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How many stocks should you own?

The ideal portfolio size depends on your investment strategy and experience level.

Australian investors building a portfolio for the first time may be wondering how many stocks they should invest in. Diversification certainly plays a role, but it ultimately comes down to the number of assets you’re comfortable monitoring.

How many stocks should I own?

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to investing in the stock market, but most Australian investors tend to hold 10 to 30 stocks in their portfolio. Investors new to the market may prefer a smaller portfolio of 10 stocks, give or take — while more experienced traders may maintain a portfolio of 30 or more.

In their book, Investment Analysis and Portfolio Management, financial analysts Frank Reilly and Keith Brown suggest the sweet spot lies between 12 and 18 stocks — a range that successfully capitalizes on 90% of the benefits of diversification. Others, like Burton Malkiel, author of A Random Walk Down Wall Street, suggest that investors need closer to 20 stocks to reduce risk by up to 70%.

The more positions you maintain, the more maintenance your portfolio requires, including market research and staying up-to-date on industry news. The bottom line? You need to monitor the performance of everything you purchase. If you’re not willing to keep an eye on it, don’t buy it.

How to invest in more stocks if you don’t have a lot of money

If you’re short on funds and new to the market, there are several investment options with built-in diversification. Each of the following can be purchased through a brokerage account in Australia:

  • ETFs. Exchange-traded funds are publicly traded funds that track a specific index, sector or industry. The purchase of a single exchange-traded fund adds a healthy dose of diversification to your portfolio, as ETFs contain a variety of stocks from companies within the sector or industry they track.
  • Index funds. An index fund is a mutual fund or ETF that tracks a market index. Popular index funds track indices like the S&P 500, the Russell 2000 for small-cap stocks and the Dow Jones Industrial Average for large-cap stocks. Index funds offer exposure to an entire index, many of which track hundreds of stocks.
  • Mutual funds. A mutual fund is a collective investment that allocates money across stocks, bonds and other assets. Mutual funds are professionally managed by fund managers and pool the funds of multiple investors to broaden the fund’s reach and market exposure. Like ETFs, mutual funds contain a basket of assets, offering greater diversification than the purchase of a single stock.

Finder survey: Which industries do Australians of different ages hold stocks in?

Response75+ yrs65-74 yrs55-64 yrs45-54 yrs35-44 yrs25-34 yrs18-24 yrs
Banking and finance28.36%17.71%16.05%12.78%12.85%12.9%5.26%
Mining22.39%13.14%14.2%11.11%10.04%9.68%4.21%
Telecommunication22.39%10.86%9.88%7.78%5.62%5.53%2.11%
Iron Ore11.94%2.86%7.41%5%1.61%2.3%2.11%
Healthcare10.45%9.14%6.79%7.78%8.43%6.45%2.11%
Food and beverage8.96%7.43%7.41%7.78%5.22%3.23%2.11%
Energy7.46%9.14%11.11%9.44%6.83%8.76%5.26%
Lithium7.46%2.86%4.94%5%4.42%5.07%1.05%
Property7.46%7.43%6.17%4.44%4.82%2.76%1.05%
Technology and IT7.46%6.29%4.32%10%15.66%12.44%3.16%
Coal5.97%3.43%3.09%2.78%2.41%1.38%1.05%
Gold5.97%3.43%4.94%6.11%3.21%5.07%6.32%
Biotechnology2.99%2.29%3.09%3.89%2.41%1.84%1.05%
Renewable energy1.49%1.14%4.32%3.33%4.02%4.61%4.21%
Artificial Intelligence0.57%1.85%2.78%2.81%2.3%1.05%
Cannabis0.62%2.22%1.2%1.38%
Source: Finder survey by Pure Profile of 1145 Australians, December 2023

Why it’s risky to invest in a single stock

When you pour all your money into a single stock, the success of your investments hinges entirely on the performance of a single company. While you can earn potentially higher returns, you may also face equally sizable losses.

Think your investments are safe with blue-chip stocks, like Apple, Wal-Mart or Disney? Think again. No company, regardless of sector, industry or time in business, is risk-free. And that’s because all stocks are exposed to company risk and market risk.

Company risk, or unsystematic risk, is the risk associated with investing in a single company. And while it’s typically more of a gamble to invest in startups and small-cap stocks, there are risks to investing in larger companies, too.

Market risk, or systematic risk, applies to all companies, regardless of size, as some events — like natural disasters and political upheavals — have the potential to impact the entire market.

The best way to insulate your portfolio from potential loss is to diversify your investments, holding multiple stocks across a spectrum of industries. It’s impossible to avoid market risk, but by investing in more than one company, you reduce your portfolio’s company risk exposure.

How popular is share trading?

34% people have invested in shares or cryptocurrencies, according to our consumer sentiment tracker. 43% of men said they have invested while only 25% of women have invested in shares or cryptocurrencies. NSW and Victoria are the most popular states for share trading.

Ways to reduce your investing risk

There are numerous ways to manage your portfolio and reduce the risk of loss.

