Online Investment Tools
What investment tools should I use?
This is a common question I hear from friends and those who want to manage their own investments, or just want to learn more about the financial markets. The question makes sense on many levels. We don’t champion financial literacy in our society, especially investing. Thus, individuals look for investing tools so they can learn to invest and start planning for the future. It’s my belief that investment tools can help individuals become familiar with, and begin to think about, what their investment future will look like.
There is one problem, however – there are many investing tools to choose from. Some work well, while others are more complicated to work through and understand. That also doesn’t touch the ones that charge you to use them. With that in mind, I’ve come up with a list of some of my favourite, free investment tools. I’ve used each one of them extensively. While each has its own learning curve, I believe each of the tools is relatively user-friendly.
Should I Really Be Using Investment Tools?
Let me take a step back and discuss why you should use a free investing tool. There are many investment options to choose from, such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs and options. The above list only scratches the surface and can overwhelm new investors, which can cause them not to act. Investment tools help mitigate that overwhelming feeling.
These tools can help investors learn the basics of each, and what role they may play in their overall investment portfolio. The ability to make an informed decision helps newer investors build confidence and, as a result, drive them to focus on investing for their future.
I do also want to point out, beyond the investment tools I mention below, do not overlook tools provided by your company pension provider or your bank. In many cases, both offer access to free investment tools, education and courses. By all means, take advantage of these as they’re there for you to use.
Yahoo Finance is by far one of my favourite investment tools. Yahoo Finance is considered by many to be the king of the investment information world. You can get things as simple as up-to-date stock market quotes, but you can also do in depth company research, find contact information for a company as well as analyst ratings.
The other great thing about Yahoo Finance is they have news stories, personal finance topics and access to anything Yahoo offers. Being in the investment industry myself, it’s a site that’s well respected and one that many use to get information. It’s usually one of the first sites I go to in the morning to see what’s going on in the stock market.
The next investment tool powerhouse that I frequent is Morningstar. While Morningstar is known for analysing mutual funds, they actually cover pretty much any type of investment vehicle you can imagine. The great thing about Morningstar is the wealth of information they offer on mutual fund offerings.
They provide the ins and outs of a mutual fund, so you can buy into a fund with confidence. They detail what the mutual fund holds, how much it costs to own the fund and the risk associated with each fund. This can be particularly helpful information if you’re looking at the investment choices in your company pension and you need to know what funds would be best for your money.
I will add that Morningstar does have a premium service, which offers quite a bit more information and educational tools, though the free offering is robust enough to help most.
Another investment tool I’ve used quite frequently has been FinViz. As someone who loves being in the stock market, I need to be able to narrow down the available options and find what might be a good fit for me. My favourite part of FinViz is the screener section. You can punch in exactly what types of things you’re looking for in a stock and it will spit out investments that meet the selected criteria.
To be fair, some online brokerages do offer similar screeners, but I like FinViz because I can go straight there and drill down further to get insight that I might not find at some brokerages. I also like to use FinViz because there is no account to log into, so if I’m in a rush, I can get the information I need in a timely manner.
Going The Indexing Way
If you are not keen on investing in individual securities, and want to take the indexing approach by using ETFs, a good place to start is Andrewhallam.com. Andrew, the author of “Millionaire Teacher”, discusses many of the pitfalls expats face while investing. He is a strong advocate of index investing and has some great practical advice on to how to get started.
Bill Longstreet is a partner with Shanghai based Caterer Goodman Partners, a primarily fee based financial advisory firm. For more tips on how to handle your savings, check out their blog, www.chinaexpatmoney.com