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My Stock Trading Setup

I believe that trading stocks is one of the biggest money-making tools. Having a good trading setup might help you to buy a bit cheaper and sell a bit higher. That would generate extra cash. I think we can agree that small extras usually add up quick.

So in this post, I want to share my stock trading setup. While building it, I was looking for:

  • Free Software. I did not want to pay anything extra at the beginning. Only the trade execution fees, which I think are reasonable.

  • Non-professional. Easy to setup and use. So that any person with little to no knowledge can use it.

  • Good User Interface. Good enough to analyze price action and execute trades.

  • Customer Service. Good customer support in case I have questions or problems.

  • Liquidity. To have an ability to quickly deposit and withdraw money.

  • Mobile Support. So that I can execute trades anywhere.

  • Desktop Support. I wanted to have the best performance possible and I believe native applications have better performance and stability over the web.

  • Trading Bot Support. Eventually I was hoping to crack the code and write a bot that would day trade and generate wealth (silly me).

Short answer - I use TD Ameritrade as my broker and ThinkOrSwim (ToS) as my trading platform.

Long answer - I have approached this topic from the user's stand point, not scientific nor fundamental. Here is the story of how I selected my final setup:

  1. Opened individual accounts at 5 brokers - TDAmeritrade, InteractiveBrokers, CharlesSchwab, Chase Direct Invest, Robinhood.

  2. I installed most popular web/desktop/mobile applications they support.

  3. Tried to trade through all of them for about 2 months.

  4. At that point, only TDAmeritrade and InteractiveBrokers left.

  5. Kept using both for about 6 months and finally concluded that TDAmeritrade was the best (or they just treated me better at the moment)

Now, let me summarize the experience.

Brokerage Firm: TDAmeritrade

  • Customer Service. I like it, they are among the top customer service experiences I have had. I can literally connect with a designated person any time during work hours and get answers. Sometimes I get redirected to people from another department, but I can save their phone numbers to connect again if I need to. I never had to go through tiresome call bots or wait in the line for hours.

  • Online Knowledge Base. A lot of room for improvement, but once you understand how to use it, it is a golden mine. In some cases, they showcase strategies on ToS which comes in very handy.

  • Trading History. I can access all my trades, download them, or analyze them online.

  • Taxes. They have a very comprehensive tax analysis and intuitive UI. Once I learned how to read it, I can easily tell how much taxes I owe for this year and can use it to roughly calculate my quarterly taxes or determine how much losses I need to take to offset gains.

  • Developer APIs. Has public APIs that allow you to write trading bots.

Desktop Trading Platform: ThinkOrSwim

  • Hotkeys. You can assign hotkeys to perform certain actions or move between tabs very fast.

  • Scalability. You can have multiple panels and multiple charts on each panel and on top of that, you can perform actions on each chart. The UI is very user friendly and self-explanatory.

  • Performance. Since it is a designated desktop application, it utilizes available resources better and can speed up to have a sub-second stock price refresh rate.

  • Cross Platform. It is available for all popular operating systems. So far I used it on Windows, MacBook and Linux. So far never had any problems.

  • News Feed. ToS shows a combined news feed from multiple sources related to a selected company.

  • Real Time Data. I can see stock/option/future price in the real time and Level 2 data related to it. That helps me with determining the entrance and exit prices.

  • Trading Speed. I can generate precise limit buy/sell order with a single mouse click and it will get executed within 1 second if hits. That especially helps with trading options. Options tend to have low volume, which leads to bigger bid/ask spreads. If I was executing market buy/sell orders, I would have sold way lower than it actually costs and bought way higher.

  • ThinkScript. ToS has a scripting language where you can run different analysis and even execute automated trades.

Mobile App: ThinkOrSwim

  • Synchronization. The data is shared across all ToS instances, providing the ability to draw on a PC and watch it later on the phone.

  • Real Time Data. Similar to the desktop version, I can watch the price action from the phone and perform certain actions to secure my trade on the go.

  • News Feed. Similar to desktop version, it is very convenient to read news related to selected stock.

  • On The Go. Provides all essential trading abilities on the go. Worked well for me on 4G, LTE, and 5G.

I am going to stop here to keep the post to the point. Though I want to write another post about ThinkOrSwim. It has a lot of useful features, which I can't imagine trading without anymore.


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