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Practice Trading in the 'Virtual Stock Exchange'

May 30, 2014

The power of hands-on learning is indisputable. But when it comes to investing your money in the stock market, however, making a beginner's mistake can cost you more than just your self-esteem. Thankfully, the web makes it easy to practice with virtual money. Virtual stock trading allows you to get in the driver's seat and manage your own fantasy stock portfolio while competing risk-free against friends and strangers.

There are a multitude of online investment games like Investopedia, and Questrade that play with virtual money, but not all of them are easy for beginners. Here are five of the best free (because you shouldn't have to spend real money to play with fake money) online games for getting your feet wet.

1. Wall Street Survivor

Wall Street Survivor - Free Virtual Stock Trading Game

Invest $100,000 in virtual cash via drop-down menu choices. A friendly cartoon version of stock guru Mark Brookshire helps you make your final decision by providing some rating numbers when you input a stock. These include a rating for survivor sentiment, fundamentals, technical and a Motley Fool Rating.

For additional help choosing stocks, the site has an impressive resource library that spans beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. Start with Investing 101 and consider taking advantage of the community forums if you have specific questions. Those who need a little help getting started can also choose to adapt one of the preset portfolios created by proven traders.

While the $100,000 competition is most popular, anybody on the site can create a contest. Prizes vary, but most often consist of competitive pride.

2. HowTheMarketWorks

How The Market Works - Free Virtual Stock Trading Game

Owned by the same company as Wall Street Survivor, this game is great for investors looking to gain experience with a new type of portfolio. In addition to stocks and indexes, there are options to experiment with Forex portfolios, penny stocks, mutual funds and short selling.

Beginners can execute market order-based trades in a "fun mode" without worrying about things like set hours, maximum number of trades per day, per stock and order expiration. A "realistic mode" amps up the complexity after they've mastered the beginner level.

Players can manage up to three stock portfolios and three Forex portfolios on the site at once. For each portfolio, they select a starting value between $100 and $500,000 and set how much virtual commission you are charged per trade.

The competition aspect is optional. General monthly contests give each player $25,000 as a virtual starting point. Other public contests include challenging restrictions like "short sells only" or "penny stocks only." Users can create their own password-protected games as well, which is a feature that teachers find helpful for creating class competitions.

3. Young Money Stock Market Game

Young Money Stock Market Game - Free Virtual Stock Trading Game

Young Money Magazine's stock exchange game is easy to learn but also fairly realistic, which is a hard balance to strike.

Realistic aspects include a virtual commission that's taken out of each trade, adhering to market hours and rules about how you can invest. Unlike many investing games, trades are made at a real-time price. Learning aspects include convenient help icons on key terms and an intuitive tabbed interface.

The site runs a monthly contest with a $100 (real) cash prize that goes to whoever gained the highest percentage. Players can also create their own contests or join other user-made contests.

4. MarketWatch Fantasy Earnings Trader Game

MarketWatch Fantasy Earnings Trader Game - Free Virtual Stock Trading Game

MarketWatch will run this mock stock market contest for a total of four weeks, awarding the winner of each week with an iPad. It's on week three right now, but there's still time to get in on the competition for week four.

You must have your selections picked before the week starts on Monday. The shares that you select are "purchased" at Monday's open and will "sell" automatically at Friday's close.

The catch is that all players can only use the 15 to 20 symbols selected for each week. The companies are selected by the game owner for companies that are projecting their earnings during each week. Lining up picks is easy — players simply drag the company's logo to their trading card and designate if they want to sell short or go long.

Although there are some pros playing, this game is especially manageable for beginners due to the limited stock options for each week.

5. Virtual Stock Exchange (VSE)

Virtual Stock Exchange - Free Virtual Stock Trading Game

Start with $1,000,000 cash balance you use to buy; stock, exchange traded fund, commodities, foreign currencies and more. Featuring 30+ of the world's stock exchanges.

The use of metrics and customization allow for readily accessible use of the software. Comparatively, VSE is less restrictive than some competitors thanks to; higher starting cash, 1,000,000 trades and helpful competitor information.

Challenges are optional, you can join an existing challenge or start your own for friends, classmates, clubs or strangers.

So whether you play for fun or have the intention to trade with real money some day, these are all valuable resources.

Leave a comment and share which system you like best, or if there is another that should be on the list.