversify your investment portfolio since you can just choose a handful of ETF's to invest in and it would act similarly to a portfolio where you purchased a large set of stocks, except a portfolio of ETF's can be easier to manage and cheaper to access.
ETF's can be cheaper to access than purchasing individual stocks since the price to purchase one share of an ETF is generally much cheaper than if you were to purchase one share of each company the ETF represents. This allows you to get a diversified portfolio at a much cheaper entry point, making it a potentially appealing option for investors with less resources to invest.
Webull is actually the very first broker that I used when starting my investment journey a few years ago. Webull has a smart device app, a desktop app, and a website you can use to trade. The app is the most powerful of the options from my experience, although the app is probably best for a larger screen such as a tablet if you want to take advantage of the advanced charting features.
I would say of the brokers I have used so far, Webull is the platform that feels most like a professional platform despite the fact that it is free to use. It by far offers the most features and gives access to the most data. That professional feel and deluge of features and information does make it a bit overwhelming for beginning traders though, so if you choose this broker as your first you should expect to take a bit of time to learn how to use it.
Just like Robinhood, Webull offers commission free trading, meaning there are no fees associated with trading stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, options, and some OTC stocks. The lack of fees makes it an accessible platform.
As I had mentioned, Webull offers access to a ton of data, too much to mention all in one brief review. In the app they have several sections dedicated to information for each stock. They have the basic trading information such as high, low, close, volume, market cap, etc. all available in a quick access drop down menu for each stock. You can access recent news for each company in the news tab. They also have a "Feeds" tab which allows investors to chat about each stock. This "Feeds" tab can allow for interesting conversations, but also be ready to see a lot of spam. Next they have the Analysis tab which presents ratings from professional analysts for most stocks. This generally displays the number of strong buy, buy, hold, sell, and strong sell ratings, as well as consensus price targets. Lower in the analysis tab they present technical analysis signals indicating bullish or bearish predictions in the short, medium, or long-term. We can dive deeper into what technical analysis is in another post. The last tab, "Company" offers access to company financial information from quarterly and annual reports organized into easy to digest figures. Within the "Company" tab they also present information about the company in general. This generally includes a brief summary of the company, the names and incomes of the executives, as well as the breakdown of shareholders (institutional, insiders, retail).
Webull also offeres advanced trading features. They have the basic limit, market, stop, stop limit, and trailing stop orders similar to most brokers, but then they also have more advanced group orders. These group orders allow you to setup whole trading strategies such as a "limit +take profit" order which allows you to setup a limit buy order that as soon as it is executed automatically places a limit sell order. This could be used when you are planning to quickly purchase a stock and exit with a profit within a short time frame. They also have other orders such as "one-triggers-the-others" which is as it sounds, it lets you place one order that when executed automatically places other orders. These advanced trading features can help an individual trader setup lightning fast orders that can take advantage of short term moves that a retail trader wouldn't otherwise be able to act quickly enough on.
Webull does offer options trading with many features. It allows trading of the basic options such as buying calls and puts as well as selling covered calls and cash-secured puts. Beyond that it does offer access to more advanced strategies such as straddles, but I don't have experience using those so I will not comment on those features. I have traded options a few times through Webull and found it to be very smooth. Only once did I run into a bit of a hiccup and that was when they incorrectly issued a margin call for a covered call option. This was corrected quickly by their customer support though.
Webull also offers IPO access, but unlike Robinhood they do not have very strict criteria for which ones are listed. This can be viewed as either a positive or negative. The positive would be that it allows users access to many more opportunities. The negative could be that it exposes investors to potentially more risky investment opportunities.
As for account types, Webull offers cash, margin, and IRA accounts. You can even have more than one account with them, one of each type. The transition between each account is very easy within the app as well. You just go to settings->switch account, then select the account you want to switch to.
Webull does offer advanced data such as level 2 market data and foreign markets data for a fee. Last I checked the level 2 market data was available for $1.99 a month, which is not a bad price if you are actively using that data.
Extra features: Webull also offers many other features such as paper trading (trading with fake money for practice), a learning center, access to screeners for both stocks and options, social and community features, among others. They also offer a stock lending program which allows you to earn a little bit of interest by lending your shares to short sellers. Webull also offers advanced charting features which allows you to draw on charts and take notes, which can be useful for active traders.
Tax lots: Just like Robinhood, Webull does not allow traders control of their tax lots. They use first-in-first-out (FIFO).
Drawbacks: One of the main annoyances I have with Webull is that they don't allow you to make purchases of less than 100 shares for stocks that trade for less than $1 per share and they don't let you purchase less than 1000 shares for stocks that trade for less than $0.10 a share. This can be somewhat restricting for traders with small accounts since they can't purchase shares of stock that are more affordable. As well, despite them offering fractional share trading, it is limited to only certain companies and requires a minimum purchase of $5, which in my opinion is also unnecessarily limiting to traders with small accounts.
Overall my rating for Webull is 8/10. They offer many advanced features, charting functions, and access to a deluge of data, which makes it appealing to advanced traders. Due to the complexity of the platform and limitations on making small trades it is not an ideal platform for beginning traders, and that is where Webull loses points for me. If they made the platform more adaptable, such that a simple intuitive interface could be given to beginning traders and traders could opt-in for more advanced features as they learn, I would give them a higher rating.
If you decide that Webull is the right broker for you consider signing up with this referral (https://a.webull.com/B8feXvEobYAJYID00q). Webull often has fairly generous promotions to get free stock when signing up when referred by another user.
*This review is my own personal opinion. As well, information here is accurate to the best of my knowledge as of December 2, 2022. Brokers may change their offerings over time so information presented here may become inaccurate.
