Please forward this error screen to 75. Just about every week, we get questions on two very basic topics. Like Tiffany in California, many would-be stock investors find themselves stuck before they even take the fist step and want to know: How do I get started? Then, like Sajjad in Pakistan, there are the would-be how to convince investors to invest in your business want to know how to translate their dream of starting a business into reality.

I am a first-time serious thinker of investing in a stock, I haven’t a clue on where to begin: With whom or what company? All I know is, I want to invest. I have tried looking info up online but I am more confused that ever. Is there any way you can give me a breakdown on how to begin and what to trust and what not to trust?

I could really use basic instructions on how to begin. This is one of those annoying answers that starts with a question: Why do you want to invest? Or are you one of those few who really like the idea of rolling up your sleeves, searching through the thousands of stocks out there like a tag sale regular trying to find the bargain that everyone else passed up? These are two very different kinds of stock investing. If you’re the former, the question of finding someone you can trust is paramount.

Start by crossing off the names of anyone who isn’t registered with your states securities administrator. You can find out how to contact your state’s office, along with useful tips on spotting scammers at the North American Securities Administrators Association Web site. Financial advisors come in several varieties. All good advisors should the spend time to answer your questions, find out how much risk you’re comfortable with, keep up with changes in your financial life, etc. But some get paid commissions to sell you various investments.