Best Tools for First-Time Stock Investors

I have to be honest: I’m terrified of the stock market. When it comes to parting with my heard-earned money, it’s the last place I want to invest. The thing about it, however, is that investing in companies by buying their stock is a great way to benefit from upward trends in the economy. And you can do it without much money—unlike, say, buying property.

I’m not alone in my trepidation around the stock market. Only 44 percent of all Americans say they own stock, according to a recent Gallup poll. It’s a figure that drops dramatically when it comes to Black ownership. And the same poll found that half of Americans think investing $1,000 in stocks right now would be a bad idea. That’s despite the fact that the Dow Jones Industrial Average and Standard & Poor’s 500 indices have recently hit record highs. In other words, the stock market is back and booming, but the average American isn’t benefiting at all from it.

RELATED: 6 WAYS TO MASTER THE STOCK MARKET

Financial guru Robert G. Allen once famously asked, “How many millionaires do you know who have become wealthy by investing in savings accounts?,” reminding us that sometimes, to build wealth, you have to put your money to work. With investors excited about the market again, and others looking to get in, here’s a roundup of some of the best websites, apps and other tools to manage stock investments.

For Practice...

Those looking to get their feet wet in the stock market should perhaps start with a test run. Quite a few investing simulators are available online. Tech site Mashable.com has a list of 5 Great Games for Learning Stock Market Strategy that includes games such as Wall Street SurvivorHowTheMarketWorks and Young Money Stock Market Game. The great thing about these games (aside from being free) is that their features help simulate a real trading environment like commission fees and market closing times. It’s just what you need to get the hang of the ups and downs and terminology of stock investing.

Staying in the Know

Every investor needs the latest in economic trends and financial news. Luckily, in this day and age, that information is something you can have at your fingertips. For news, download apps by Yahoo! FinanceBloomberg and CNBC to your smartphone. You'll get more than just a stock ticker. These apps offer customizable features that will let you pick news, quotes and headlines based on your investments. For a more in-depth look, UpDown.comPredictWallStreet.com and FelingBullish.com are online communities where investors can share analysis, tips and strategies.

Monitoring Your Stocks

Finally, keep constant track of your portfolio’s performance with apps by SigFigMotif InvestingWikinvest and Personal Capital. These tools are among CNNMoney’s best apps to invest smarter and can help you manage your own personal economy by linking your brokerage accounts. A few even allow you to import other investments, like your 401(k) and IRA, all into one central dashboard.

Bonus: Sometimes it’s simply the language that complicates money matters. If you find yourself caught up in the jargon of stock investing, consult Investopedia’s dictionary. It’s the go-to resource for every word, phrase and concept you might come across.

Donovan X. Ramsey is not a personal finance expert. He’s a multimedia journalist who writes about all things social, political, cultural and whimsical. After college, Donovan set out to discover everything he didn’t know about the world of personal finance. Learn along with him weekly on EBONY.com as he explores more everyday money matters. Follow Donovan on Twitter @iDXR or at DonovanXRamsey.com.