Choosing the right broker can seem quite overwhelming, especially since there are so many different options. I will review a few from personal experience. I will review the following: Robinhood, Webull, SoFi, Public, Schwab, and Firstrade. In this first post I will begin with a review of Robinhood.
Robinhood is a brokerage firm that I believe most people have heard of and has been in the news a lot. Robinhood was one of the first brokers I started using on my investment journey. It has the appeal of being very easy to use which is nice for beginners. The interface is very intuitive so it doesn't take long at all to place your first trade. Robinhood is also accessible via both a website and an app, although in my opinion the app is much better.
Robinhood offers 0 commission trades on stocks, ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds), and options making it an affordable options for trading. Robinhood does not offer access to mutual funds which I found to be somewhat annoying. Robinhood also offers only very limited access to OTC (over-the-counter) traded stocks, which can be frustrating to advanced traders.
Regarding information about each company and stock, Robinhood gives somewhat limited information compared to Webull. Robinhood presents some basic information such as open, high, low, volume, average volume, current price, market cap, 52 week high, 52 week low, P/E ratio, and dividend yield. Robinhood will also sometimes show relevant new stories for stocks. Recently information around company earnings has improved by allowing direct access to live earnings call and recorded earnings calls. In the app it will also display the last 5 quarters of earnings. What is disappointing is that it does not display annual earnings and also does not display more detailed information about earnings other than the EPS (earnings per share).
Robinhood offers several types of orders: limit, market (collared), trailing stop, stop, and stop limit orders. Robinhood also allows access to fractional share trading where you can purchase using either a dollar amount or an amount represented as a fraction of a share (example: Buy 0.01 shares of Apple stock). Access to fractional share trading makes it appealing to first time investors that don't want to invest large amounts of money.
Robinhood also offers access to options trading. There are different tiers of options trading which allow different types of strategies. For beginning investors they can likely apply for level 2 access which will give them access to buying calls, selling covered-calls, buying puts, and selling cash-secured puts. It is very easy to place options trades, but in two areas does Robinhood lack in options trading. First, you can only view the trading history of a certain option if you add it to a watchlist, which can lead to annoyingly large watchlists if you want to look at the history of many different options. Second, the price at which options are presented if you hold one is the mean between the bid and ask. This can potentially lead to presenting wildly inaccurate representations of value for an inactively traded options since the bid and ask spread can be quite large at times.
IPO access: Robinhood last year launched the IPO access feature which allows investors to purchase shares of stock at the IPO price. Robinhood does select rather stringently which IPOs to give their users access to which can be frustrating since as of recent there have not been any IPOs in the app. As well, looking at their selection of IPOs since beginning their IPO access, if an investor was to purchase all of the IPOs and continue holding as of today, they would have lost money on every single one. This is likely in part due to the tough market conditions, but also could be a sign that their selection process needs work.
Robinhood currently only offers cash and margin accounts, but intends to offer retirement accounts in early 2023. So if you are interested in retirement accounts right now, they don't yet seem like a good option. By default Robinhood gives users a margin account with margin trading turned off. This gives users the ability to trade with money that has not yet settled. Although, this does mean users have to be aware of day trading restrictions if they open and close too many positions within the same day in a rolling 5 day period.
Robinhood Gold: Robinhood offers a subscription service that allows traders access to advanced market data, as well as research reports from Morningstar, access to larger instant deposits, increased interest on uninvested cash, and access to margin. The cost of this service is currently $5 a month. As of yet I have not found this service to be worthwhile since level two market data is only useful to frequent traders, and I haven't found a Morningstar report to be terribly useful. Often you can find all you need in freely available 10Qs and annual reports released by the companies through the SEC website. The increased interest on uninvested cash could make the service worthwhile if you have enough cash in your account for the increased interest payments to more than offset the $5 cost. Personally, I don't find the increase in instant deposits to be useful since I do not require instant access to large sums of money in my account. I envision this only being useful to very active traders with large sums of money accessible to deposit in their accounts.
Other features: Robinhood also offers access to their cash sweep program which allows uninvested cash to earn interest, currently offering 1.5% without paying for Gold. They also offer a checking account which allows users to access funds from a separate account using their debit card. This account does not offer interest on the cash though. The debit card does offer rewards. The debit card when used will round-up transactions over a dollar to the next nearest whole dollar amount and allow you to automatically invest the rounded amount. The reward is in the form of a round up match, where they will randomly match 10-100% of the round up amount Monday of each week. They also occasionally have cash-back rewards on specific brands.
Tax lots: Robinhood does not allow users to control the way that tax lots are handled. They only use the method of first-in-first-out (FIFO). Where cost basis is calculated on the earliest shares first when an investment is sold for the purposes of computing taxable returns. This can lead to potentially less than ideal tax situations.
Overview: My overall rating of Robinhood is a 9/10. It is a really easy to use broker with many user-friendly features. They have begun offering learning tools to help advance the education of their users and are constantly bringing new features that are requested by their users. They do lack features that could be desirable to advanced traders though, such as advanced data and charting tools. Their subscription service is also not yet worthwhile for the beginning investor. If you decide that Robinhood is the right broker for you and would like to create an account you can use this referral link (https://join.robinhood.com/nathanh2597), which will get you a bonus for signing up and will also support me by granting me a bonus for sending you their way.
*This review is my own personal opinion. As well, information here is accurate to the best of my knowledge as of December 6, 2022. Brokers may change their offerings over time so information presented here may become inaccurate. Updated to include new information regarding retirement account offerings on December 6, 2022.