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Four ways to build your knowledge of the financial markets now

Not sure where to start with understanding the financial markets? Here are four easy steps you can take to get started.

The financial markets can be daunting if you’re just starting to build your knowledge. A lot of factors play a role when it comes to market movement – everything from geopolitical events to weather to a particular company’s performance and news. While it’s common knowledge that reading The Wall Street Journal is a good place to start, here are four other ways to get up to speed.

1.     Read

And not just the WSJ as mentioned. Other industry standards include Barron’s and the Financial Times. These publications are great for building broad awareness of the markets but, depending on what you want to do, you may want to consider a deeper dive.

For example, the technology sector is of interest to many people today. Reading tech blogs like TechCrunch or Recode can help you stay up-to-date about current companies, products and events that may impact the market. You can even go a step further and research specific companies using resources like SeekingAlpha.

Whichever publications you choose, read them consistently. Even during finals. That way over time, you’ll start seeing patterns develop and can use that knowledge to formulate and test your own hypotheses.

2.     Learn

Teaching yourself is valuable, but sometimes you need to learn from others. Take a look at what courses are offered at your college or university. Even if you’re not a finance, economics or business major, taking a finance or economics class or two is a good idea. You’ll build knowledge and be able to concretely demonstrate your interest in the subject matter when someone (like an interviewer) asks about it.

If taking a class doesn’t fit in your plans, try joining or starting an investment club on campus. These clubs often have guest speakers, training sessions, pitch competitions and more, all of which help you build your market knowledge.

3.     Trade

The good news is that you do not need to trade actual money in order to understand the markets. Virtual trading games, like Barclays’ own Markets Insight Game, powered by Stockfuse, are a fantastic way to build knowledge, test your theses and learn from the outcomes. In the Markets Insight Game, you’re given $1 million (fake) dollars in your virtual account, which you can invest in a real-time mirror of the New York Stock Exchange.

If online games aren’t your thing, another easy way to get involved is to “paper trade”, meaning you keep track of your trading activity on paper. Create little buy and sell orders on post-its or in a spreadsheet and track how you do. Either of these activities will give you plenty to talk about at networking events and in interviews since you’ll have had made your own buy and sell decisions (even if they weren’t real).

4.      Network
Seek out professors or classmates who have worked within the industry and ask them to explain concepts and areas of the market to you. Someone who has real-world work experience in the financial markets should be able to break down information or concepts for you in ways that a textbook or online article may not. Plus they can give you even more resources to keep growing your knowledge.