Rely on a professional

If you need help building a portfolio from scratch, consider a financial adviser. There are numerous investment platforms that offer portfolio management services, but you’ll pay a fee to access the service — typically a percentage of your total assets.

Your adviser will sit down with you to discuss your investment goals and help you determine your risk tolerance. Once your portfolio is funded, your adviser takes care of the rest. You may meet with your adviser once or twice a year to discuss your investments, but you won’t be actively managing your portfolio. This is an option best suited for hands-off investors.

If you do want to manage your investments but would prefer some guidance before you pull the trigger, consider hiring an investment fiduciary. This person can provide occasional guidance and feedback on your portfolio while leaving the buying and selling process in your hands.

Use a robo-advisor

Robo-advisors are digital financial advisers that rely on algorithms to manage the assets in your portfolio. They operate in much the same way as portfolio management services overseen by human advisers. Your investments are selected for you at the robo-advisor’s discretion and you can monitor your portfolio by logging into the platform.

Do your research

If you’re eager to wet your feet in the world of investments, open a self-directed brokerage account and build your portfolio yourself. Hand-picking your own stocks means doing your homework, so explore the research tools provided by your trading platform as well as third-party options like free stock screeners and investment newsletters.

Learn how to value a stock before adding it to your portfolio by comparing data metrics like price-to-earnings ratios and free cash flow. And make sure your money is diversified across assets, market sectors and industries to reduce the risk of loss.

Bottom line

Small portfolios are easier to manage, but too few stocks can increase your company risk exposure. Ultimately, the ideal number of stocks for your portfolio comes down to how many positions you feel comfortable maintaining.

Explore your investment options across multiple trading platforms to find the account that best meets your needs.

Compare trading platforms

Name Product Price per trade Inactivity fee Asset class International
eToro
Finder AwardExclusive
eToro
$0
US$10 per month if there’s been no log-in for 12 months
ASX shares, Global shares, US shares, ETFs
Yes
Finder exclusive: Get 12 months of investment tracking app Delta PRO for free when you fund your eToro account (T&Cs apply).
CFD service. Capital at risk.
Join the world's biggest social trading network when you trade stocks, commodities and currencies from the one account.
CMC Invest
Finder Award
CMC Invest
$0
$0
ASX shares, Global shares, Options trading, US shares, ETFs
Yes
$0 brokerage on US, UK, Canadian and Japanese markets (FX spreads apply).
Trade over 45,000 shares and ETFs from Australia and 15 major global markets. Plus, buy Aussie shares or ETFs for $0 brokerage up to $1,000 (First buy order of each security, each day - excludes margin loan settled trades).
Moomoo Share Trading
US$0.99
$0
ASX shares, Global shares, US shares, ETFs
Yes
Finder exclusive: Get 30 days of brokerage-free trading for new accounts + 6.8% on your uninvested cash. T&Cs apply.
Trade shares on the ASX, the US markets and buy ETFs with Moomoo. Plus join a community over 20 million investors.
Tiger Brokers
US$2
$0
ASX shares, Global shares, US shares, ETFs
Yes
Finder exclusive: 10 no-brokerage US or ASX market trades in the first 180 days + 7% p.a. on uninvested cash with first deposit of any amount, plus US$30 TSLA + US$30 NVDA shares with deposits up to AU$2000. T&Cs apply.
Trade Australian, US and Asian stocks with no minimum deposit on Tiger Broker’s feature-packed platform.
Webull
US$0.25
$0
ASX shares, Global shares, Options trading, US shares, ETFs
Yes
Get 30 days of $0 brokerage fees when you open your account. Receive $50 of TSLA shares and a $50 trading voucher when you deposit $200. T&Cs apply.
Trade ASX and US stocks and US options, plus gain access to inbuilt news platforms and educational resources. You can also start trading for less with fractional shares.
Saxo Invested
US$1
$0
ASX shares, Global shares, Options trading, US shares, ETFs
Yes
Access 22,000+ stocks on 50+ exchanges worldwide
Low fees for Australian and global share trading, no inactivity fees, low currency conversion fee and optimised for mobile.
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Important: The standard brokerage fee displayed is the trade cost for new customers to purchase $1,000 of either Australian or US shares. Where a platform charges different fees for both US and Australian shares we show the lower of the two. Where both CHESS sponsored and custodian shares are offered, we display the cheapest option.

Frequently asked questions

Disclaimer: This information should not be interpreted as an endorsement of futures, stocks, ETFs, CFDs, options or any specific provider, service or offering. It should not be relied upon as investment advice or construed as providing recommendations of any kind. Futures, stocks, ETFs and options trading involves substantial risk of loss and therefore are not appropriate for all investors. Trading CFDs and forex on leverage comes with a higher risk of losing money rapidly. Past performance is not an indication of future results. Consider your own circumstances, and obtain your own advice, before making any trades. Read the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) and Target Market Determination (TMD) for the product on the provider's website.

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